A dynamic Bassmaster Classic awaits us

You can’t imagine how excited I am to be back in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk and to have it in my home state.

I haven’t fished a Classic since 2001, and I fished four prior to taking my career in a different direction. Now that I’m back, the thrill of competing on the biggest stage in bass fishing is going to be even more special since it’s in Texas and on a lake only four hours from home.

However, before anyone thinks I have a lot of history there, the truth is that I never fished Ray Roberts until B.A.S.S. opened the lake for pre-Classic practice. I was there for a few days to look around last November and again this spring before the cut-off.

And even though it’s been awhile since I’ve competed in a Classic, I can assure you I won’t feel like a rookie or any additional pressure, except what might be self-imposed.

But man, this is the Classic! It’s a championship event that I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid.

It will have some extra importance because of the venue. There will be huge crowds in Dickies Arena in Fort Worth as Texans have been hopping in anticipation.

And Ray Roberts should deliver an intriguing playing field. I got a pretty good feel for it in my short time there, and I think there are multiple ways it could be won.

The fact we’ll be fishing in June and not early spring makes it even more interesting. It’s the first time in a long time that a Classic was held outside of early spring.

It could be a tournament that may be won deep or shallow, and I like that. It’s also a lake that not many anglers know so that will add to the drama.

As always, weather conditions will play a huge role in that.

If we get a lot of rain in the coming days, it could flood and create a dynamic shallow fishery. If the water is low, it probably will be an offshore tournament and summer patterns will dominate.

Another wild card is the lake has a lot of standing timber to give competitors something else to think about.

I spent most of my practice idling around looking and didn’t do a lot of fishing. But what fishing I did do, I caught nice ones. The lake is full of forage and has a reputation for big fish, so it’s possible the crowd will see some double-digit bass — 10 pounds plus.

What you can count on is seeing anglers step up their game for the Classic. Rick Clunn epitomized that during the old days. And like Clunn, you could look into the eyes of Davy Hite and Kevin VanDam when they won and see how focused and committed they were to getting it done. That’s what it takes to win the Classic.

I’ve always been impressed by that, and it’s those championship efforts that stand out to me even in those events where I wasn’t competing.

The Classic truly brings out the best in an angler, and thanks to TV coverage and Bassmaster LIVE, you get to see it unfold as it happens.

I remember the first time we got to see it live on the computer. I couldn’t believe my eyes that I was watching it live and didn’t want to miss one second of that drama as it unfolded.

My gut tells me this one will be special, too, for those in it and those of you who will be glued to the TV or Bassmaster LIVE.

Let the fun begin!