The Classic's peak excitement

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Chris Mitchell
Jason Christie.

One of the most enjoyable elements of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic is also one of the most challenging elements – the time before the competition begins. Classic week brings a lot of really cool things together to build an air of excitement for the reason we’re all there.

The Classic is a big tournament, but it’s also about putting on a great show for the fan. It’s like a big party that everyone gets to attend and enjoy at different levels.

As an angler, it’s very important to do a good job of balancing the show with the competition. It’s really two different mindsets that have to work together in your head.

You want to make sure you’re doing a good job of representing your sponsors and promoting the sport through fan interaction, media interviews and various sponsor events. But, at the same time, you can’t afford to lose your focus on the fact that you’re competing in the biggest event of the year.

I don’t know if there’s a perfect way to approach this challenge, but I know that the thing for me is that the whole time I’m dealing with all the events of Classic Week, I keep reminding myself that I’m going to have a job ahead of me.

That’s important not only for the short-term goal of winning, but it’s also important because the Classic is the first major event of the year for us. We kick off a new season with the peak of excitement for the year; we start off with a bang.

The show that B.A.S.S. puts on for us, the fans, the media – it’s like nothing else.

They give us this tremendous platform to promote our sponsors and, in return, the fans have an opportunity to interact with the anglers.

The way it all works together makes this a great experience for everybody, but the hardest thing about the Classic for a competitor is just trying to maintain focus. You can let the lights and the excitement get to you.

That kind of stuff can cause you to get off track a little bit. I’m not saying it won’t happen to me; it can happen to anybody – especially if you’re up there in the top three or four after that second day. It can be overwhelming.

What I do to prevent this is I try to keep it all about fishing. Whenever I’ve been in the interviews or any other interactions, it’s all about fishing. That’s the only way I can stay focused – just keep it all about fishing and think about what I need to do to catch the five biggest fish I can catch.

After the weigh-in on Day 1 or Day 2, I’m thinking about what I have to do to catch them the next day.

The Classic week is grueling on us and everybody associated with the event. It’s a long week and after it’s over – whether you catch them or not – you’re going to be spent.

I’ve been trying to prepare for the long days ahead of me by getting up early, staying up late and fishing all day. I’ve been trying to get myself in that kind of shape, and even though I’m doing that, Classic week is still going to push me.

It goes back to what I said about the Classic kicking off the year. It’s hard to prepare for this event because we’ve had a pretty good break, and it’s not like you’re physically and mentally in shape.

It’s going to get to you after you practice for three days and go through all the media interviews and then you start fishing. After the driving, the preparation, the sharpening of every last hook you think you might use, it’s just a long week.

One thing that I’ll be doing to help minimize my fatigue and manage the distractions is I’m staying at a place on Grand Lake rather than staying at the host hotel. For me, it’s going to be hard to wind down in the evenings. I’d rather do that while I’m driving in the evenings and then rest, get up and go right to the boat ramp in the mornings, rather than having to leave the hotel at four in the morning.

I’ll also do this to isolate myself a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the fan interaction, the media discussions and even the camaraderie with other anglers, but at some point it’s necessary to tune everything out and just focus on the job of catching fish.

I’m definitely looking forward to Classic week, but as it gets closer, I’ll definitely start turning inward. Even though it’s the Classic, it’s still a fishing tournament. I think the more a guy can get time to himself and formulate a starting plan, the better off he’ll be.