With the five days of official pre-practice over, the 53 contenders in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer July 30-Aug. 1st have 30 days to cool their heels. But it won't exactly be idle time with the most important title of professional fishing on their minds.
Although they can't be on Lake Wylie or get information on its fishery before arriving in Charlotte, the preparation is well underway for the Classic pros who share a common goal — locating and catching the 15 biggest bass during the three-day Classic XXXIV competition.
The pros have a variety of plans for continuing their preparations. Some prepare very seriously, others take a more laidback approach.
Here is a sampling of how the Classic pros are preparing for their big moment in Charlotte:
Mark Davis, Arkansas: This Arkansas pro is on fishing's biggest roll having won two of the last four tournaments and three events on the 2004 Tournament Trail.
"I'm going to fish all that I can around home," the three-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year said. "Try to stay sharp and stay out in the heat. I'm going to try to fish some lakes that fish a whole lot like Wylie, and just be fishing. I think it's important to keep fishing.
"The years when I've done my best in the Classic I had done a lot of fishing prior to it. Catching a lot of fish keeps your confidence in your fish-finding ability and everything up. It keeps you sharp and you try to carry that with you into the Classic. It's real easy to go in the Classic sort of cold. What makes the Classic hard is you only get that one practice day. When you get two days you have a better chance to sort of get into the groove. But with just one, it's easy to go into it cold and then start the tournament cold. Sometimes that's hard to overcome."
Edwin Evers, Oklahoma: This 29-year-old BASS winner will be making his fourth Classic appearance.
"I'm real meticulous with my fishing tackle," Evers said. "I'm trying to be ready for any possible scenario. In preparation for the Wylie Classic, I'll go down to the lake and make sure my crankbaits are all in tune and running straight.
"That and just kind of relax. We've been on the road a bunch and I need to recharge my batteries. Just kind of hang out at the house and spend some time with my family and get mentally prepared for it."
Chad Brauer, Missouri: This 32-year-old BASS tournament winner will be competing in his second Classic.
"I'm doing a lot of weather watching to form a guess-timation of what the conditions will be when we go back," Brauer said. "And just basically getting the tackle ready that I think I'm going to need. Hopefully, I have it narrowed it down enough to where I'll know exactly what I need.
"I'm planning on having one thing in mind when I go there and I'll really prepare for that. If it works out during the Classic it will be great. If not, it really doesn't matter if I finish second or 45th. When I go fishing around home, it will be doing the technique or pattern that I think I'm going to use in the Classic just to try to get in the rhythm.
"I will fish a good bit, but probably not overdo it. I like to come in without having a lot of burnout. I'm the type of person that if I do something every day I get burnt out on it. I want to be fairly fresh for the Classic and actually looking forward to going fishing."
Peter Thliveros, Florida: It will be the 10th Classic appearance for this 44-year-old three-time BASS winner.
"I'm going flounder fishing. It conditions me to the heat. Getting out in the ocean and fishing in the saltwater just kind of keeps you conditioned to the sun and the heat. And it relaxes me and takes my mind off of things."
Brian Snowden, Missouri: Snowden, 31, is a Classic rookie who is coming off participating in the Bassmaster Elite 50 series.
"I own a guide service on Table Rock Lake and Taneycomo so I will be fishing some, but mostly for guiding clients. I like to take a little break. It's been a long season with these 10 events and I've been gone a lot.
"I think sometimes it makes you a little better when you rest for a couple of weeks and then you get that drive back. When you get fatigued and you've been doing it for so long, I think the rest almost makes it better."
Kevin Wirth, Kentucky: This 42-year-old five-time Classic qualifier knows something about getting ready for big sporting event — having ridden in the Kentucky Derby during his former career as a jockey.
"I'm going over everything I did in practice on the lake, laying that whole game plan out. Then after I figure out I everything I learned from my five practice days, I'll start preparing my tackle.
"Then I'll start looking for a lake that will fish identically like Wylie. I'll spend at least five days on that lake right before I have to be at the Classic and try to fine-tune those patterns at that place. And maybe add another pattern. It will be a lake that has similar characteristics to Wylie. Where the fish relate the same way. I know Wylie is a non-current lake, but it's a structure lake so the fish will suspend a whole lot. So that's what I'll look for in a lake."
While scouting for his 14th consecutive Classic appearance, Kevin VanDam noticed something peculiar about Lake Wylie.
"It's really a neat lake. I like it," the 2001 Classic champion said. "But I have never been to a lake that has as many Ski Nautiques. By far, Ski Nautiques outnumber all fishing boats combined on docks on that lake. Just that one brand of ski boats."
'G Man' on the Web
CITGO Petroleum, sponsor of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, recently launched a new website dedicated to Gerald Swindle, winner of the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. The site is located at www.citgoangleroftheyear.com
The site celebrates CITGO's sponsorship of the coveted CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title with colorful insights and great information. Everything from Tour statistics and an interactive photo gallery, to a tournament-by-tournament analysis of Swindle's first ever Angler of the Year title makes this site a must see.
"CITGO is truly committed to the sport of professional bass fishing," said Lance Peck, Manager, Outdoor Sports Marketing for CITGO. "We want to give the loyal fans of professional bass fishing a real insight into the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. The dramatic fashion of how Gerald Swindle won this year's title will really come to life in this site."
The website also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Swindle. A newsletter, which fans may subscribe to via a monthly mailing list, will chronicle the off-the-water life of Swindle, while revealing his thoughts about the most recent tournament activity. There is also an 'Ask Gerald' section that will offer an opportunity for fans to win a day of fishing with Swindle.
Did you know?
At 25, Arizona's Brett Hite is the youngest competitor in the Classic field, followed by Dustin Wilks of North Carolina at 27. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Federation qualifier William Pippen is the oldest at 67, followed by Florida's Jim Bitter at 61.
Texan Randy Dearman turns 57 on July 16. Classic contender Kevin Wirth will be 44 on July 20, while venerable Rick Clunn will blow out 58 candles four days later. Alabama's Kyle Mabrey turns 30 on July 23. Texas pro Todd Faircloth celebrates his 29th birthday on two days later.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Classic rookie Steve Sennikoff would be able to concentrate fulltime on his Dallas-area auto repair business.
They said it
Do I have enough to win it? It's going to come down to ounces. Did I press hard enough, do enough to win this thing?
The thoughts going through Michael Iaconelli's mind as he stood on the Classic stage last year and waited for his final-round catch to be placed on the scales.
Tim Tucker's Pro Angling Insider is a new bi-monthly newsletter with an annual subscription rate of $39.95. It can be ordered by calling toll-free 800-252-FISH. A sample issue can by seen on his Bass Sessions 2004 web site, www.timtuckeroutdoors.com.