Practice winds down

ANDERSON, S.C.— After Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jared Lintner pulled his boat onto its trailer, his truck driver pulled up the hill from Lake Hartwell. Only then did Lintner remember to remove his life jacket.

 "I feel like I'm still on the ocean," he explained.

 Cold and windy turned into sunny and windy today on the final day of practice for the 50 anglers who will fish for a half-million bucks beginning Friday. The waves and choppy water made it difficult for anglers who fished in exposed areas.

 When asked what he learned on the water Wednesday, Federation Nation champion Jeff Freeman replied: "I learned that I don't like wind. I think it kept a lot of guys off their fish.

 "I think everybody's just trying to stumble on something new," he added.

 Lintner was one such angler. He was so disappointed in his practice last week that he just went freelancing Wednesday, "just trying different things." He said he got more bites, but they were too small. Outside the creeks, all he could do was "surfing waves."

 Reactions to the day were the usual grab bag of experiences. Matt Sphar said it was his toughest day on the water so far. Steve Kennedy went looking for schooling fish and never found them.

 "I was really just trying to catch a big fish," said Kevin Short, echoing several other anglers. "I went out today to catch 4s and 5s. I just didn't do it. That doesn't mean that I can't. I just didn't do it today."

 Meanwhile, anglers like Dave Wolak spent the day speeding around the lake, checking water temperatures and barely making a cast. Scott Rook enjoyed the conditions enough to say, cagily, "Best day I've had here." And Chris Lane called the day a "confidence-builder."

 "The size fish that I know I'm going to need to win the Bassmaster Classic are the ones I'm getting to bite," Lane said as he left the lake. "It's just a matter of getting five of them.

 "Some weather's coming up that I'm not used to," he continued, referring to the cold, wet Friday forecast. "Sleet, freezing rain. I think it favors the bite that I've been on more than what I've seen in the past. The best bites I've had are when it's been overcast. Add rain to it, and it's probably going to get even better."

 Perpetual tournament favorite Kevin VanDam revealed little once he left the water. He did say, though, that aside from anglers who would rely on throwing a frog bait, "I think you can find anything you want out here."

 That led him to describe the aw-shucks field as a "bunch of sandbaggers."

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