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James Overstreet

I’ll tell you, it’s been nice to have a long break after last year’s Elite season. I haven’t really fished much; I just stepped away from the everyday grind of the fishing world.

I enjoyed a lot of time relaxing with family and friends, but just about the time you get in the grove of being at home, it’s time to hit the road again. That’s alright; I’m looking forward to the new season and taking that break makes you go into the new season hungry.

This year’s going to have a different feel to it because of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods scheduling. Typically, the Classic is the first event of the year, but we’ll have two Bassmaster Elite Series events under our belts by the time we arrive at Lake Conroe.

It’ll be an interesting change: You haven’t fished the Bassmaster Classic yet, but you’ve already qualified. Now, with those two events before the Classic, you’re already in the mindset of making the next one before you get to the biggest event of the year.

I think that actually will help because it will have everybody more in tune for that specific event. Most people are probably like me, you haven’t really fished much all winter, you have a new boat and new equipment and nothing is broke in. In recent years, you’ve started the season by fishing the Classic with all new stuff.

With this year’s schedule, we’ll have everything just like we want it by the time the Classic gets here. But that doesn’t mean I’m looking past these first two events. I’m getting myself mentally geared up to kick off the new Elite season with strong performances, starting with Cherokee Lake.

I love to fish cold weather, and I feel pretty sure that’s what we’re going to have up there. The last week of January to about the middle of February is the worst weather we have in this part of the country. And going to the Great Smoky Mountains the second week of February, it could get nasty with snow, ice and brutally cold conditions.

I’ve never fished Cherokee in the wintertime, but I hear the fish behave a lot like they do in lakes I’m familiar with — Clark’s Hill, Hartwell and some of the Ozark lakes like Bull Shoals and Norfork. The fish will suspend a lot in the deep, clear water, so I’m looking forward to getting up there and fishing like I do at home.

The thing about cold weather is it takes a lot of scenarios out of the picture. You’re not going to catch them on a laydown in 2 feet of water or the back corner of a dock. A guy can’t just go burning the bank and catch fish.

They’ll be in the winter patterns, grouped up in deep water, so it’s going to be a feast-or-famine event. This tournament will be big on finesse, so your dropshotters and your light-line fishermen are going to do well.

My Lowrance electronics will play a big role in my game. This time of year, if you can find them, eventually, you can figure out how to make them bite.

In fact, I really think this tournament will be won by electronics. A guy can mark fish in practice, never make a cast and still win.

Now, if you get any kind of warming trend, anywhere in the high 40s to low 50s, then some of the fish might move shallower. That’s when you can catch them on jerkbaits, crankbaits and jigs on rocks, long points and channels swing bluffs in more of a prespawn pattern.

I’m not really looking for that to happen, so I’ll have my Simms Pro Dry rain suit over several layers of warm clothing. I’ll have my gloves, my face mask and my warm hat, and I’ll be ready to start earning my spot in next year’s Classic.

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