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It’s game day!

It’s game day!

If you are reading this on Friday, chances are I’m somewhere on Grand Lake kicking off my 25th Bassmaster Classic.

Believe me; I am just as jacked up as I was in 1991 when I fished my first on Chesapeake Bay. I may be more experienced and savvier as to how to juggle the Classic pressures, but I’m still jittery, excited and full of anticipation.

One of my biggest thrills has always been that first day at the launch on opening morning of the Bassmaster Classic. There’s the massive throng of fans who get up early to see us off, the lineup of all the awesome bass rigs and the pageantry that B.A.S.S. creates.

There’s only one Bassmaster Classic. Witnessing it is thrilling; being a competitor on opening day is exhilarating.

I may have even more butterflies today because I have grown to know just how special this moment is.

On the other hand, I have to stay focused, because every decision that I make in the coming hours will be pivotal to how successful I will be in the most important bass fishing event on earth.

As the old saying goes, you can’t win the Classic on the first day, but you can sure lose it if you don’t make the right decisions and stay in contention that first day.

We’re all ready to get down to business. Classic week has been crazy busy. In addition to a few days of practice, we’ve been in meetings, ceremonial dinners and spent all day yesterday conducting media interviews. The excitement level among the anglers, the participating marshals, sponsors and media has been over the top. Everyone knows this is shaping up to be a really great championship.

Although the weather is nice and should remain stable throughout the tournament, Mother Nature didn’t disappoint us by throwing a few curve balls at us when we arrived for practice.

Grand Lake endured a wet winter and the fishery hasn’t completely recovered. When I saw the water was dirty as I launched my Nitro Z-21 the first practice day, I thought this was going to be a shootout. But when my Humminbird graph showed the water temperature was in the low 40s, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I like stained water, but cold, dirty water can make the fishing more difficult.

And here’s the thing – the lake hasn’t warmed up that much despite the nice weather, due largely to the never-ending Oklahoma wind. The wind keeps rolling the cold, deep water to the surface, slowing the warm up. That really has made the bite more challenging than any of us expected.

But you know what? I welcome that challenge. You’re never too experienced to learn and I’ve been learning some things this week. This will be a tournament decided by the angler who is quick to adjust to ever-changing conditions, who executes properly each minute he’s on the water, and who produces consistent catches all three days. If I can do that, I can be in contention to hoist that trophy on the final day.

Tulsa is expecting record-size crowds at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo that opens today in the Cox Business Center and at the weigh-ins at the BOK Center. And with the great weather over Grand Lake, I also anticipate a record number of spectator boats on the water. Hopefully everyone will be patient, smart and safe while boating around the Classic contenders and enjoy the show.

For those who watch the tournament unfold through Bassmaster.com’s live coverage, I’ll have a cameraman in the boat with me for the early morning start. You’ll get to see my every move as it occurs, and hopefully, a lot of nice fish catches too!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!