BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Less than one week after the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro, David Kilgore of Jasper, Ala., has one thing on his mind — getting back onto the Classic stage. Just 11 days after fishing for the world championship title, Kilgore and other anglers will compete on Smith Lake in next week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate. No question — he’s in it to win it.
“The Classic was wonderful,” said Kilgore, who qualified for the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing by winning the 2013 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Logan Martin Lake, Ala. “It was everything you hear about. All the hype that you hear is true, and the experience itself is wonderful. The only thing I was disappointed about was that I wasn’t going to win. After the third or fourth day of practice, I knew I could win it. I had the fish I needed on the line, but they just came unbuttoned.”
Kilgore finished in eighth place with 60 pounds, 7 ounces — a little more than 7 pounds behind the new Classic champion, Randy Howell of Springville, Ala.
“I’m very proud of Randy,” Kilgore said. “I couldn’t have picked a better guy to win it if it wasn’t going to be me. In the end, I was disappointed it didn’t go my way. Now I’ve got that taste in my mouth, I’m ready to taste it again.”
A three-time qualifier for the Bassmaster Elite Series, Kilgore could have joined the prestigious tour and enjoy more opportunities to qualify for the Classic. But with a 2 1/2-year-old toddler and a new baby at home, he’s not ready to commit to the travel involved.
“I need to stay here so I can watch them grow up, so I’ll keep trying to qualify for the Classic by fishing the Opens,” said Kilgore, whose home fishery is Smith Lake. With the rollercoaster weather patterns and low water levels, he’s waiting on practice to come up with a strategy that will button up a berth in the 2015 Classic.
“With this big cold spell we’re having, the water temperature will make a big difference,” Kilgore said. “If it stays cold, a man or woman who can catch 13 pounds a day is going to be really strong to win this thing. It all depends on what the weather does.”
Kilgore says Smith Lake, a 21,200-acre impoundment that contains both largemouth and spotted bass, is down about 3 feet now, and on this particular fishery, that means there’s much less cover for the largemouth. With that in mind, he predicts the tournament will likely be decided on spotted bass instead.
“A lot depends on what the weather is going to be like two or three days from the start,” said Kilgore of the dramatic transition from relatively warm weather a week ago to a sudden dip into the 20s. “It’s going to make a bigger difference on the fish bite than if the warmer weather hadn’t started at all.”
Even subtle drops in temperatures will dramatically impact the size and number of bass anglers can expect to catch.
One thing is certain: Kilgore will fight for a spot in the 2015 Classic field that will fish Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. It’s too soon after his recent brush with glory to forget those fish that were on the hook but not in the boat.
“I was fishing around docks, logs, rocks — I call it high-impact fishing. I knew I would lose a few, but there’s nothing I could do about it. It happens to everybody. You have fish come unbuttoned. But when it happens to you on that day like that … it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
“I’ve done pretty good in most previous Opens on Smith Lake in the past two or three years,” Kilgore said. “I know what to do to win. I’m not fishing to catch five keepers a day and smile and place 25th. I’m fishing for the Classic.”
The winner on the pro side will win a Nitro Z9 boat with a Mercury 225 Pro XS. If he fishes all three Southern Opens, he will qualify for the 2015 Classic. The top co-angler will take home a Skeeter TZX170 boat with a Yamaha F115LA.
Anglers will take off each day at 6 a.m. CT from Lewis Smith Lake Dam, 640 Powerhouse Rd., Jasper, AL 35504. On Day 1 and Day 2, they will weigh in at 2 p.m. CT at the same location. The Saturday weigh-in will be held at 3:30 p.m. CT at Bass Pro Shops, 5000 Bass Pro Blvd., Leeds, AL 35094.
The event host is the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, Ala.