Last-minute frenzied prep for Classic anglers

Heeeeeeeere's Jeff. Although he's not gone completely Jack Nicholson yet, Classic competitor Jeff Kriet admits his Ardmore, Okla., household is stir crazy.

"It's almost like 'The Shining' around my house," said Kriet, whose wife and daughter have been snowed out of school the past week.

Kriet's not axing through any doors yet, but the weather has also kept him off the water, sending him inside his shop to practice flipping.

"I went old school ... I've been flipping in coffee cups," he said. "Got the diesel blower going, getting dizzy from the fumes. I'm stir crazy."

Most of the 50 anglers heading to New Orleans for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic can empathize somewhat. All are in the final phases of their preparations and are itching to fish. The first day of practice for the Feb. 18-20 event is Friday, and a mass migration to the Louisiana Delta is under way. contacted several anglers to record their progress.

Mark Davis

While he's "spooled up, loaded for bear" after working the past week on tackle, Davis is intently watching the weather. The former Classic champion and three-time Angler of the Year had plans to leave Mount Ida, Ark., on Thursday, but a major snow event is forecast to hit the state Wednesday.

"I'm thinking I'm going to have to leave early to get down there," he said. "If I wait, I might not get out." Davis said he found packing easy for his 15th Classic.

He's bringing an assortment of soft plastics, jigs, a few crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

"You're not going to need a lot down there but a handful of lures," he said. "I want to get down there and get acclimated and get settled in. The three practice days, those are the three days that you're really going to have to find some fish. "This is the tournament you've got to swing for the fences ... Got to spend your days of practice trying to locate some bigger fish."

While he's competed in the three Classics there, he's not finished in the top 20 in the vast playing field that is the Louisiana Delta.

"That doesn't lend to my strong suit, making those long runs," he said. "More times than not, it takes a long run. Just a lot of fish in Venice, but a hard trip. I've never been a guy to make long runs."

Paul Elias

Long runs are also on Elias' mind, and besides getting his new boat ready, he's been online checking out conditions.

"You have to consider what the weather is going to do," said Elias, also making his 15th Classic appearance. "Been looking at the river stages, the tides. If you plan to go to Venice, you have to make sure of the tides.

"Looks like we' ll have a cold practice and a warm week -- that could mean fog delays. There's all kinds of stuff to consider."

Testing out the new boat he received this past weekend had him playing catch-up.

"I just got it wrapped and I'm going through everything," he said. "I put it in the water yesterday for about 10 minutes just to make sure all the pumps were working and trolling motor and depth finder were working. A few hitches. I've overcome them and my thing now is getting my waypoints down."

Elias mentioned new hooks on all his lures and eliminating anything unnecessary.

"I downsize as much as I can as far the weight of my boat in case I decide to make a long run," he said.

Matt Herren

Tweaking the electrical system, checking the batteries, outboards, "basically going over everything on my boat," were Herren's duties Monday. "I could be making some very long runs, so I'm crossing all my T's and dotting my I's."

Herren is battening the hatches, like reinforcing simple screws with bolts, in preparation for any rough conditions.

"I'm seriously bullet-proofing my boat," said the three-time Classic qualifier. "A long run can be treacherous. If the boat ain't ready, it won't stand it. If you go out and have a problem there, you're in trouble. I want it to withstand a pounder."

He's also considering an early departure from Trussville, Ala., which is expected to get the same snow storm.

"In the south, we don't have equipment for the roads, and I'm trying to make preparations so if I have to leave early I can," he said. "I'm probably going to go ahead and get ahead of it.

"I need to be there Thursday, get settled in. When I get to New Orleans, I don't want to have anything else left to do except uncover the boat. Then try to go figure out where the green trout are."

Shaw Grigsby

His truck mostly packed, Grigsby was concentrating on rigging and breaking in the new boat he just received.

"It's beautiful, too," he said. "I'm just happy to have it. I've been spending more time trying to get things going with the boat. And trying to get the wrap job done and then I can ease on down the road."

While his son, Shaw, put a couple hours on the new motor, Grigsby plans to travel the 8-9 hours from Gainesville, Fla., and get more break-in time on some non-Classic water Thursday. So while Grigsby has "every hook changed, every point sharpened ... I haven't had a boat since December and am playing a little bit of catch-up."

Despite the rushing, Grigsby is excited to be competing in his 13th Classic. He said it was cold there before the December off-limits period, and the three practice days will be crucial.

"I have some time to figure things out," he said. "These will be the deal."

Jeff Kriet

All work and no play makes Jeff a dull boy. Kriet hasn't typed that over and over like Nicholson's character in "The Shining," but he's admits he might be driving his schoolteacher wife, Stefanie, and daughter, Paige, a bit loopy.

"I got in trouble last night," Kriet said. "I probably got 40 maps lying on my bedroom floor. Venice, it's like six or seven maps. If I decide to go the opposite direction, there's another eight or 10. "I can wallpaper the house with Louisiana Delta maps."

Running his old boat for the Classic, he said he's stripping it down for weight, going light to help on runs and not get stuck. He said eliminating 150 pounds of jetsam is significant.

"I'm hoping to have two Ziploc bags (of lures) and two flipping rods," he said, adding that eight to 10 was his serious answer on rods, down from 20 or so. "My truck is going to be packed as full you can get it and my boat is going to be packed with as little as I can carry."

Kriet is serious about navigating the Delta safely, adding push poles, an extra prop and trolling motor, and a 200-foot rope in case he gets stuck.

"I can flag down somebody and they can stay 200 feet away and pull me out," he said. Kriet, who finished second in last year's Classic, does like his chances. He says the format of going large or going home suits his swing-for-the-fences style.

"You try to go into it with the right attitude. You've got to take big risks for big reward, but a lot of times you might end up dead last," he said. "I want to make sure I go into the third day with a chance. "Classics fit me good. I always feel real good going into it. I expect to win ... So do 50 others guys."

With more winter weather coming, Kriet said he's set to beat the snow and head south. He plans to hook up with roommate Mike McClelland and end his cabin fever, starting with a pre-practice day on non-Classic waters.

"Being busy with boat shows and boats wrapped and jerseys, it's time to get fishing on my mind," he said. "I haven't fished in over a week! (Three days a week is what I feel a guy needs to fish.)"

Sounds like he'll be one of the first anglers out when practice begins Friday, scouring the canals, backwaters and lily pads of the Louisiana Delta in search of the spots that will hold up and help him capture bass fishing's ultimate crown.

"I'd like to jerk on a few to be honest," Kriet said.