With the turn of the calendar page to February, the 2010 Bassmaster Classic suddenly is much closer. For the 51 competitors in the Feb. 19-21 championship on Alabama's Lay Lake, the first practice day of four is a mere 10 days away.
It's a thought that makes Bassmaster Northern Open qualifier Frank Scalish of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, grin. He is more than ready for Classic No. 40 No. 2 for him to get going.
"I wish it was here already, I wish it was going on now," Scalish said.
At least part of his restlessness stems from his desire for a second crack at a Classic on Lay Lake. He's seeking redemption, if you will: In the 2002 Classic his first he finished 46th out of the 52 who competed on Lay.
"In 2002, I was completely overwhelmed," Scalish said. "This time, I'm trying to treat it as just another tournament, and not get caught up in all the hype. It's hard to do. This time, I'm ready for that aspect. For the competition part of it, I did my homework, including pre-fishing."
Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., is as eager as Scalish to get started. She, too, has become a student of Lay Lake. She scouted it top to bottom before the off-limits kicked in Dec. 14. She said she has a stack of game plans to unfold as conditions dictate.
"We've been off-limits for a long time, and I'm ready to go fishing," said Martin-Wells, whose 2009 Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year title in the Women's Bassmaster Tour earned her a Classic berth. The sole woman to qualify and only the second woman to compete in a Classic in the event's 40-year history, she has a hotter spotlight on her than many of her fellow competitors.
One, Bryan Schmidt of Olney, Texas, could give her pointers. He deftly overcame the stress of his first Classic last year for a sixth-place finish.
This year, Schmidt said he simply feels more comfortable.
"I feel ready this year going into it," said Schmidt, who earned the BASS Federation Nation's Central Division seat in the Classic two years in a row - a rare accomplishment - and was also the Federation Nation Champion of 2008. "Last year I was a barrel of nerves because I didn't know what to expect. I'm looking forward to this one more because I feel better prepared mentally."
The field of 51 will compete for a piece of $1.2 million, including a first-place prize of $500,000. For a list of the competitors, click here. For a schedule of fan activities all free and open to the public click here.
Need to know when the Bassmaster Classic gets going? There are at least two countdown clocks at Bassmaster.com - one is on the top banner of the Bassmaster home page; another is midway down on the Classic page. True fans of fishing can watch the days, hours, minutes and seconds tick away until the start of the Feb. 19-21 Bassmaster Classic out of Birmingham, Ala.
Ladies and gentlemen: On your mark get set go get your Fantasy Fishing 2010 team! Beginning Feb. 9, players can do just that, for free, at Bassmaster.com. Fantasy Fishing 2010 begins with the Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21, and continues through the Bassmaster Elite Series regular season, ending June 20.
The prizes will be just as great as last year's, including a trip for two to the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans for the Fantasy Fishing season winner. But there's a long list of prizes for individual events as well. Total approximate retail value of the prizes is more than $10,000.
Complete 2010 prize lists, rules and how-to's soon will be posted at Bassmaster.com.
BUCK & BILL
Expect Bill Lowen to be handing out Buck Knives again this season at Bassmaster Elite Series events.
Buck Knives has announced it will continue with an endorsement agreement begun last season with the Elite pro from North Bend, Ohio. Buck will supply the knives Lowen will give away to fans at select Elite events.
"Our market research showed us the significant overlap of people who both hunt and fish," said Bob George, national sales and marketing manager for Buck. "This first year proved that out, as we were welcomed by fishermen with open arms and enjoyed significant growth in our brand image and awareness."
Lowen will continue to feature the Buck logo on his boat wrap, a camo pattern called "Ducks in a row" made by Feather 'Flage. His new competition jersey features a Buck logo.
TWO FOR LANE
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., has two new lure sponsors on board for the 2010 season: Buckeye Lures and Big Bite Baits.
"I'm so proud to be involved in product development and promotions with Buckeye Lures," Lane said. "They have a large variety of innovative products from the Circuit Breaker line of balsa crankbaits, the Wake Up bait, to the Flick-It and the ever popular Spot-Remover jighead."
He said he's excited to work with the "fishing fanatics" at Big Bite, maker of Squirrel Tail Worm and Fighting Frog, among others.
"It is an honor to be able to work along with the already stellar pro staff to promote Big Bite Baits," Lane said. "Big Bite is owned and managed by fishing fanatics with a true passion for the sport of bass fishing."
IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE
"The hardest battles I have are from within myself. I'm a pretty hard critic of my own performance." 28-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, Jan. 29 on ESPN Radio's The BASS Reporters