Bass Fishing Pros Continue Preparation for Classic
The official scouting period on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers in Pittsburgh is long over and the actual competition days for the 35th annual Bassmaster Classic, July 29-31, are still well off. But the 47 Classic contenders have kept busy preparing for the most important event in professional bass fishing.
Here is a sampling of what the pros are doing to ready themselves for the upcoming world championship:
Four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn is centering much of his efforts on fishing a small, clear, smallmouth stream that runs through his farm in rural Missouri. "I'm fishing my creek a lot, which is kind of an unusual thing," Clunn said. "I really believe this is going to be a finesse-type tournament. That's not my strength, so I'm fishing with my spinning rods a little bit everyday down on the creek just to get more comfortable with that type of tackle.
"I'm not bad with a spinning rod, but I don't do it much anymore. In fact, a lot of my limits came on an old Charlie Brewer 4-inch Slider Worm back in the '70s. A lot of people don't think of me in those terms, but back then, that was one of my favorite techniques."
California pro Skeet Reese is taking an opposite approach. His pre-Classic days will include traveling for sponsors, filming segments of ESPN2's "Bass Tech" show and an anniversary celebration with wife, Kim.
"Pretty much last week I packed most of my tackle up," he said. "The only other thing I'll do is pay attention to the weather and what's going on in Pittsburgh as far as the rain goes. I think that's the biggest determining factor on how the event unfolds. If they get a lot of rain and the waters get high and muddy, that's going to create completely different conditions from what we had. Other than that, I don't care if it's 50 or 120 degrees."
Former Classic champion Jay Yelas is spending time formulating his approach. "Once I got back from Pittsburgh, I knew what I was going to need, tackle and bait wise," the Texan said.
"The real key now is formulating your strategy and your game plan for the week. That's what gets the most thought and the most time. I spend a lot of time going out for a walk or sitting somewhere quiet and thinking about what I'm going to need to do because there's a lot of strategy involved in the Classic."
- Renowned jig fisherman Tommy Biffle gave his tackle box an extreme makeover for the Classic. "I'm loading up on little baits," the veteran Oklahoma pro said, laughing. "I don't own very many small-fish baits. So I've ordered a bunch of them. And I've been practicing with a spinning rod some. I rarely fish with a spinning rod, but at the Classic I might fish with one a little bit."
- Federation national champion Ed Cowan is getting his gear together. "It's a monumental task just trying to get everything out of my boat and organized into two tackle boxes and getting 10 rods rigged up with fresh line because I have a full-time job."
The only Classic contender who is staying in Pittsburgh from the official five-day scouting period until the actual event is also the angler who traveled the farthest to get there.
Gerry Jooste, who will be competing in a record fourth Classic as a BASS Federation representative, remained in PENNSYLVANIA rather than traveling back to his home in Harare, Zimbabwe. The 47-year-old fisherman is the only Classic contender living abroad at the time of the world championship event.
Using a rental car, Jooste is visiting friends and exploring the western portion of the state.
After a week of complaining about the fishery in the Three Rivers area and predicting that this year's tournament will break all records for Classic futility, angler assessments were disproved by a local tournament held one day after practice ended.
Jim and Craig Bushey of Greensburg won the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta tournament with five bass weighing 11.26 pounds. And the big bass of the day was a 4 1/2-pound smallmouth. Both are respectable statistics for summertime bass fishing.
This week's installment of the weirdest catch comes from this year's Classic waters.
"Dude, check this out," Virginia pro John Crews said. "When I was up in Pittsburgh, I caught a pair of pants. I was throwing a crankbait. I couldn't believe it. They looked like blue work pants. I was just glad there was nobody in them."
Did you know?
The longest gap between appearances in the coveted Classic belongs to both Massachusetts' Danny Correia and Texas' David Gregg, who endured 16-year droughts. Jeff Boyer, O.T. Fears, Ed Cowan and Homer Humphreys share the second-longest streak with 14 years.
Classic contender Kevin Wirth will be 45 on July 20, while Arizona's Mark Kile turns 39 a day later. On July 24, venerable Rick Clunn will blow out 59 candles. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Texas pro Todd Faircloth celebrates his 30th birthday on July 25.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro,
Classic contender Chad Morgenthaler would still be working as a captain of a fire department in Illinois.
They said it
"Getting back to the Classic is going to be harder in the future. It's going to happen. It's happens to the best of them during their career and there's nothing you can do about it. You just go out and do your best and if it works out, it works out. You almost have to look at it like a good poker player who gets a bad hand sometimes. But you know that if you're a good poker player you'll get back on a roll, sooner or later." - Reigning Toyota Bassmaster Rookie of the Year Dave Wolak, who believes that making the Classic is not automatic, even for great anglers.