Classic practice has me thinking

As I think about the first two days of GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods practice, I see some ups and some downs. Nothing drastic either way, but it definitely has me thinking.

For one thing, the lake has come up about 8 or 9 feet over the last month, and it’s come up 4 feet in the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen water temperatures from 46 to 54, so there’s going to be a lot of variety.

Hartwell is one of the best tournament lakes in the country just because of the size and different types of cover and structure. This is the Classic, so I think you’ll see guys fish the way they want to fish. The shallow water guys will find places to fish, and there’s obviously a lot of deep water for those offshore patterns.

As far as my expectations, I came here in hopes of having that magic week where a lot of those fish would transition from prespawn mode and make a big push to the bank. Honestly, I don’t see that happening because the weather isn’t going to warm up enough.

We’ve been consistent, and that’s a good thing. We’re going to have a little warmup the end of the week, but I don’t see that having a drastic affect on the fishing. It’s not like we’re going to bump up to the 70s for five days.

The upside of this is that the fish that have been found are probably going to hang around the same areas. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of things change between now and the weekend.

You’re not going to pull into a spot where you had two bites in practice and find a bunch of fish have moved in to start spawning. Likewise, I don’t think the deep schools are going to make a big push to the bank.

Now one thing that’s strange, but kind of appealing, is that throughout practice, it was like no other Classic boats are here. I mean, I’d see two or three competitors each day.

This is just a big lake, so guys tend to spread out. I hope it stays that way during the tournament because that makes it fun for me. 

Some of the lakes we go to it’s like “Golly, if I don’t go here first, I’m probably not going to get a chance to fish here. If I don’t hit this spot by noon, it’s going to get hit 10 times.” 

For me, I haven’t found that 5- to 10-mile stretch where I’d feel comfortable fishing during the Classic. Wednesday’s practice day will be important, because I need to get that dialed in. 

I’ve never won a tournament by running and gunning; I always had a particular area that I fished. Right now, the fishing’s not good enough for me to try and spend a tournament day running around on a lake this big.

During practice, I did spend a lot of time running the lake to check out different areas and see how the fish are positioning. I learned a little more each day, but I still need to identify a key area that I can commit to.

The good thing is that Hartwell is a good pattern lake. You’ll find a lot of similar habitat from one end to another, so I’m hoping this will play in my favor.

I’ll be thinking about all of this for the next two days because Wednesday will be my last chance to figure out where I’m going to spend my Classic. This is the biggest test of the year. This is what you fish the other tournaments for. It’s not easy to get here, and it’s not easy to contend. Everything has to line up.

You make that first good decision on Friday morning, and it can impact your whole event. But if you make a bad one, you might blow the tournament because you’ll be scrambling trying to get something going.

Come Friday morning, I have to make the best decision I can possibly make because the whole year comes to down to those first two hours.