Last time I said I’d give you an update after I’d had a chance to go to Knoxville. Here goes…
I spent three or four days on the Tennessee River scoping out the playing field for the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. What I found really surprised me, and made me think about and appreciate, the diversity of our bass fisheries.
Here are five things I learned about our Classic waters.
It’s bigger than it looks on the Internet.
This system is massive. There are countless creeks, cuts and backwater places that line the banks, and they all look good. There’s supposed to be 300 miles of shoreline, and I believe it. It took me almost an hour running at full throttle to go from one end of it to the other.
That’s a good deal because with all that fishable water the Classic will probably fish big. It’s always more fun, and usually more productive, to fish without having another boat on top of you. That lets everyone fish to their potential.
It’s a bank beater's dream.
There’s a ton of places that run off the main river. And, make no mistake about it — this is an actual river system. The banks are lined with bluff walls, rock, sand and gravel. There’s even some areas with clay and mud. There’s something for everyone with a rod and reel.
The good thing about it is that you can look at the bank and pretty much tell what’s out, away from it. That’s a super advantage because you don’t have to run over it to see what’s down there. You can just look, think and start fishing.
There’s a strong current there, at times.
The first couple of days I was there the water was still at summer pool and there wasn’t much current. I noticed that the local tournament anglers were catching more weight than I thought they would, between 17 and 24 pounds. That was in one-day tournaments on the weekend.
During my third day of exploring, they started dropping the water. The last day I was there it only took 7 pounds to win a one-day weekend tournament.
The thing that really got my attention, however, was the way the current picked up. It was much stronger than other places I’ve been when they dropped the water. Depending upon how they handle the water levels when we get there the weights could surprise everyone — either way.
My guess at this point is that 17 or 18 pounds a day will get it done.
The fish were bigger than I expected, both largemouth and smallmouth.
I caught a smallie over 4 pounds one day and on another day I lost a legitimate 6-pound largemouth at the boat. That surprised me. I didn’t expect the fish to be that big, and certainly not both species.
Don’t be surprised if you see some seriously big fish at the weigh-in.
There’s not much vegetation.
I was surprised that I couldn’t find any good vegetation. I did find some stringy stuff but it was nothing that would hold bass, and I looked hard.
What effect that’ll have on the fishing is an open question. Maybe it’ll hurt it but maybe not. We’ll just have to see what happens come March. Bass adapt to where they live. If they don’t have weeds, they’ll find something else.
I don’t pretend to be any great expert. All I can tell you is what I saw when I was there. But maybe my observations will give you something to think about as you watch the action when it starts.