This Classic will be special

To say that I’ve been excited for the upcoming Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota for a while would be an understatement. When the location was announced last year, it definitely added some pressure for me to catch fish and make sure that I qualified for our biggest event of the year.

Having fished the past three Classics, I can tell you that I never want to miss one. It’s a special week for the anglers because the tournament has such a legendary history, but this one is different for me because of the location.

In 2021 the Bassmaster Elite Series visited Knoxville, Tenn., and the Tennessee River, and I was fortunate to leave that event with my first blue trophy. I had an extremely tough practice — maybe the worst one I’ve ever had — but on the day before the tournament I found a few smallmouth. Not knowing if what I found was actually that good or not, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to put a limit of brown beauties in the boat each day — it was an amazing weekend.

During that event I tried to look around for more fish once I had caught my limit each day, but I never did find anything other than the area where I actually caught them. I haven’t been back since, so it’s going to be exciting to get back there and do some hunting around.

I have experienced the smallmouth fishing there and know what exists. One thing that I’ve learned from 10 years of fishing professionally, and this is especially true on southern reservoirs, the same spots are rarely good from year to year.

Up north, a good spot often is good year after year. That’s been something I’ve had to learn the hard way over the years fishing down south.

This event is also a month later than the Elite tournament in 2021. It’s more likely that the fish won’t be in the same full winter pattern that they were then. I’m expecting to have to hunt around and try to figure out where the smallmouth are. Yes, I am absolutely going to fish for 18-inch smallmouth — it’s the Classic!

The weather is also going to be an important factor. It could be warm the week prior to the event and cause a big push up shallow or it could be cold and keep a deeper program in play. I certainly have a plan for how I want to practice but I’m not going to get too stuck on anything until we actually get on the water and see what the conditions look like. There is some rain forecasted throughout the week as well, which could influence the water color in some areas. Typically for me, muddy water is bad.

My past few Classic experiences have been fun, highlights of the year for sure, but I want to be in the mix heading into the final day this year. I really enjoy taking in all the activities that go on throughout the Classic week. B.A.S.S. treats us like rock stars, but I want to try and keep a little more focus on the fishing and that beautiful trophy that is going to change someone’s life on Sunday evening.

It’s going to be a fun week in Knoxville, and I’m bringing my A game. I look forward to seeing everybody there.