2009 Bassmaster Classic
The official 3-day Bassmaster Classic pre-practice ended last night, and the early verdict is in: The Red River near Shreveport, La. is fishing even smaller than anyone expected.
The water has been stable and clearing for several weeks, the fish are in pre-spawn with some already spawning, and the field’s right on top of each other in traditional, predictable areas.
Water temps vary from the mid-50s to mid-60s, and judging by the weather forecast, it looks like that’s going to hold.
Kevin stormed back with an impressive 19 pound bag on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an off first day of fishing. Kevin will be watching as the top 25 take to the water on the final day. Quotes and reaction to come…
2PM – Kevin VanDam is six pounds out of the cut and he has 9-12 on three fish today. This seems like his kind of weather, and if he can add two more 3-pounders, who knows? If adds a 3 and a 5, he’ll fish Sunday. In other news Scott Rook and Boyd Duckett are also flirting with the cut. That’s right, Day One leader Boyd Duckett. This board has gone crazy today. That’s what’s great about a river — it gives and it takes away, which keeps things real interesting.
1PM – Early results have Kevin coming back strong on day 2, with a limit already of 9-12. These results are unofficial, but with much of the day still aheady, KVD is on the comeback trail.
11AM – KVD made a big change. He stayed in Pool 5 on Day One, but locked to Pool 4 on Day Two. He’s started his day with a 3-8 keeper. He’s fishing near Rook and Alton Jones.
KVD misfires on day 1
With two days left to fish, the leaderboard is far from set. But the most certain surprise to come out of Day One: Kevin VanDam, the two-time Classic champ and the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, showed up with a 4-4 four-fish stringer that left him in 45th place.
“You’ve got to catch them every single day,” said VanDam, the first angler to weigh fish in the CenturyTel Arena. “I love to fish fast. I have to slow down.”
Kevin also reported that his boat hit an underwater stump and he subsequently hit the deck pretty hard. At first he thought he may have broken an arm. Luckily everything was OK and the fishing continued…
“I found a spot in practice the other day and decided to take a chance on it. (I wish now I hadn’t found it.) They were really in there and really biting. I though I could find them today even with the cooling water temperatures. Unfortunately, in the morning I just couldn’t make them bite, just couldn’t make it happen no matter what I did. I was the only one there, too. It wasn’t like I was fighting pressure.” — KVD
KVD hits the water ready to go at it
2PM report: KVD is on the board. He just boated his first keeper. He has two hours left, which is plenty of time for him to make a big move. We’ll be watching this closely.
12PM: Early reports have KVD off the grid. He’s evidently trying out some remote areas with less traffic. Information coming as we receive it.
Kevin reported he didn’t find the pockets of fish he’d hoped for going through his practice rounds. This will be a tough tournament, but hard work will always pay off. Stay tuned…
The Classic is underway
The 39th Classic is officially underway and for the next couple of hours every angler in the field is still full of hope that this event is theirs to win.
Of the 51 boats that took off this morning, 50 of them took a hard left and headed out to the main river. Rick Clunn, though, turned right and slipped toward the back of Port Lake near Cooley’s Lake. For those of you who follow these events, Cooley’s Lake is where Dean Rojas was DQ’d several years ago.
Kevin's thoughts the night before...
Two-time Classic champ Kevin VanDam says he thought the winner this year would have to find some productive water all to themselves. He’s been searching for such a spot on the main river channel, of all places. “I’ve spent a lot of my time looking for it,” he says. “I haven’t found it. Not the winning thing. But I’ve seen enough to know it’s there.”
Bassfan’s pre tournament analysis puts KVD as the #1 angler to watch:
1. Kevin VanDam – He’s the greatest angler of the modern era, a two-time Classic winner, and the No. 1 ranked angler in the world. His last Classic victory was on a river (Pittsburgh, 2005). What sets VanDam apart as perhaps the clear favorite this week is his ability to work with and within crowds – both other competitors and spectators. The spinnerbait’s also going strong, which makes him look even better. Plus, he’s first boat out tomorrow.
Excerpts from Kevin's Elite dinner speech honoring him as the Angler of the Year
“After 18 years, I still love this sport more than anything. It’s in my blood.”
Growing up, KVD said, all he wanted to do was compete against the best in the sport. “I never dreamed,” he said, “I could make a living bass fishing.”
KVD's take after practice wraps up
“I just used today to try to expand some new stuff. I was really just trying to look at some places that are more obscure. It’s hard to reinvent the wheel here, so to speak. The fish are where they’re at for a reason. Location’s a big deal here, and I mean exact location.”
KVDs guess at the winning weight: “I’d hate to guess. I don’t think it’ll take nearly as much as the predictions have been.”
Kevin's take on the importance of the Bassmaster Classic
Two-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam said he wants his career to be defined by AOY titles because they’re harder to win and prove more in his eyes, but admits that there’s no kind of attention like the attention focused on a Classic champion.
“There’s nothing like winning the Classic,“ VanDam said. “Without a doubt, it’s done more for my career than anything else.“
Pre Classic forecast
Based on the weather, BassFan reports it’s likely that:
- Day 1 should kick out some 20-pound-plus bags, but it might be hard to follow up with even 14, as the areas could get depleted quickly.
- There’s bound to be a lot of territorial activity. Remember the problems at the 2005 Pittsburgh Classic between George Cochran and Jimmy Mize? Emotions are always heated at the Classic, but since the entire field expects cramped conditions, look for cooler heads to prevail with plenty of negotiation and sharing.
- Pool 3 should see little activity. It’s just too far to run with plenty of 3s and 4s for the taking in Pools 4 and 5.
- There remains the chance that somebody could find something isolated and hidden, but chances at this point are remote. The Red’s just too combed over to hide any secrets.
- The backwaters are clear, and the river’s perfectly stained. Therefore wind, rather than water level, is the big wildcard right now.
Skeet Reese - 54-13
1. 15-8, 2. 22-9, 3. 16-12
Mike Iaconelli - 54-2
1. 15-5, 2. 18-10, 3. 20-3
Brian Snowden - 52-14
1. 15-9, 2. 19-4, 3. 18-1
Mike Mclelland - 52-1
1. 13-14, 2. 16-8, 3. 21-11
Edwin Evers - 51-5
1. 17-0, 2. 19-3, 3. 15-2
Brian Shmidt - 51-5
1. 15-5, 2. 13-11, 3. 22-1
Kenyon Hill - 49-14
1. 9-0, 2. 16-12, 3. 24-2
Jami Fralik - 49-2
1. 19-3, 2. 19-6, 3. 10-9
Aaron Martens - 49-1
1. 18-1, 2. 17-9, 3. 13-17
Kelly Jordan - 48-12
1. 15-10, 2. 20-5, 3. 12-13
Mark Davis - 48-4
1. 11-11, 2. 22-7, 3. 14-2
Boyd Duckett - 48-7
1. 20-3, 2. 13-12, 3. 13-9
Casey Ashley - 46-15
1. 9-13, 2. 22-11, 3. 14-7
Kevin VanDam - 23-11
1. 4-4, 2. 19-7
History & Notes;
Day 1: Aaron Martens – 7-1
Day 2: Davy Hite – 7-6
Day 3: Greg Hackney – 7-1
> On day 1 KVD, as the 2008 Angler of the Year, will be first boat out. Alton Jones, as defending Classic champ, will launch second. The rest of the order is determined by random draw.
> Lake name: Red River
> Type of water: Lowland flood-controlled river
> Fishable miles: 120-plus
> Primary structure/cover: Stumps, laydowns, standing timber, riprap, some grass
> Average depth: Roughly 4 feet in the oxbows
> Species: Largemouths
> Reputation: Lots of fish, lots of big fish, but they’re in specific places, so crowding can be an issue.
> Weather: Warm throughout this week, but turning much colder late Friday. Winds will change from the southwest to the north as the colder air arrives.
> Water temp: About 60 degrees and climbing
> Water visibility/color: Varies considerably, but generally clear in the backs of the oxbows, stained everywhere else, muddy in many spots
> Water level: 8 to 12 inches high (significant, since it’s tough to pick out routes through the stumps)
> Fish in: 1 to 10 feet
> Fish phase: Pre-spawn
> Primary patterns: Flipping (jigs, plastics), cranks, lipless cranks, spinnerbaits
> Winning weight: 56 pounds
> Fishing quality (1=poor, 5=great): 3 for the Red
> Biggest factors: Crowds – who’ll get the best spot, and will he/she camp? Also the weather – wind can muddy the water quickly, and cold might knock the fish back. Lastly, spectator traffic – it’ll be a big deal in the oxbows.
> Wildcard: The big bite. Lots of 8- to 10-pound fish swim here, and they can get you healthy in a hurry.