2011 Classic practice live blog

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The Media Day portion of the day is over. Buses have taken the anglers back to their hotels.

After more than two hours of getting blitzed with questions, microphones floating in front of them and cameras snapping and winding from every angle, these guys are more than ready for a little peace and quiet.


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The rest of the evening will be spent in a variety of ways. Some of them will more than likely take a nap. All of them will likely spend some part of the next few hours sitting in their boats. They will wind on line, change hooks, sharpen points, organize and do all the things that fisherman want to do the day before a tournament starts.

A wise man once said that "men often go to church and think about going fishing. But the same men go fishing and think about God."

In that vein, these guys are going to church today -- even if it's just at the front deck of their boat. No doubt some of them will pray about their decisions to come, but all will be thinking about tomorrow. My guess is some will even play out the day in their minds, visualizing every move and every cast, all of it ending with them in the lead after tomorrow's weigh-in.

From now until take off, it's a perfect scenario for every angler. The perfection of that is within the work they've done and the decisions they are thinking about today.

It's an interesting time. For now, we will leave them be. Let them do the things within themselves that they think need to be done.

In the morning, dark and early, we will be at the ramp, starting a live stream from the take off that you should check out at 7:30 a.m. (EST). Immediately following that, this blog will kick into high gear, hopefully giving you as complete as possible look at what is taking place on the water.

Hope you join us.

-- Steve Bowman


During the Bassmaster Classic Media Day on Thursday, February 17, Berkley's long-teased Havoc line of soft plastics was officially unveiled. The series consists of four pro-designed baits, each conceptualized and designed by the anglers.

Bobby Lane created the Craw Fatty, a 4-inch flipping bait. Michael Iaconelli designed a straight-tail bait called the Devil Spear. Longtime pro and 29-time Classic qualifier Gary Klein designed a twin-tail grub to his liking called the Deuce, and finally, Skeet Reese designed the Pit Boss, a creature bait.

It's even rumored that Bobby Lane caught the majority of his fish with his new Craw Fatty during Classic practice.


Fog. Weekend Series champ Ryan McMurtury fears it.

Not because he's going to have to run through it, but for what it might do to the nearby places he'd like to fish alone.

"The only worry I have right now is if we have fog," he said. "It's going to knock a lot of those guys from running to Venice and they're going to stay in my area."

He's been getting a big bite every day and likes his chances if he's left alone. That includes the weekend anglers.

"The Saturday, I'm worried," he said. "You got a lot of locals and they're going to be in my area, the ones who were in there last weekend. They' re not doing what I'm doing, but you still have pressure."

Could this Weekend Series angler from Abbeville, S.C., win the Classic?

"If I catch my fish, I could be there, I could very possibly be there," he said. "I love not having a lot of pressure. Not having a lot of interviews. Everybody's kind of overlooking me, I love it. I hope I shock some people."

-- Mike Suchan


Dale Hightower isn't concerned about the 49 other anglers.

"I've got to go fish the fish. That's my competition," said the Fed Nation's Central Division champ from Terlton, Okla. "I'm not worried about these guys out here."

Unless they happen upon his own little spot.

"I hope it's my own little spot," he said. "I didn't see anybody there in practice. It doesn't mean somebody else hasn't found it."

With a hearty "second place is first loser," he's out to "win this thing. That's what I'm here for."

-- Mike Suchan


If you haven't set your line-ups for Fantasy Fishing, the time is now. We'll have the final Fantasy lineups from employees all over B.A.S.S. coming soon tonight. You'll be able to find that story, as well as other Fantasy information, here.

-- Kyle Carter


Sean Alvarez, of Rutland, Vt., is the first angler to represent the Green Mountain State in a Bassmaster Classic. He may also be the first B.A.S.S. Federation Nation President to fish a Classic. Alvarez is president of the Vermont B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and a member of the Rutland B.A.S.S. Club.

"I'm not too sure about the president thing because the records that go way back are a little foggy, but to the best of my knowledge I'm the first president to fish a Classic," Alvarez said.

Despite living north of the Mason-Dixon, Alvarez is well-versed in Southern fishing.

"I'm originally from California, so I understand Florida-strain bass and big fish," he said. "I've also fished a few Southern Opens tournaments, so I know shallow water, too. Add that to my experience on Champlain, and I think I'm going to be competitive."

Alvarez's practice has him feeling confident about his chances. He says that if things continue the way they have been in his practice that he'll be competitive into the third day.

-- David Jones


Down the Atlantic seaboard from Alvarez, from Denton, Del., hails another first-time qualifier from the Fed Nation, Brian LaClair.

With the tidal waters of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay as his home waters, one would think he'd feel right at home in the Delta. He's come to realize the expansiveness here is the issue.

"You spend all day nonstop checking cut after cut after cut. Some of them don't have anything in them, and all of a sudden, you hit one and it's one after another," he said. "All you have to do is hit the right one that has four-pounders in it."

He said through covering a lot of water he's on some fish and they started biting, but can he win the Classic?

"I'm going to try. Whether or not I prepared good enough for it, that's a different story," he said. "I've not seen a lot of big fish."

So besides the ultimate goal of winning, he'd just like to limit out each day and have a chance come Sunday.

"It'd be nice to go in the last day and have a shot," he said. "I'm going to fish hard. I fished hard to get here, I'm not giving up."

-- Mike Suchan


Getting the Arena stages set and ready for rehearsal

-- Carey Barrett


Now Sean Alvarez isn't slighting the extravaganza of the Bassmaster Classic, but he's really just looking at it as another fishing tournament.

"I feel surprising comfortable," the Federation Nation Eastern Division champion said. "I know a lot of these folks, just coming up through the Federation and the Opens, this is home."

The first-time Classic qualifier from Rutland, Vt. -- he's the first from that state in the event -- has fished in the Federation Nation's championship three times and has heard all the talk about that circuit's entries into the big dance.

"The few people who get to experience this, they're response is always, they're overwhelmed and star struck, but I don't feel that way," Alvarez said. "To me this is another tournament, and I look around and there's some really darn good anglers here, but I'm confident I can beat many of them."

That confidence comes with a pattern he believes is different from most and can produce some big bites.

"There's areas where the pattern could really develop," he said. "It's already started. I don't' think there's any secret honey holes within 30 minutes, but I think there's going to be areas that are going to better and I'm certainly not opposed to picking up a couple good fish here and there.

"I'll be hopping. I think it's a little bit different philosophy than some. I am just going to maximize my fishing time, and as soon as I get that limit, I'm going to pull out my big-fish techniques."

-- Mike Suchan


It's a misprint, George Crain said.

At 58, Crain is the second oldest Classic competitor this year. Paul Elias has him, but only by a year.

"I wanted to say it's a misprint -- say I'm 47," the Federation Nation Southern Division champ said.

He certainly doesn't show his age, but asked not to print that he's been competing for four decades. "Wow, that makes me sound old."

The unassuming man from Cropwell, Ala., had a relaxed look as he sat through interviews on Thursday. He's one of the 10 qualifiers from the state, and has known Russ Lane, Matt Herren, Stephen Kennedy and Randall Tharp for some time, so it stands to reason he's rather comfortable despite being in his first Classic.

"It's been fantastic. A lot of great guys," he said, noting he's even won over Kennedy, a big Auburn fan, despite him going to Alabama.

"It helps that my wife is an Auburn fan," Crain said. "He kind of overlooks that I went to Alabama."

Crain aid he's apt to maximize his fishing time and avoid trouble. "I'd hate to be on an oyster bar on Day One, trying to figure out how to get in."

He's had one of those days in Sunday's practice, when he slowed in a canal to as not to disturb Mark Davis. They talked a bit but trouble hit when Crain took off into a dreaded crab trap.

With prop shaft bent, he tried getting in on his trolling motor but gives a big thank you to Davis for calling him some help.

-- Mike Suchan


Ryan Said, the other Michigander in the Classic, isn't nearly as confident in his chances of winning the Delta Classic as his state's favorite son, Kevin VanDam. VanDam has won here before, and won the Classic two other times. But Said is still pinching himself to wake from the dream.

"I've never fished at this level before," he said. "I'm kind of overwhelmed."

But Said has one confidence builder -- a monster bass that he brought to the boat in practice. "It got off at the boat, but that's OK in practice," he said. "We don't have fish like that in Michigan."

-- Dave Precht


Never mind that gasoline prices are spiking right now, more than half the field of Classic anglers are making the long and expensive run from Bayou Segnette to Venice.

That's the estimate of Oklahoma's Terry Butcher. It's a two-hour run for him and the other competitors, and darn well worth it.

"I'll only have four hours to fish -- if everything goes well," he said, But in that short window he expects to catch a limit weighing 18 pounds or more, which he thinks is a winning average.

He knows odds are not good for a trouble-free run all three competition days. He's relying on radar to guide him around obstacles in the fog, but wind, shallow water and equipment malfunctions would sink his hopes for a first Classic win. Still, he's risking it all.

"If we have a fog delay, and I have just one hour to fish, I'm still going," he said. It must be good.

-- Dave Precht


We finally got the photo of Kevin Wirth's big redfish from yesterday.

We mentioned it a couple of times in yesterday's blog.

Shawn Dufrene took this. You can read about it in yesterday's entries.

-- Steve Bowman


Jason Williamson is one of several Classic competitors who came down with a nasty stomach bug this week. He said he's happy it happened early in the week, even if it cost him part of practice. Other competitors gave him a wide berth this week: "They're all walking around scared they might get it," he said.

-- Pete Robbins


David Watson, who qualified as Federation Nation Northern Division champ, will have a fan section of one with him this week — his mom, Barbara, who's coming down from Indiana.

"She doesn't even know what this is about," Watson said.

At first she thought he was just going out to another one of his fishing tournaments, but "I think she's starting to get it."

The angler from Sullivan, Ind., is also finding out what it's all about to "fish with the best in the world."

He found out Skeet Reese is a pretty nice guy. On the practice day when "all hell broke loose," Reese went out of his way to offer a helping hand.

On his one-way trip to Venice, when he ran aground, broke a trolling motor cable and ran out of gas, Reese found him standing alone at the dock and came over to ask "If I needed any help. Anything he could do for me."
An hour later Skeet came back and again asked, "Are you sure you got somebody coming." Watson said he really appreciated that.

Watson said he's here to win it, having a good 10-day practice period before the off limits.

"The catching is not that hard. The hard part is finding them and getting back," he said. "I did come down here to win."

-- Mike Suchan


Sean Alvarez recognizes that some of the Classic field may not fear the Federation Nation qualifiers but he says he's not necessarily bothered by that. "We don't get the attention they do, nor should we," he said. "We may not have the forty-something people in here cheering for us but we have 20,000 Federation members behind us."

-- Pete Robbins


Bill Lowen, in his third Classic, said he'd like to optimize his fishing.

"My initial plan was the long run, but I've never been on to fishing well when I rush myself," he said. "I have two really good areas."

Staying close will allow him around seven hours of fishing time and he still thinks he'll be able to bring in the 15-17 pounds that will be "super strong."

"They'll be a couple guys bring in 20s," Lowen said, adding that might be their tournament to win if they could do that all three days.

-- Mike Suchan


Watch out for Delta wildlife.

That's the advice from Federation Nation angler Brian LaClair, who noticed an improvement in the fishing Wednesday corresponded with an increase in critters around his best area.

LaClair saw nutria, gators and snakes as well as a variety of birds emerging with the warming weather. The weather put the fish in feeding mode and LaClair had some decent success that has him excited to start the tournament.

Bottom line: bass aren't the only thing shaking off their winter stupor. Keep eyes out for gators too.

-- Rob Russow


The so-called "baby pattern" has a history at BASS producing wins for Aaron Martens and Fred Roumbanis, among others. Mike Iaconelli might be the most recent new parent in the field but first-time dad Clark Reehm isn't far behind.

His son Ash was born in December. He hopes the pattern works for him. "Because of the baby I need it as much as or more than most," he said. "I need the money so bad it's painful. A top three is realistically what I need. The half million would be great but so would a hundred thousand or even forty thousand."

-- Pete Robbins


Greg Hackney believes bait selection will be important when targeting bigger fish. "Catching fish here is no big deal. Upgrading your catch is a different story. I have found a couple bait/presentations that just seem to attract a bigger class of fish. I can't explain why ... Just hope the trend continues the next few days."

-- James Hall


The only thing Greg Hackney would change about the improving weather is that he hopes it would rain. "Rain would keep spectator boats down. Many areas are fishing small and a lot of boats will make it even more difficult."

-- James Hall


Tracy Adams said it's no secret among the competitors that black and blue is a key soft plastic color on the Delta, but not all black and blues are created equal. Black with blue flake can occasionally produce, but an ultra-vibrant "sapphire blue" garners many more bites.

-- Pete Robbins


Todd Faircloth normally loads his bass boat to the gills with tackle. In fact, there are certain boxes that never leave his boat -- well, almost never. He's lightened his load this week to carry only essential items in order to maximize fuel efficiency and speed. He admitted that it's left him feeling a bit naked. "I know I won't use them with only 4 hours to fish, but still it's weird," he said.

-- Pete Robbins


Gerald Swindle came in 3rd at the 2005 Classic in Pittsburgh, missing the title by just about a pound. He claims he had the winning fish on three times and jumped it off each time. The beneficiary of his bad luck was Kevin VanDam. Asked if KVD haunts him, Swindle said, "Everybody wants to beat him, but you've got to be real careful to fish against the lake and not against him. It's too easy to get caught up fishing against him."

-- Pete Robbins


Kelly Jordon and other Venice anglers are all in before the flop. "If there is a fog delay, I'm done. I don't have a back-up plan. I'm here to win and I believe Venice gives me the opportunity to win. I didn't spend one second practicing elsewhere."

-- James Hall


In his fifth Classic, John Crews said needs to focus on his fishing and "not get caught up in anything else."

He says some anglers find Classic week and all its demands to be taxing, but he'd rather just relax, know that's part of the game, and take it all in.

"In my first Classic, we had way more activities and some guys complained that they didn't have time to do things" like work on tackle.

He appeared comfortable as he sat and ate fried oysters on Media Day, saying his biggest concern will be the water level when he gets to Venice. Tides there aren't fluctuating much now, and he's taking the weather rock theory Friday.

"I'll see the water levels, and if it's low, I have a choice of a couple areas to go," he said, adding he has other spots if the water is higher.

What would a Classic title mean to him?

"I don't know. I'll figure it out if it happens. A lot of guys get hung up on that and then they're done. I just need three good days."

He said he'd be happy to have a flawless tournament, and won't sweat it if somebody else pulls off a perfect Classic.

"If it's my time, it's my time. That'd be great," he said.

-- Mike Suchan


The Bassmaster Classic is a tournament full of tradition and lore. With the 41st Classic coming up this week, it's a good time to explore some of the old bromides about fishing's greatest championship. Check out the story from Ken Duke here.

-- Kyle Carter


There is a possibility a guy could have the winning fish in his livewell and be disqualified because it was determined he was fishing private property, according to Kelly Jordon. "Different parishes enforce private property laws differently. So, you have to know what parish you are in and the specific laws of that parish. There is so much grey area, anglers will push it," Jordon says.

-- James Hall


Brent Chapman likes coming back big after the offseason. The Classic is perfect, he said.

"I like to put away the fishing stuff, the boat, in October and take a few months off," he said.

Deer hunting near his Lake Quivira, Kan., home takes up much of winter. He didn't find his special buck he would take despite a great 150 hours in the stand, but did fill his freezer with six does.

Now he's ready to fish. He broke out the stuff in January to prepare and is hitting the ground running, being in the Classic and all.

Venice is where he'll fish, and it's the longest run he's ever made.

"I can't imagine how good it would be if we could put in at Venice, run 20 minutes and fish for seven hours," he said.

Chapman said there's not much room for error, and like others, the winner will need perfection in the event as well as throwing in a big bite.

"Need a fish or two around 6, 7, 8 pounds to really set yourself apart," he said.

-- Mike Suchan


Brian Snowden is going to Venice, as well. He spent 7 days pre-practice learning how to run Venice with a north wind blowing water out of marsh. He hasn't been stuck yet. Been a reaction bite so far, but Snowden believes it will be a hunger bite by tomorrow.

-- James Hall


This is David Watson's first Classic, he qualified through Federation Nation. First time fishing la Delta. Very intimidated by fishery. Lost a lower unit second day of practice. Stuck multiple gear. Broke cable off trolling motor. Trashed a prop. He's patched up now and intimidation us gone.

"Everything bad that could happen has already happened. I'm ready to catch fish now!" Watson says.

-- James Hall


Disaster was averted for one, possibly two, Classic competitors in Wednesday's final practice.

Kelly Jordon related how he followed Mike Iaconelli on the run to Venice. Ike was using the day as a dress rehearsal, timing out his trip to a spot near where he won the 2003 Classic.

Jordan was surprised when he learned he had been following a blind squirrel. He had to ask Ike what up when they made a turn down a shortcut canal and found an earthen wall directly ahead.

"Somebody built a wall," Ike said. "Had to hit the throttle back and ended up like 15 feet from hitting it. The kind of thing that makes you poop your pants."

Jordon asked, "Didn't you know where you were going? I went, yeah, I got my trek from 2003."

Jordon was not amused. "Dude, you haven't updated your waypoints," he said.

Well, no harm, no foul, but with the changing waterways it could have been nasty.

On positive from the experience, Jordon discovered it was a rather quick route.

-- Mike Suchan


Venice anglers are averaging two-hour run time. That leaves four hours of fishing. Some spots in Venice are 15 min apart ... Fish three areas and that leaves three hours, 15 minutes to fish. Get gas on way back ... If third in line, 15 minutes killed. So, three hours per day for Venice competitors. "First guy to try and pay for gas with a credit card will be killed!" say Jeff Kriet. Takes another 5 minutes out of day!

-- James Hall


Jeff Kriet estimates 20 anglers fishing in Venice. Believes it will fish very small. He hopes his spots within these spots are better than other competitors.

-- James Hall


Big news from B.A.S.S. owner Jerry McKinnis today: the Outdoor Channel will start re-airing The Bassmasters later this year, likely including a weekend primetime slot. ESPN will continue to host all original programming. Read more about that here.

-- Rob Russow


For Brian Snowden, the final practice ending up being decisive. An experiment in Bayou Black made it look like he eliminated that area and will go to Venice. Read Tommy Sanders
from his ride around.

Gary Klein, who will be making his 29the Classic, seemed confident, but not overconfident.

"I've done all that I can do, so now I've just got to play the cards I'm dealt," he said. "I feel good."

Read about David Hunter Jones' ride with him.

-- Mike Suchan


Biffle's gas bill is $272 round trip. He's not saying much. Others are picking him to win, he says he likes the way they think.

-- James Hall


Before we get really started, I think it's important to get a little history on this day. Media exposure has always been a critical part of the Classic.

Ray Scott used to even throw reporters on the airplane on those mystery lake Classics. That was before my time. This is my 24th straight Classic.

And in those first few Classics, there wasn't a Media Day. There were actually two practice days. But in 1991 at the Chesapeake Bay, the scheduled practice day was cancelled because of Hurricane Frederick (or some other hurricane, but I'm calling it Frederick). The hurricane never really materialized, but Dewey Kendrick kept every one on the bank, opting instead to throw all the media and anglers in one room and spend the day interviewing, talking and having round-table discussions.

Media Day was born and it has been a staple, as has the one-day practice, ever since.

-- Steve Bowman


Welcome back to the BASS Blog. This is the unequivocal easiest day of the Bassmaster Classic.

There are more than 200 media representatives from around the world covering this event and this is really the only day they get an opportunity to interview anglers on a one-on-one basis. It's a day where stories are shared and in some ways personalities are revealed. So it's great for the anglers. They need the exposure. And if they open up they will get the exposure, Easy right? As compared to battling waves, tides and each other.

I said it was easy. I didn't say it wasn't brutal. This is kind of meeting day. And if you make your living on the water in the intimate confines of a bass boat, then sticking around indoors with countless media types shoving microphones in your face and asking you questions that you really don't want to answer, then this can get kind of brutal.

For the next couple of hours we will be blogging from "Media Day," which is just getting underway in Mardi Gras World, a series of warehouses with countless Mardi Gras floats.

Hopefully, there we will be able to show you a different side of the Classic.

-- Steve Bowman

Official Practice Blog

(from Wednesday, February 16)


All of the anglers, or at least most of them, have checked in. Whatever damage figuratively and literally they intended to do is basically over.

That's pretty much the prevailing feeling around this blog.

We will have some really good stories and galleries from tonight, so keep checking back. Also be sure to watch the live streaming red-carpet from Elite Night tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Check the front of BM.com at around 7 for a link to the page.

This blog will be updated tomorrow around media day and the other activities, so please join us again.

On Friday, just like Herren said on the fishing, it will be "on" when it comes to the blog and our live coverage. I hope you will join us. Thanks for following the Classic on BM.com.

-- Steve Bowman


Tommy Sanders reported in that Brian Snowden's day didn't fare so well. According to him that was going to be a "Bayou Black Experiment" and it didn't seem to work out.

That's interesting. There are those who still believe that Bayou Black will factor heavily in this event. If not the bayou itself, then the neighborhood.

We just don't know where everyone is finding a home at the moment.

Meanwhile, visited with Matt Herron. He wouldn't give any indication of where he was, but he did say in the last hour he had five bites that would weigh somewhere around 18 pounds.

"And it's not even close to being good yet,'' he said. "By Friday, it could really be on."

-- Steve Bowman


To address the question from "barchief12" about Chapman's BASSTrakk numbers, nothing from today could even be described as unofficial. When I was a practice Marshall last year, they told me to punch something in just so they make sure they're getting the data.

I had Reese catch a 12-pounder, so no, Chapman didn't have two 8-pounders.

-- Kyle Carter


Bowman doesn't win his dollar. But the information was basically the same.

When I asked Skeet what he accomplished today, his quick response was "nothing."

Asked to expand upon that, he said he knew headed into the day what he was going to do and today he focused on learning how far he could go and perhaps find a shortcut.

Nothing more to offer.

-- Pete Robbins


The first wave of anglers are scheduled to check in right now.

Pete Robbins and Overstreet are off the water. Robbins is working on a story analyzing everything he saw today and Overstreet is planning to add some photos to the on the water gallery.

It is legitimately warm here right now (67 and sunny), and the next four days look like this: 73/55, 74/55, 71/53, 73/57.

These anglers just got a small taste today of how the Delta fishes when it's warm, and they'll need it because the water temperature is going to continue to rise.

-- Kyle Carter


Don't know why, but a lot of the anglers are sick this week. Jason Williamson didn't make the angler meeting last night and didn't practice today. Bobby Lane has been in bad shape and last I heard, he thinks he has food poisoning.

When asked how he was doing before launch, Lane responded "I'm out here."

The angler meeting had a full back row of people feeling under the weather. This week takes a toll on the anglers. They're run from place to place, event to event and in their spare time, try to come up with a plan to win the event. It's easy to get sick when you get run down and it's having an effect on at least five or six anglers.

In an event where you need everything to go right to win, that's a bad start.

-- Kyle Carter


With more than 30 minutes left of fishing time, Skeet Reese has checked in.

He's not the first. Tharp, Wirth and Wolak have all checked in and are getting their equipment worked on. I don't know yet if Skeet is in because he's done or for some other reason.

Either way, I just asked Pete Robbins to go ask him how his day went and how he thinks things look for Friday's start.

We have even odds in the BASS Blog office (which is a little two-man room beside the ramp, with four people crammed into it) that Skeet's first sentence will be: "I don't know."

The dude is the ultimate sandbagger.

When Robbins files his report you will know whether I won a dollar or not.

-- Steve Bowman


Another dead end canal both for the fishing and our boat. With less than an hour to go, Pace is still looking for a spot close to home.

"I decided to spend a day here, not just in case of a fog delay, but because I know how good these areas can be if you get on the right little stretch," he said. "Unfortunately, I haven't found that. It leaves me with only one option."

His main plan is to make the run even with a fog delay. For Pace, even less time at his best spot is better than a full day where he spent this last day of practice.

-- Rob Russow


There was a lot talk last week about how productive the three days of practice were and how to apply what they learned to the warm water they're seeing today.

You'll get a different opinion on practice with every guy you talk to, but Jeff Kriet is hoping the molehills he found last week will turn into mountains today.

"The place I got two bites on last week when it was cold," he said before starting today's practice, "I'm betting that turns into 15 bites come tournament time.

"You have to bet on what is going to happen. Nobody is on winning fish right now. It's going to be all about decisions."

-- Kyle Carter


Pace is fishing in the neighborhood of Bayou Segnette State Park in a series of canals. There are some good looking shallow water targets around and the water temperature is 59 degrees. But there have been no sniffs yet.

"It's full of places that look like ultimate spots that don't have any fish,'' Pace said. "The fish do use this entire system. It's just a matter of finding out where they are now."

-- Rob Russow


One of the many issues anglers are facing this week, and trying to figure out today in practice, is whether one spot will hold up for three days or if they'll have to find two or three spots to have a chance.

Gerald Swindle said he thinks this Classic is going to be won by somebody who has the guts to do something different every day. Cliff Pace said it'd be hard -- maybe even dumb -- to leave something that was working for something else.

This is an issue in most tournaments, but typically trying two or three spots just means a couple 15-minute drives from place to place.

As we've hashed out in this blog and everywhere else, if you try two or three spots on the Delta, you're cutting your fishing time in half. All the sudden multiple spots becomes a significant commitment because swinging by the spot you caught them yesterday might cost you two hours of fishing if you're wrong.

Kevin VanDam said he doesn't think one spot will be enough.

"I think it will be hard to find a spot that will hold up three days," he said. "The biggest issue is the low water. It's already shallow and now it's 2 feet low. You make one run down a canal and you can muddy it up and make it unfishable."

With an hour left of practice, these guys are getting to the point where they need to nail down some of the issues and formulate a game plan. It could decide their Classic before they ever wet a line. Adjusting on the fly just may not be an option.

"You don't have time to make adjustments," Pace said. "You have to pull up to a spot and know what is going to happen."

Skeet Reese is of the school of thought that running all around the Delta won't get it done.

"You can't make an adjustment from one end to the other," he said. "You're in Bayou Black, you're in Bayou Black for the day. You're in Venice, you're in Venice."

-- Kyle Carter


Zona just checked in. We were hearing from him quite a bit earlier and then he just kind of fell off the map.

He's riding around with Edwin Evers for those new to the blog.

The reason they've been quiet: About two hours ago they got way back into a shallow water area. Nothing was happening, but it was too shallow to get the boat up and on plane. That means for the last two hours Evers has been on the trolling motor trying to get back to water deep enough to motor in.

I wonder how many guys have wondered into a situation like that today?

Zona reminds us that a lot of these guys on the water, while paying attention to those areas that could bust open with fish moving to them, are spending some part of their afternoons checking on the areas where they caught them last week in pre-practice.

That may be just a simple drive by to see if anyone else is in there. Or a cursory check of water temp, levels and clarity.

In one area not far from the ramp, there are as many as 13 boats within eye-sight of each other. That either means that will be a key area or that everyone is hitting on the way back home.

It will be interesting to see where they land on the take-off Friday morning

-- Steve Bowman


We're working up an "Online Classic Guide" (so look for that later), but we wanted to let you know now that we'll be broadcasting live from the red-carpet tonight at Elite Night, which is being held at the House of Blues in downtown New Orleans.


On the water pics

The show will be hosted by Bassmaster television's Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders.

Elite Night is always held the Wednesday before the Classic and it is a chance for the anglers to get together and celebrate the previous season. It always includes a speech from the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year (we won't be streaming that speech live, but we will cover it on the sight this evening).

Check the front of Bassmaster.com about a half hour before the event and we'll have a link to the video. And after the event we'll post a photo gallery and a feature on what took place.

-- Kyle Carter


We had a brief scare when the hyacinth mat in front of the boat exploded. Much too big to be a bass, it was rather a big gator that had gotten startled and fled the scene. But it certainly got our attention.

On the fishing side, Pace was able to boat his third keeper, another small fish.

"At least I think he'll go 12 inches," Pace said. "Not that it would help me. I just can't believe they aren't loaded in here. I guess the cold and low water kept them from moving in.

"A week ago this would have been 42 degrees."

-- Rob Russow


Pete Robbins just let us know that as they boated across open water at 60 miles per hour, Overstreet lost hold of "the one hat in (his) possession" and it went in the drink.

Fortunately, they were able to recover it. Overstreet without a hat is like an ugly woman without make-up.

This little report is just an example of how slow our reports, which were pretty slow anyway, are actually coming. During the event we will have BASSTrakk to keep us with more and better info.

Our guess is there are a lot of guys running back to Segnette from the far reaches of the marsh, some of them might even be losing their hats.

We should start seeing folks in the next hour. Then our post-day coverage will kick in.

In a few moments there will be an on-the-water gallery going up to give those outside of Louisiana a look at the marsh.

-- Steve Bowman


We had a little run-in with a crab trap.

Getting it unstuck from the skeg wasn't so easy.

First James Kennedy, our camera-boat operator, tried hanging over the back of the boat. That didn't work.

There's no solid ground to put him out on.

We ended up putting him out on a piling, where he balanced like the karate kid and eventually pushed it off with Overstreet's monopod. Back in business -- no harm, no foul.

Just another one of those things that the marsh offers in the way of unseen variables.

-- Pete Robbins


I just read the blog Steve Bowman submitted about Terry Butcher fishing a blade and that got me thinking about the day Cliff Pace is having. Pace has thrown moving baits, including a blade, for most of the day with only two short fish to show for it.

While a blade may be effective this weekend, where an angler throws it will be critical.

Though later in the day, the sun still has yet to really emerge. Surprisingly, after our most recent move, the temp gauge is showing 63 degrees. We kicked up mud to get into this place and shallow, muddier water warms up faster, but the difference was still surprising.

After hearing of Butcher's success, I for one am curious to see if Pace starts getting bit in the warmer water.

-- Rob Russow


Bruce McDonald, one of our Classic Marshals, is riding with Terry Butcher today. He's reporting that Butcher has caught four keepers today, mostly on a spinnerbait

Butcher is known for his prowess with a spinnerbait. On another level, this gives you an idea of what is taking place in the water.

Butcher didn't start catching them until midday. The water is warming in the 60-degree range, which is the starting point for a real busting out of fish biting.

The guys who can cover water with a blade in their hands could get off to the right start come Friday. It's only going to get warmer every day.

-- Steve Bowman


Randall Tharp just checked in for the day. He's having motor issues, no doubt a product of the waters in this Delta.

He's spent most of the day idling back to the ramp. He said he went a "really long way."

He got to fish for an hour and during that time, he had eight bites, three of which he set the hook on.

"I'm going to catch them,'' he said.

Obviously, the motor issues are better had today than Friday. But that's obviously something that every angler in the field is not immune.

Earlier, we had reports that Ryan McMurtury, the Weekend Series Champion, and Federation Angler Brian LeClair, both spent a good portion of their day lodged on semi-dry ground.

They are off at the moment. But all three of these reports give you and idea of the things that can and will go wrong when the Classic is on the line.

That's what makes this sport so interesting, the uncontrollable variables that start with a little green fish and end with mechanics and things like falling tides.

-- Steve Bowman


Idling out, we passed Randall Tharp, Stephen Browning, Steve Kennedy and Matt Herren, all within shouting distance.

This spot is certainly getting a workout today, but I have a feeling most of these guys will be making a long run come Friday. This is just a search-close-to-home day for many. A handful might be actually revisiting spots or running far to look for more. After a slow day, Pace almost wishes he had.

"Kinda makes me wish I had spent the four hours practicing," Pace said.

"Not really wasted, but I didn't find what I wanted to find."

-- Rob Russow


Kevin Wirth came into the dock about an hour ago to get his radar worked on.

He reported he had already been to Venice and back. During that run he had made two 10-mile jaunts off his main path to lay down a GPS path and spend a few moments fishing.

During that stop he was throwing a Red-Eye Shad and wouldn't you know it, he caught that 10-pound plus fish we referenced in the "Bet That"


Some folks might of made a few dollars on that prop bet. The only thing was it wasn't a bass. A 25-pound plus redfish ate it up.

His Marshall has a photo, but we've been waiting an hour for it to show up.

Instead, you will just have to envision a skinny little horse jockey holding up a behemoth redfish and grinning from ear to ear.

-- Steve Bowman


We found Boyd Duckett in an area all to himself, save for one local jonboat.

With the sun coming on strong, the bait is much more active. He's working the best looking part of the area methodically, until our peace and quiet is interrupted by another boat's roar. The other angler gets to the mouth of the cut, sees Boyd, and turns around.

Duckett tells us he doesn't intend to fish in the area so he'll set the hook "if I'm lucky enough to get a bite." Since we've yet to see a Delta bass, I'm rooting for him. I'm starting to believe they don't live around here.

-- Pete Robbins


There have been some big splashes around us that sound like mullet getting eaten. Still no bites for Pace, but the sound of those blow-ups prompted me to ask Pace about the largest bass he's caught on the Delta.

His reply: "7 pounds."

"It's possible for one that size to be caught this weekend," Pace said. "There have been a few 10-pounders caught here the last few years. The potential is here and this time of year they tend to be a little bit heavier."

-- Rob Russow


Much has been said about this being a Classic in Pace's backyard. Mike Suchan wrote before practice that Pace has fished hundreds of tournaments out here.

Pace has spent a lot of time worrying leading up to this event, but his concern has stemmed less from being on familiar water and more from all the variables that go into fishing on the Delta.

"I've thought about it being cold and warm," Pace said. "I've thought about there being high water, low water, fog and no fog. Anything you can imagine, I've tried to really be ready."

Preparation only goes so far. As every angler knows, you need everything out of your control to go just right.

"It's gotta be your turn."

-- Rob Russow


You can bet just being here gives Skeet Reese a shot, and he said that's all he can ask for as he tries for his second Classic title.

"It's just the thought of getting on the right group of fish," he said. "This whole tournament is such a crapshoot. It can be won two miles from the takeoff or two hours."

All the competitors know the names of the productive areas, each about 30,000 acres, but the key is finding that one special spot that will hold up, whether it be in Venice or closer, like Lake Cataouatche.

"A lot of people are thinking it's getting all beat up, but there's the possibility that somebody can fish there and have it all to themselves and catch a 25-pound bag," Reese said. "The majority of the field will split between Venice and Bayou Black. Those are the two most prolific areas here."

Those planning a run like that are doing everything they can for a competitive advantage, whether it's using the radar system or packing light to get into the skinny stuff.

"That's one of my plans," Reese said. "Come tournament time, my boat is the lightest I can possibly get it. If you're making a long run, you can pick up four or five minutes of fishing a day. You can catch a limit in four minutes.

"You have to maximize every advantage. Be as efficient as possible."

With the warming, he said the field should be showing off good stringers, but added that the first-day leader might not be there Sunday.

"It's a three-day tournament. You can see guys that have good stringers one day and can't back it up the next," he said. "But then there will be guys who have decent water and can back it up for three days in a row."

Talk has focused on the flippers doing well but don't count anybody out.

"As a whole, it should be a flipping tournament, but if it warms up that much, there might be a wide open, spinnerbait bite open up. Kevin (VanDam) could go down the bank and catch them on a spinnerbait.

"But I like my odds ... they're just as good as anybody."

-- Mike Suchan


There seems to be a lot more activity here than anywhere we've been, both below and above the water. I just saw two bald eagles and a variety of other waterfowl.

"Most of what you are seeing here is mullet," Pace said. "They get up on top of the grass here. But the bass eat just about anything you can imagine, including the traditional shad and crawfish."

The sun has popped out intermittently, but the mostly cloudy skies have kept the water from warming up too much. We are in the shallowest part of the area and the water temperature is 59, the highest I've seen today. Where we came in it was closer to 57.

The water is so shallow, it's hard to move around in places.

"I've fished here when it was even lower, but it doesn't make it any easier," Pace said. "It makes it harder for an angler to get access to a lot of areas. This is kind of normal for the wintertime, but usually it starts filling up by now. February can just as easily be winter or spring."

-- Rob Russow


Without straining, I can easily see 12 other boats in the vicinity, definitely earning the title of "community hole." It's hard to tell how many of the boats are fellow competitors. A few boats have wraps on them.

Pace tries to flip a bit, but the cover is so thick, he jokes, "I'd need a 3-ounce weight to get through this stuff."

After a few minutes of futility there, he is back to covering water. There are a lot of different types of grass in the Delta. When I asked Pace about it, he rattled off at least five kinds, including water hyacinths and giant salvinia, both of which are invasive species. That doesn't stop the fish from using it as cover though.

-- Rob Russow


This is one of the comments below:

"Jody and Charlotte Castille would like to personally thank ESPN , Bassmaster's and Tulane Medical Center for Making a Difference in the life of our child, Josh. Your visit and acts of kindness has touched his life as well as our entire family. The best of luck to each of you in The New Orleans 2011 Bassmaster Classic. God Bless!"

If you didn't catch it, there is a story from Monday on the site where several of the Classic anglers visited Tulane Medical Center. Their act was a pure demonstration of class, one they got together and did on their own. That's the kind of people we are rooting for this week.

We thank Jody and Charlotte for pointing that out and reminding us that these guys poking around the marsh this moment in super-human fashion are super humans in other ways as well.

-- Steve Bowman


Time is flying on this practice day, at least for Cliff Pace and me. It's almost 11 (CT), four hours of fishing left and Pace has only had two bites.

In my mind, I'm thinking about the guys making long runs on the morning of Day One. With little time to fish, every decision is huge and every fish caught a weight off the angler's shoulders.

"I've been fishing in here today for four hours," Pace said. "I feel like I can catch more in four hours after making a long run than I can here."

Ultimately, the Bassmaster Classic is about fishing to win. There are no points on the line or any reason not to shoot for the top. Making a run may be a risk, but the reward will definitely be there for someone.

"You feel like you have to do what you can to win the tournament," Pace said. "That's why we're here. The warm weather could move the fish around and reposition them, but this is a tournament where I think a lot of guys will catch them."

We've idled back into a shallow area that is covered with boats.

"As you might observe very easily, this is a community hole," Pace said. "I know what lives here. It's just one of those places to keep in mind. I know the fish are here."

-- Rob Russow


Edwin Evers didn't get stuck, although it looked like he would.

A few minutes after Zona sent that photo of mud flying, he sent this photo with the accompanying words "I tried to make it look big."

The bass is a keeper, but it's not the kind of fish that will win Evers a Classic Championship. But with this report and a few others we are getting in, the bite does seem to be increasing around the marsh.

Swindle stated this morning that the "winning fish had yet to be found." If that holds true, then the more bites, even ones like this, could start getting the eventual champion of this event one step closer to figuring out where those "winning fish" are living.

-- Steve Bowman


As it warms up, baitfish activity is increasing. James Kennedy, our camera boat driver and a former Elite angler, takes this as a sign that the fishing is ripe for a slugfest.

He says the rising water level is important, too. The fish aren't moving up to spawn as much as to eat, he said, because the cold temps have held them back.

-- Pete Robbins


Earlier in the week Bassmaster.com reported that Edwin Evers got really, really stuck during practice. I think they had to send the Coast Guard in for him. But that could be just a rumor.

Evers has always been one of those guys who likes the little hidey-hole types of places. That tendency obviously won out over the lesson of getting stuck.

Check out the photo sent in from Zona, where Evers is blowing mud trying to get through some real skinny water.

He's not stuck, yet. But evidently he's running close to getting stuck.

That's one of the expected dangers of fishing and running around the Louisiana Marsh. Someone in this event will get high and dry. Maybe more than one.

The heart break that will come with that if it were to happen on Day One is unimaginable. But you can count on it happening.

-- Steve Bowman


Zona is apparently causing trouble in Evers' boat. He sent us a photo of a pretty nasty backlash with the caption: "Evers is blaming this on me."

And now Pete Robbins, who is in the same area, reports that Zona is hungry.

"Zona reports he has eaten everything in the boat, was thinking about gnawing on a chatterbait. Evers confirms the report."

Zona also took the time to send us this photo of Evers on the front of the boat. Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet better watch his job.

In the world of real information, Zona said things are starting to pick up and he's seeing a lot more baitfish.

-- Kyle Carter


Despite what I said earlier about the Delta being a vast fishery, Pace predicts it will fish small.

"Guys will spread out in all directions, but when they get to an area, they will get bunched up," Pace said.

As we work into an area, Pace tells me that he knows fish used to live there. Pace has a pretty level head usually and doesn't seem too worked up about the whole local aspect.

He doesn't even feel like he has much of an advantage since he's been fishing the Elite Series and it's kept him away from home this time of year. The Delta changes so much, you need to fish it constantly to really know the fishing.

"I wish I knew where some more good areas are," Pace said. "The area itself won't change much, but I think it gets easy to overlook the subtleties. That's what changes and the fish change with it."

-- Rob Russow


The Swindle fish catch is now up on BASSCam.


Not many spectators hit the launch for Wednesday's practice. A group of several dozen, mostly those working the tournament, were left after the Classic field took off.

About the only person without a badge was 65-year-old Don Backus, of Battle Creek, Mich. And he was only conspicuous because he rode his bike in from the RV campsite.

"How cool is it that I can ride my bike to the launch?" said Backus, who also has his wife and cat along.

This is his second Classic. He enjoyed 2000 in Chicago when Woo Daves won and wanted to return to the event. When he found out the Classic was launching from Bayou Segnette State Park, he said he had to be here.

"I couldn't believe it when I learned the Classic would be here," he said. "I stayed at the park three years ago and liked it."

The B.A.S.S. member made his reservation last fall, and is continuing on to Arizona for his mother's 90th birthday.

He's been in New Orleans for 10 days and has visited the French Quarter, museums and taken plantation tours. He plans to watch the launches then take the ferry to visit the Classic Expo and weigh-ins.

Being from Michigan, he said it's a given he's a KVD fan. He said he's purchased rods, reels and baits at KVD's brother Randy's tackle shop so he can fish the Kalamazoo River two to three times a week for smallmouth.

"I'm particular to smallmouth. They'll get you a win too ... not here," he said.

-- Mike Suchan


From Zona: "Edwin appears amazed at the amount of '5-Hour Energy' I consume."

From Bowman: "But you haven't been out there five hours yet."

From Zona: "It helps me with all my texting."

-- Steve Bowman


Weekend Series qualifier Ryan McMurtury of Abbeville, S.C., doesn't seem to care much for all the Classic activities, at least hanging around downtown New Orleans. The man just wants to fish.

He said he would spend the day just running around. "I'm not going to stick anything at all."

He was genuinely happy to get to go fishing again after the two-day layoff.

"I want to get out on the water," he said. "I'm tired of being in that city."

-- Mike Suchan


The stars and the moons may be aligning for one of those special tournaments where big stringers and big bass are rule rather than the exception.

It always makes for a great show, exciting finish and all the things as bass fishing sports fans we love to see. I hope it happens for that reason.

I hope that happens even more so for the benefit of the Marsh and this fishing community down here.

There have been few, if any, places around this country that have been hit as hard as this marsh.

But this area is without a doubt the toughest piece of amazing fishing water in the world. It's like the Duke -- nothing can kick its butt.

It took Katrina head on, sucked it in, chewed it up and spit it back out. The oil spill, while long-term impacts remain to be seen, this marsh could very well produce record stringers less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon fiasco.

You can't say enough about this Marsh and the people who live here. Resilient just doesn't do it justice.

Zona expects, or actually predicts, that by week's end the bass in the marsh will be on the beds. If that happens, folks unaware of what the marsh actually can produce are going to be introduced in a flashy fashion to the most amazing fishery ever.

-- Steve Bowman


Back in another canal, the water is 57 degrees, but not very productive. Pace catches one fish that is so small, he won't let me get a picture.

"So much of tidal water is timing," Pace said. " You just have to stay in places where you know the fish are. On the other hand, it makes finding fish tough because they might not be biting when you go through an area."

The water back here is clearer, but even the grass doesn't look great. Pace says that is a result of the cold weather and low water.

-- Rob Russow


Some of the strategies are coming together, at least for those we have eyes and ears on.

Zona is with Edwin Evers, who could figure into this event. He's done well here in the past.

He's not had a bite today. But he's closely looking over some places that he believes the fish will move to. Obviously, like many of the anglers, he thinks the Marsh could bust wide open in the next few days.

His strategy for today is simple: Find the areas where the best odds are that pre-spawning fish will blitz.

If those areas don't pan out, then he will fall back on what he found last weekend during the pre-practice period. I'm sure there are other anglers working toward that end.

We've seen that kind of things really pay off in the past. Dean Rojas broke a record doing that. Kelly Jordon won on Santee Cooper a couple years ago doing that.

If the expectations of so many of these guys hold true, then guys like Evers who are betting on the come, could really show the Marsh in a whole new light.

-- Steve Bowman


Yes, big fish win tournaments. Steve Kennedy, who held the four-day weight record for awhile, knows that.

Big runs. Yeah, he knows they can win it too, he'd just rather stick to the big fish.

"I'll stay within 30 or 40 miles of here and try to find something," he said. "Venice. I'm a little anxious about it."

He never made that run in practice isn't particularly found of making such a venture as the odds of probability could come into play. Besides fog, there's sandbars, tides and wind to whip up waves on runs. Just a lot of things that can go wrong.

"As an engineer, this place has got more variables than anything I've ever dealt with," he said.

While he's "not confident I can catch a limit," he knows that water he's found has climbed 23 degrees and the fishing will be on.

"They're going to catch them," he said. "I think the winning guy, it's going to come down to one big bite."

-- Mike Suchan


We're still working on getting up the Swindle video we teased earlier. Bowman just watched the video again and said "that might be a 4 pounder."

The photo gallery shot by James Overstreet this morning just went up. Check that out here.

-- Kyle Carter


Pete Robbins reports that Aaron Martens is fishing the bulkheads at the mouth of a big pond. There are two or three anglers visible inside the pond, including Edwin Evers.

No catches sited and no reports from Zona who is with Evers.

-- Steve Bowman


Pete Robbins and James Overstreet have found Greg Hackney. He's fairly close to the take off. "Fairly" is an very subjective.

In true Hack Attack fashion, he's pitching a jig. According to Kennedy, he's in an area that can produce a heavy sack of fish. But he doesn't believe the area can hold up for three days. That's an important piece of the puzzle in these waters.

While Hackney is hugging the bank. Another jig master, Derek Remitz moved into the area and he's fishing "off-shore" stuff.

Meanwhile, Tommy Sanders, who is riding with Brian Snowden, reports that the Snow Man has had a couple of bites. Nothing grandiose, but enough to make it interesting. He's fishing in the Bayou Black area.

No reports from anyone in Venice.

-- Steve Bowman


Before this day with Pace, I hadn't spent much time boating around the Louisiana Delta. Until you do, it's hard to comprehend the vastness of the playing field.

Talking with Gerald Swindle the other day after he ran out of gas, he said it is too easy to run 20 minutes to a spot and then run 20 more to another. Do that six or seven times and you are running on fumes getting back in.

This is not like most locations where you can hit a series of points or ledges or grassbeds. This is a place where one key area can be miles from another.

That's how I feel today with Pace. We are doing more running than fishing, but that's normal for the Delta.

-- Rob Russow


James Kennedy's assertion that four of the top six in the Classic will come from the Venice area is one we are hearing a lot.

But this is my third Classic here and it seems, if I recall correctly and I am getting older, that has been the talk every year.

Iaconelli is the only one who has pulled that off. And Klein was a close second.

Obviously, the verdict is still out. But that three days of an approximate 2-hour trip headed one way. Everything has to go perfectly with their equipment. There can be no fog delays. And the tides and wind have to be in your favor. Meanwhile, the guys playing it safe still have the opportunity to catch a big sack.

Those are a lot of uncontrollable factors. Those are the kind of things you tell stories about for decades: "I would have won, but..." That kind of thing.

But those are trips where legends are made as well. Like Rick Clunn and Hank Parker's runs to far away lands on the James River in 1989 and 1990. To pull that off will be a special feat and it's certainly going to be fun to watch.

Iaconellii talked more about this in his blog today, which you can read here.

-- Steve Bowman


Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., stood on his boat waiting to see what would unfold this morning. He chatted with Dean Rojas and watched as B.A.S.S. officials got the day rolling.

"I'm taking it all in," the first-time Classic qualifier said.

As Southern Opens champion, he's fished some tournaments, but said the Louisiana Delta presents him, and all the anglers, with new issues.

"It's an intimidating place just because of the size. You can lose the tournament by pointing in the boat the wrong way," he said.

His practice went well, and said he found an area with clear water, where he said it's "no doubt that's where the fish are migrating."

"Me and everybody else found it," he said, noting that despite its size, the Delta might get crowded at this Classic.
"I do think it's going to fish small. When you get around them, catching them here is not a problem. This tournament is going to won on strategy."

-- Mike Suchan


Pete Robbins has checked in. He and James Overstreet are taking it easy today, boating around Salvadore and Cataouatche lakes. Those are real close to the take off.

To date, they've not seen many anglers. They did spend some time with George Crain, one of the Federation anglers. But they haven't seen any catching going on.

Their camera-boat driver for the day is James Kennedy, who was an Elite angler just a couple of seasons ago. He's from around here and knows the area well.

His words, "I'm shocked that there aren't more boats around."

Still he expects four of the top six anglers to come from the Venice area.

-- Steve Bowman


Mike Suchan just wrote a story on Michael Iaconelli, who has been living in a whirlwind the last few weeks.

His wife Becky gave birth to son Vegas, last week. Things have been hectic. Check out that story here ».

One of the interesting things he said this morning:

"I really believe I've located the group of winning fish," he said.

Iaconelli doesn't plan to visit them today, instead using the day for a final rehearsal, making sure of his run, shortcuts, fuel stops, basically his game plan and time management are spot on.

"Today is a day for me I'm not even going to make a cast," he said. "If I make a cast today, I'll be surprised.

"I found an area in the practice ... I don't want to even get near it. I think there's a group of fish that live there and I've just got to figure them out."

That's pretty confident to not plan on making any casts.

-- Steve Bowman


Pace catches his first fish, a small fish about 12 inches long.

"Fish like that down here don't help you build a lot of information," Pace said. "I hope there's no fog."

Pace hopes to find an area he can fish in an emergency, but has yet to see any water he likes. His primary spot is a long run away and he doesn't need to visit there today.

He is throwing a tube now around some shallow cover. When I asked him if I could put the bait he was using in the blog, he said he didn't care. Either he's not planning on using that in the tournament, or Pace thinks location is more important than bait choice this week.

-- Rob Russow


Pace has 11 rods on the deck of his boat and I would expect that to be the norm for the majority of the field. With changing conditions, I expect that fish will be caught a variety of ways.

Our latest stop, a canal with boat docks and brown grass, has 55 degree water temperatures, which has been consistent with the last few places.

It's a bit chilly this morning. I could see my breath at take-off and the overcast sky is keeping it from warming up fast. Still, this is a far cry from the freezing temperatures during practice.

The only bite Pace has had so far has been from a gar.

-- Rob Russow


Our latest stop was foiled by construction. A large barge was blocking a canal Pace planned to run through. It appeared to be laying down loads of rock, either damming up the canal or fortifying the embankment. Either way, pace was surprised and had to turn back.

Another 20 minute run finds us in another canal, this one fishable. Pace covers water quickly with the good fishing conditions, but has the rods on the deck to slow down as needed.

I'm not going to share specific information on where Pace is fishing, but to be honest, I couldn't if I tried. Navigating without a GPS would be crazy and those are all on Pace's side of the boat.

"Everything just hasn't been cooperative this morning," Pace said. "The place I knew there was some fish, a barge is piling rocks across the front. I don't even know what you could be writing about. 'Pace burns 27 gallons of gas going in circles to start the day?'"

Pretty much sums up the morning.

-- Rob Russow


Mark Zona just checked in. He's riding with Edwin Evers, who has to be one of the favorites in this event.

I have no idea where they are at the moment. That will come later. But he's not had any bites to start this day.

Zona did say that the water is warming up quick. Evers area is at 58 degrees at the moment, so the hoped onslaught of active fish and big bites could just be just a few degrees away.

Although, some of us like 58 just fine.

-- Steve Bowman


We weren't expecting any catch info today, but we do have several eyes on the water.

One of those is Dave Mercer, the new emcee of the Bassmaster Classic. Mercer is spending the day in the boat with Gerald Swindle.

I think I can get away with saying that is boat full of clowns. Both are undoubtedly having a good time.

Mercer is sending us some video clips of things from Swindle's day. We're uploading them now and you'll be able watch them here.

The first was from the take off. The latest is from the water and has Swindle catching a 2 1/2 to 3-pound class fish.

I don't know if it bit or not. Swindle reeled it in on a red lipless crankbait. The fish appears to be foul hooked.

Two things to draw from that. First, if that were tournament day it would be a legal catch and Swindle would be thanking his lucky stars he's not in California where that fish would have to be thrown back.

The second is, there are obviously quality fish being caught. It remains to be seen if 15 of those type fish will be a big factor in this event. But you can rest assured that a limit of those will have to come first and then that puts a guy in a place mentally to be able to add and or make the moves to build a bigger stringer.

One more thing, judging by the time caught (as fairly early in the day) Swindle is close enough to some decent fish if the day is shortened by fog.

-- Steve Bowman


Pace called the water around us "ugly," which he mainly attributed to the wind. A north wind created a lot of dirty water in the Delta.

The conditions didn't suit Pace and he decided to make another run. The wind is supposed to pick up a little in the afternoon, but right now it is calm and smooth riding.

Pace is looking around and checking areas in case he finds something or needs a back-up spot. We're on the move again. I have a feeling I'll be writing that a lot today.

-- Rob Russow


After three "pre-practice days in the marsh," contenders are still searching for clues, and a few acted as if they really haven't established their game plans yet. Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., had his satellite map spread on the front deck of his boat, trying to decide where to start his day. "How the heck do you pattern the Delta? There's cypress in some lakes, milfoil in others, and hydrilla in others," he mused. He saved Lake Cataouatche to scout on this, the official practice day for the Classic.

Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, seemed to be still undecided even as daylight began to spread across the Bayou Segnette launch site. He said he and Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., had tentatively decided to check out Delacroix, which he described as "two tanks of gas and four locks away."

He should have consulted Mark Davis, the 1995 Classic champion from Mt. Ida, Ark. Davis told me yesterday he planned to fish within easy running distance. "These guys who go to Venice and Delacroix might catch 'em," he said. "But they can't make those long runs (successfully) three days in a row."

-- Dave Precht


Fortunately, Pace was joking. No three-hour run today. We have already made a couple of stops, Pace is fishing fast.

Despite this being right in his backyard, Pace still plans to use today as, "Practice, just like last week."

Water temperatures are in the low 50s and should warm significantly today if we hit the forecasted 70 degree mark. Right now it's pretty cloudy, but the sun should emerge later in the day.

There are a few other boats around, but with the haze, it's hard to tell if they are competitors or recreational anglers.

-- Rob Russow


The anglers are on their way and for at least half the field the fact that there was no fog delay is a big sigh of relief. That doesn't mean there won't be one come Friday.

Fog will be a real concern all week. Temperatures are shifting in the air and water so the likelihood of having a socked in morning during the Classic is better than even odds.

My guess is there are a lot of anglers counting on that or at least practicing today with that in mind.

A fog delay could mean there won't be a trip to Venice or even further to the Delacroix area. A lot of the guys are sporting Lowrance radar equipment in the back of their rigs in case they run into a patch on one of those trips and their GPS devices aren't enough to navigate safely.

Right now, it's fairly clear and everyone is on their way. Some are making the run to far away places just to practice that run and lay down a GPS track. Others have their tracks and are looking for a contingency plan somewhere close. And still others are looking and hoping that the warming trend from the last few days will have produced something they can get on today.

We will be monitoring the BASSTrakk all day, trying to see where some of these guys are going.

There won't be catches recorded. But we could get an idea of where some of these guys will be going.

Be warned early on that the Louisiana Marsh is a vast area. BASSTrakk runs on cell service and in those dark reaches of this place, chances of getting info for everyone is slim. But this blog, especially during the competition days, will be the best bet for the best possible up-to-date information that can be had.

Hopefully it will be more accurate than less.

-- Steve Bowman


I'm riding out with Cliff Pace this morning and we are Boat 29. He joked that we are going to make a three hour run. He was joking, right?

A lot of these guys are going to make a long run in the tournament, but I don't know if many will do so today. Practice is underway and I will check back soon. Hopefully sooner than 3 hours.

-- Rob Russow


The blog has begun

The speculation of what the warm weather in New Orleans has done to the water in the Louisiana Delta is over for the 50 anglers fishing this year's Bassmaster Classic.

They all launched for the official practice day on Wednesday morning, which will mimic a tournament day from boat order to check-in.

Wednesday morning also marks the official launch our Classic blog. It won't be as fast and furious as it will be on competition days, but we have plenty of boots on the ground.

Pete Robbins and Rob Russow will be blogging from the water. Pete's roaming with photographer James Overstreet and Rob will be riding all day with Cliff Pace, who yesterday said he'd fished 300 to 400 tournaments on this body of water.

Steve Bowman will be doing the initial analysis of BASSTrakk, which will tell us where these anglers are on the water. Mike Suchan and myself will be unloading our notebooks after two days of talking with the anglers and going the carwash of registration, angler meetings, interviews for television interviews.

So keep check back all day for new updates. We'll be running "blog lite" for the next two days before the event starts on Friday.

-- Kyle Carter