I really enjoyed the last few days before practice. Trait and I have been on the road for about five weeks. It’s nice to be home where we actually live sleeping in our own bed.
But home doesn’t mean leisure time with the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk looming on the horizon. I honestly think that I’ve examined and sorted every rod, reel, lure, hook and skirt I own. At the same time I’ve been thinking about this home lake thing — the advantage and the curse — and how I’m going to deal with it.
The advantage is pretty much obvious. Although I’ve only lived in the area for a year that’s still enough time to get to know Lake Ray Roberts. I’m about 30 miles away so I’ve been able to pop over to her off and on for most of this year.
That’s a big deal, really, more so than on some other lakes. Ray Roberts is treacherous. There’s timber everywhere, not just in the bays and along the shoreline. You can be out in the middle of the lake and there’ll be a giant tree right in front of you. Even worse it’ll be a few inches under the surface. And, there aren’t any marked boat lanes like there are on a lot of lakes.
The one thing about the home lake advantage for me, though, that’s not so much of an advantage is that a year isn’t a lot of time. You can learn the physical characteristics of the lake but it doesn’t give you enough time to follow the fish from season to season and weather change to weather change. That problem is compounded by all the travel we do fishing the Elites and the Opens.
However, overall I have to say that the home lake advantage will help me. I’ve been able to learn the details of her structure and cover and learn lanes that I can run to save time without shredding my prop or destroying my lower unit.
Now that I’ve said those things, however, it’s time to look at the home lake curse.
I’m not absolutely sure about this, but I think there’s only been two anglers in all of the Classic’s history that have won on their home waters. It’s not an easy thing to do. What happens is that you get locked into a style of thinking or you know too much and outsmart yourself. That can happen no matter how much experience you have or how well you think you know the lake and its fish.
At the same time you have to take into account the quality of the competition. The guys fishing a Classic didn’t get there by accident. They’re good, and they’re experienced. They know how to research, read a map, break down a body of water and find big, active bass. So even if you have a good tournament on your home lake you still might not win.
As I look towards the rest of this week I’m willing to say that I have no fear of claiming the home lake advantage, and I’ll do everything possible to avoid the curse. When it’s over I promise you a brutally honest column one way or the other.