Shifting gears for the Classic

You might think that with the first Elite event of 2018 in the books that I’ll be shifting gears into 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods mode. That’s not incorrect, but it’s not something that’s on my to-do list — we’re already there.

In fact, the thinking and planning started as soon as I left Lake Martin. Not that you wouldn’t always be planning for the next event, but this one’s different. It’s the Classic, so the focus is even more intense.

I got home and went through baits to make sure I was ready to cover one extreme to another. I’ve got all my clothing organized; I’ve made sure my boat and all the logos are good. It’s the big dance, and you want everything to be right when you get there. 

One thing I can’t control is what kind of conditions and water level we’ll be looking at when we arrive at Lake Hartwell. I’ve been watching the local weather and the rainfall so I can monitor how the lake is shaping up.

I’ve fished there before, so I know how it looks. If they get a hard rain, it’s going to put a little dirt in the water, but if they get no rain, it’s going to be a pretty clear event.

As for the water temperatures, if it stays cold, more than likely, I’ll be doing things to try to catch them out deeper. Whereas, if we start getting some really nice weather and a lot of sunshine, I’m going to start packing things for up on the bank. 

In a lot of ways, the weather on Hartwell is a lot like here in eastern Oklahoma. The highs and lows are pretty comparable, so the water around me should be about the same temperature.

The reason this advance monitoring is so important is that the Classic mindset is very different than a regular-season event. For an Elite event, you have plan a, plan b and plan c, and if you can’t find what you think are fish to win, you want to find enough to get a lot of good points. 

The Classic’s just not like that. You’re looking for that one hole, that one pattern — maybe the combination of a couple of patterns — that’s going to give you the chance to win.

One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that, if I’m going to win the Classic, I’m going to do so by fishing the way I like to fish. For me, that means some kind of shallow water, power fishing technique.

When I first started fishing, I’d look at a lake like Hartwell and order a bunch of the stuff I’d heard was catching fish. But that’s just not the case anymore. I might have to fish deep to compete, but to win a tournament of that magnitude, I’m going to have to be doing something that I feel gives me a chance to win. 

I’m not going to go to Hartwell and win on a dropshot; that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to carry a bunch of that tackle, because I feel that if the fish are on that kind of stuff, it will be hard to beat the guys who excel at that stuff.

Obviously, I won’t know exactly what’s going on until I get there, but I feel like my approach limits my options and I like that. I feel like there are five or six different ways that may give me a chance to win, and I’m going to stick with those.

Between now and then, I’m fishing as many days as possible. I just got back from a boat show in Kentucky and I have appearances the next two weekends. But during the week, I’m out fishing every day that I can.

I want everything to be in tip-top shape when I get to Hartwell — the rods, the reels, the baits — but more importantly, me. When I leave Oklahoma, before I cross the state line, I want to feel like I’m catching them good here. That’ll give me a lot of confidence that I can carry into the Classic.

The good thing is I have a few weeks, but when the Classic comes and goes, regardless of how it turns out for me, the Elite season will be full blown. So, not only is this preparation and momentum important for the Classic, but it’s also important for the rest of the year.