Going deep

With the Classic only seven days away, anglers aren't sure how to react to what's happening during their three-day practice.

Reigning champion Boyd Duckett hardly practiced at all the week before last year's tournament on Lay Lake, saying the weather was going to change and it would be a waste of time.

Cold temperatures are forcing guys deep if they want to catch anything of substance on Hartwell this week, but who knows what the weather and spawn might be doing next weekend?

"This time of year, it's so volatile, you never know what's going to happen one day to the next," John Murray said. "It could be that by the time the tournament starts next week, you can throw out everything you learned, except for running the lake."

Murray's a special case, because there's not much the weather can do over the next seven days that would pull him toward the shore. He just hopes the weather will do something to make the deeper fish more active.

"I like to fish deep, and there are a lot of deep fish on this lake, but I just can't get them to bite," he said. "There's always going to be a shallow bite and the fish are going to be more aggressive shallow, but I think a guy can put together a real nice limit deep."

Brent Chapman, on the other hand, came into to practice hoping for the beginning stages of a spawn, and instead was met with freezing temperatures.

After spending three-fourths of his practice the first two days sticking to what he had hoped, he decided to give in and wet a little more line. It wasn't long before he caught his biggest fish of practice.

"I've had to fish a lot deeper and do some things that aren't my strengths," Chapman said. "I at least feel like I'm on the right pattern. I'd like to be able to find a few more spots, but this lake is so big, it's hard to get a good feel for the entire thing."

Reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese said he's decided to fish shallow — and he's not going anywhere.

"Most of my fish have been shallow, in the 10- to 20-foot range," said Reese, adding that he hasn't had many bites at all. "I haven't found anything deep."

Soon after proclaiming he's staying shallow, Reese admitted that it won't be enough to win, unless he gets lucky.

"I really think this tournament is going to be won deep, but it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack," he said. "I'm just hoping I can get lucky and add a 6- or 7-pounder."

So with confusion abundant, anglers took to the water for the final pre-tournament practice on Friday, hoping to find the one pattern or trick they can count on for the next 10 days.

"All you can do it try a lot of different baits and techniques — and hope something works," Murray said. "It's like pounding a lock on a solid door, always hoping you're going to break through. All I'm doing right now is making a lot of noise."