After practicing on the Red River for the first time since December, the Bassmaster Classic anglers say the system is in a classic prespawn mode, and most likely will remain as such through the event.
After Friday's first day of a three-day practice period, the anglers say weather patterns spurred by recent balmy afternoons and relatively clean river conditions with little rain forecast all work to their benefit.
"It's a lot warmer than what it was back in December (prior to the cut-off). It was 59 degrees when I dumped the boat in and didn't vary too much after that," Todd Faircloth said. "The backwater got up to about 61. Those areas are a little more sensitive.
"They'll get warmer faster and cool off faster, too. But there's not a whole lot in the long-range forecast that says that it'll affect it that much."
Gary Klein said going in to the practices that he'd be happy with five to seven bites a day. He got 10 Friday, and though he said that they weren't what he was looking for, they did give him a pretty good idea of what it'll take to be in contention.
"They're nice fish. They're chunks. An average limit in this tournament is going to be 16 or 17 pounds," he said. "I haven't found anything that I can honestly say that I can feel real confidently about, but it tells me that you just have to find the right bite."
Shaw Grigsby spent a long day on the water only to peg his weight at between 12 and 14 pounds. But the fish he did catch and how he caught them gives him an idea that he's fishing the right way, he just needs to fish the right water.
"I've got some work to do I still think it's gonna take 56-60 pounds when it's all said and done. I'm just not fishing where the big ones are," Grigsby said. "I've just got to explore some new areas."
Water temperature means a lot this time of year, but Grigsby says attention to detail on every bite is as important. Anglers need to pinpoint the structure where the fish are holding and how they're biting the lure.
"The temperature gauge can only take you so far. That just tells you where you should look," Grigsby said. "You've still got to allow the fish to tell you what you should do. Every fish tells you a story."
Klein says that while some are predicting that the stretch of warm weather will move some fish to the beds, he believes it's shaping up far from that, something that bodes well for anglers and spectators looking for bulging bags.
"These fish are still a month away from spawning. That's a real good thing," Klein said.
Faircloth concurred that it wouldn't be a limit and a kicker type of event, but rather a Classic where anglers target big fish and fill in their bags. A cold spell could change that by turning fish on in the early afternoon, but the forecast indicates nothing that could drastically change the current pattern.
"There are a few 35 degree mornings in the forecast, but that's not anything that will put the fish off. With what we've got, it could be a pretty good bite all day," Faircloth said. "You're going to have to catch 3-pound fish and above to compete here. I think this will be won by quality fish. "
Klein said the only thing that could really shake things up besides his prediction that the river will end up fishing small with boats congregated on the productive backwater areas is a hard blow on the day of the tournament.
"If we get a hard north or south wind, it's going to make it tough just getting around on those stump-filled flats," he said. "If you get a day like day where you just methodically pick it apart, that's great. But if it blows and you're constantly getting stuck on stumps, it gets tough. It's tough on your trolling motor and tough on your mindset."
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