The wildest Classic ever?

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Darren Jacobson

HOUSTON, Texas — Jacob Powroznik offered the most intriguing prediction at Thursday’s media session, prior to the start of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

“Things are going to happen in this Bassmaster Classic that I don’t think anybody has ever seen before,” he said.

Powroznik was mainly referring to the number of double-digit largemouth bass in Lake Conroe’s 21,000 acres, several of which are likely to be caught over the next three days.

“There are so many great big ones here,” he said. “You never know which flip or cast or pitch is going to be a 13-pounder. They catch ‘em in this lake all the time – 10s, 11s, 12s. Those are going to be the game-changers.

“Here, you could catch three fish a day and win the tournament. Three 9s is 27 pounds.”

But there is also the likelihood that a few anglers won’t weigh-in a single 16-inch keeper at the end of the day.

“If I had to put my money on what I was going to catch [Friday],” said Jason Christie, “honestly, I wouldn’t know where to drop the chip – from zero to 25 pounds. I think you’re going to see some guys not catch a fish. I’m scared enough that I’d lean to the bottom or middle for me. But also, if I were to have a good day, I’d be a little surprised but not shocked.”

Christie could have been speaking for about three-fourths of the 52-man field. There’s a lot more confusion than there is confidence going into Friday’s Day 1 takeoff. That’s mainly as a result of another factor that makes this Classic unique. 

“This is a much different Classic than any I can remember in that we’re dealing with prespawn, spawning and postspawn fish,” said Skeet Reese, who has qualified 17 times and won it in 2009.

Some anglers are dealing with that better than others. Among the puzzled is first-time Classic qualifier Jesse Wiggins.

“I haven’t figured out what’s going on,” he said. “I got some bites yesterday [in practice], but all three were when I was doing something different – three different depths and three different baits. So I’m still confused. I don’t really have a clue. I guess I’m just flying by the seat of my pants.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lake Conroe is changing by the day for sure, and maybe by the hour. The anglers practiced last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then were off the lake for two days before Wednesday’s final practice day. 

“Those first three days of practice we had, I wiped them out [of my memory],” Powroznik said. “I started over yesterday. These fish were going to be doing one of two things: They were headed out [to deep water, postspawn] or they were headed in [to shallow water, spawning].”

Powroznik smiled and added, “I’ll give you a little more insight [Friday] about which way I think they went.”

Unlike Wiggins, Powroznik at least thinks he’s got a clue. But the clues are revealing tough choices for some. 

“I’m bouncing things around in my head right now,” said Todd Faircloth. “What most people don’t understand is that not only is this a fishing derby, but it’s a decision derby as well. So much depends on where you start. Do you go left or do you go right? Do you go north or do you go south? I’m struggling a little bit with that right now.”

Defending champion Edwin Evers is one of the confident ones, saying, “I feel real good about it. This is a lake that I’d feel good about if I didn’t get to practice at all. You can catch ’em running a pattern. You don’t have to fish it the day before. You don’t have to be the first one to a particular spot. I love the lake.

“There are some big fish that are up on beds. That’s going to play a factor. But there are a lot of things going on. You can also catch some big ones out deep and in-between. I’m pretty excited about it.”

While Powroznik sounds like he’s dialed in on one pattern, he agrees with Evers that there are several ways to be successful this week at Lake Conroe, saying, “In my opinion, the top six in this tournament will be doing at least four different things to catch ‘em.” 

As to Powroznik’s prediction of events previously unseen in a Bassmaster Classic, Wiggins offered this: “I promise you’re going to see some big fish. We’re going to see some big ones. I’m not saying I’m going to catch them, but they’re in this lake, and these guys are the best.”

It’s not like there has never been a bunch of big bass weighed at a Bassmaster Classic. It was only three years ago when Paul Mueller set the Classic record for a five-bass limit with a total of 32-3 on Day 2 at Lake Guntersville. What’s unprecedented here is Lake Conroe’s abundance of big bass combined with the fact that the winning stringer could be caught anywhere from shallow to deep – prespawn, spawning or postspawn.

It may be confusing for many of the anglers now, but it promises to be an educational and exciting week for bass tournament fans.

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