Anglers expect unexpected

More than half of the 51-angler field in the Feb. 19-21 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake also competed in the 1996, 2002 and/or 2007 Classics, all of which were on Lay Lake.
 But Lay Lake veterans don't necessarily have a big advantage: There are no cookie-cutter Classics.
 Bassmaster Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., whose 2010 Classic appearance will be his seventh, was a Classic contender in 2002 and 2007. He said there's little to learn from 2002 that will help him, or anyone, in the 2010 Classic.
 "The 2002 Classic was in the summertime, so you can throw that one out the window," Scroggins said.
 Ditto for 1996, also in the summer.
 Even the lessons of the 2007 Classic, also at the end of February, could fail to show the way to the 2010 crown and $500,000 winner's prize.
 "I would say the Classic could be won the same way in 2010 except for the fact we've had little bit colder weather," said Scroggins, who finished seventh in 2007. "The water temperature will dictate how the fish will bite. If it warms up and the water temperature gets up into the high 40s to low 50s, you'll see a similarity to what it was in 2007."

There's a big "but" that goes with Scroggins' evaluation."If it's in the high 30s or low 40s, it will fish totally different," he said. "The largemouth won't move up as well, and then it will become a spotted bass tournament. The weather will dictate what happens; it's as simple as that, really."
 As the winner in 2007 in his home state, 2010 competitor Boyd Duckett of Demopolis is high on the list of pros who are Lay Lake Classic veterans. He has been monitoring the air and water temperatures of Lay to help him determine how the lake's largemouth and spotted bass will pattern during the third week in February.
 This winter, unseasonably cold weather for Alabama put ice over the backwaters of Lay — something that hasn't happened in decades, Duckett said — and the bass might still be "freaked."
 "Lay may fish completely differently than anybody experienced in the previous Classic," he said.
 Like Scroggins, 2010 qualifier Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., also was in the Classic in 2002 (eighth place) and 2007 (sixth).
 "The water is a lot colder," Wirth said. "It could be a tough winter pattern. But a few days of warm weather could put the fish in a strong prespawn pattern, and we'll catch the living heck out of them."
Wirth's Classic this year might be different for another reason: He has been training to boost his stamina and energy for the Classic. He quit smoking and has been running up to five miles a day.

Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., is another Elite pro in the 2010 event who can draw from his 2002 (second place) and 2007 (25th) experiences. With two other Classic finishes as No. 2, Martens figures that three times is enough as the bridesmaid. He trained for the upcoming Classic and put in 15 days of pre-practice on Lay before the Dec. 14 cutoff.
 "We were catching 40 to 80 fish in a day, some days — it was ridiculous how good the fishing was," he said. "I was sampling the size of fish; it was good. But conditions could be totally different for the Classic."
 However it comes down, Lay Lake will own a Classic record before the first fish is hooked: Lay will be the first body of water to serve four times as a Classic venue. The host city, Birmingham, will welcome its seventh Classic, and the state of Alabama, its 11th Classic.
 The four-Classic record will be Lay's alone for one year. In 2011, the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans will host its fourth Classic.