CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Practice "went great" for David Walker, despite the fact he didn't catch many fish on Lake Norman in preparation for the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open running Thursday through Saturday.
"Usually I catch my fish in practice," he said. "I've done bad in most of those. The problem I've had is I caught my fish in practice."
Walker, a rookie on the Elite Series but veteran tournament angler, goes into this event hoping to save the fish catches for tournament days.
"I'm finding so many little places to go and things to do," he said. "This is the least amount of practice I've put a tournament. It went great."
Monday he didn't take a rod out of the box instead opting to look for spots, Tuesday he actually did some casting to see what they might bite on, and Wednesday he just looked around at water color.
"They're on beds, but we've got the weather coming and it will knock them back out," he said of a front that brought storms early Thursday morning and pushed cooler air in. "The good thing about this lake is, there's a lot of spotted bass and they're not as affected by the cold weather as the largemouth.
"Here they're going to adjust, but still the bigger fish are going to be key. If you catch a 4-pound largemouth, you're right in the hunt. If you catch two of them, you're going to be in the lead. You just have to try to figure out how to make these largemouth bite in a post-frontal conditions."
Maybe Walker knows something he's not telling, like having that figured out already.
"My enthusiasm is better than normal because I did not catch any fish," he said.
Luck of the draw
Jody Andrzejewski thinks he won the lottery.
The 36-year-old co-angler from Maineville, Ohio, was pumped to be paired with Elite angler Terry Scroggins on Day One.
"I could not have a picked a better guy," saying he thought the top three to be paired with were Gerald Swindle, Roland Martin or Scroggins. "This is worth the entry price. I'm stoked."
After meeting up, the two exchanged cell phone numbers and set a meeting place and time for this morning.
Andrzewjewski asked what Scroggins had planned so he could bring the right lures."We'll do some bed fishing," said Scroggins, coming off a second-place finish last weekend in the Power-Pole Citrus Slam. "I got a few fish, but it will probably go away. We'll fish some docks."
Scroggins told his co-angler to "bring whatever you want, and if you don't got it, I got it."
First-time classic friends
At the registration meeting, Classic qualifiers Brandon Palaniuk and Ryan McMurtury stood side by side, a contrast in size of about another Palaniuk.
McMurtury, who got to the Classic as the Weekend Series champion, said you can't look back but he wishes he would have made some other moves in New Orleans last month.
"I was on fish," he said, "but didn' t stay with them."
He enjoyed his experience on the Louisiana Delta, saying he was a bit surprised how well all the big-name pros treated a little ol' Weekend Series champion like himself, specifically naming Skeet Reese, who asked him twice if he needed help after on the water issues, and Kevin VanDam.
And he's hoping to get back to the Classic. The winner earns a berth to the 2012 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport.
"I got three different patterns here," he said. "The weather's going to change, so I hope one of them is going to turn on."
Palaniuk can't make the Classic through the Southern Opens after missing Toho. He'll have to climb from 66th in the Bassmaster Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year standings, or win one of the three Northern Opens.
"I can win (a Classic berth) here though," McMurtury said.
Anglers, even co-anglers, prepare meticulously for the Opens. Not George Yund and Anthony Savino.
The co-anglers made their way down through snowfall in their home of Albany, N.Y., leaving the night before registration.
"We're winging it," Yund said. "I told my boater I'm good with the net."
Yund does fishes New York and surrounding states regularly. He recently hit the Niagara River for steelhead and knows all the season openers for bass in New England, rattling off the dates.
But what about his chances at taking home a boat as co-angler champion?
"It's just three fish," Yund said. "Hope I catch three big ones."
Besides fighting to find the bigger fish, anglers will be fighting weather and a bunch of boat traffic. The Tarheel division of the Bassmaster Weekend Series opens its season Saturday on Lake Norman, even launching alongside the Open final 12 at Blythe Landing.
They will be prefishing the 32,000-acre Lake Norman during the Opens first two days. Expect a traffic jam.
Everybody fishes, or has fished.
Getting into the rent-a-car company bus at the Charlotte airport, driver Lonnie Altman asked what up with the B.A.S.S. shirt.
"Oh, I love to fish," he said upon learning why so many branded fishing shirts and hats were in town. He then went on how he and five others recently caught table fare for the Altman family reunion in Peoria, Ill.
"We caught 30 pounds of bass, oh, I caught a a 4.5 catfish, and we had a bucket full of bream," he said.
He said he got an inkling something fishy was going on around Charlotte, and said he has never fished Lake Norman but "I'd love to go try."
Cajun Cookin' in Carolina
Tony Chachere of Chachere's Creole seasoning fame has fished the Southern and Central Opens for the past few years. He travels and rooms with the Lane brothers from Florida, and usually brings along a little Cajun spice.
"Every night we've been grilling. We had chicken, steaks, and all sorts of good stuff," he said. "We grilled whole chickens, and I gave half of one to Chris (Lane) and he eats the whole thing!"
Lane isn't complaining, however.
"I can't quit eating!" Lane said. "I lost probably 20 pounds in the hustle and bustle of the first few events, but now it's all coming back!"
Card set for big bite
Brandon Card, a Lexington, Ky., native who recently relocated to Guntersville, Ala., for the sake of fishing, has plans on getting a few on Norman's bigger (3-plus-pouders) to bite.
"This place has a ridiculous amount of little fish," he said. "So I'm thinking I'll toss a swimbait to try and get a bigger bite."
As he spoke, he pointed to a 5-inch line-through Osprey-style soft swimbait with a treble hook in the belly. The spotted bass in Norman aren't very picky, but he reasons this bait will be more than a mouthful for a 3-plus pound bass.
Limits easy to come by
Ryan McMurtury of Abbeville, S.C., says catching fish on Norman is no problem. It's finding the bigger bites that's tricky.
"What's the key to getting a big bite? Go to a different lake!" he quipped this morning. "But seriously, I think I should have a pretty good limit rounded up by this afternoon."
By pretty good, he's hoping for five bass that will weigh in the 12-pound range.