KVD: Classic thoughts

If anyone knows cold, it should be a guy from Kalamazoo, Mich.

But Kevin VanDam said no one will know what to expect when the anglers start their three day pre-practice on Friday. He said fishing a Classic on Lay Lake three years ago won't help and fishing Lake Hartwell in similar cold, wet conditions in 2008 won't help.

"This is going to be new ground for all of us," VanDam said from his truck en route to Alabama. "When we fished at Hartwell, even though the temperature was cold, it didn't change the water clarity and it didn't change the actual temperature of the water at all."

Birmingham, like most of the southeast, has had one of the coldest, wettest winters in its history, and VanDam said he's not sure how the bass will react — no one does. That's why he's putting more stock into the three days of practice this weekend (Fri. - Sun.) than usual. It's a chance to make the unknown known.

"It just doesn't freeze down there much and it's done that," he said. "That being said, I just left Michigan where last night we got a foot of snow, the kid's school was closed and I had to get my boat out.

"I spent two hours [Wednesday] morning snow blowing and plowing my driveway just so I could get out and on the road, so I'm pretty excited to be heading this way."

Two days before VanDam left, he was ice fishing with Bassmaster television host Mark Zona to get mentally prepared, so Alabama might not be too bad. He said it was the first time he'd fished for bass in weeks.

VanDam also didn't travel to Lay before it went off limits in December because he knew it was going to be a brutal winter and didn't want that practice to be distracting.

"I've been there multiple times at different times of the year. I know how it lays out and what different areas have to offer," he said. "For somebody who has never seen the lake before, it would have been real important to come down in the fall, but I doubt any places they found where fish were holding is going to really help them out much this week."

The last time VanDam was on Lay, he was as close as he's been to the Classic title since he won it in 2005. He had a 9-ounce lead going into the final day, but they dropped the lake overnight and when he showed up to his spot Sunday morning, the fish he'd been managing all week were gone.

It didn't fit the profile of an angler considered by most as the best in the world to give away Classic lead, but he said it's not an issue, good or bad, going into this year's tournament.

"The difference in winning and losing for me was one good bite," he said. "Boyd got it, and Skeet and I didn't. Was it disappointing? Absolutely. Does it haunt me? No, not at all. Anytime that you put yourself in contention going into the final day, that's about all you can ask for. When you don't come through, it's not any fun. I'm not out there to lose. I want to win every time I go."

There will be a lot of talk this week about Duckett's two big bites, and all 51 anglers will be looking for the next one. And it may be more difficult than usual.

"This is going to be a really exciting Classic for the fans because we have no idea what it's going to be like," he said. "I don't think any of us have experienced conditions like this before. It's going to be whoever makes the best decision and adaptations out there on the water. The fans are going to get a great show because the winner is really going to have to earn it."