We’re less than three months away from the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. The eyes of the bass fishing world will all focus on Lake Guntersville, and one angler’s life will change in a big way. While it’s no longer the first event of our season, it’s still early in the year.
That’s been the case since 2006. Before that the Classic was always held in the fall or the summer. I never got a chance to compete in one of those, but I did qualify for two Forrest Wood Cups in the summertime. All seven of my Classic appearances to date have been in February or March.
Fans often debate whether the Classic should be moved back to the end of the season. Arguments in favor of that include the fact that kids are out of school and that the gap between the end of our season and the Classic the following year is too long. From a personal standpoint, a move to summertime Classics would likely be better for me. While I didn’t do particularly well in my two Cup appearances, generally my summer performances are pretty strong.
All three of my Toyota Texas Bass Classic wins, my two Elite Series wins — Falcon and Mille Lacs — and my other Professional Anglers Association victory all came on summertime patterns. That’s when I seem to have the best chance to excel, but I don’t think it’s the best time for the sport.
The Bassmaster Classic is the undisputed world championship of bass fishing. It needs to be the ultimate test of angling skill. That means the winner should have to adapt. While I love fishing offshore in the summertime, those fish tend to be a little bit more reliable, and the weather from the practice period through the tournament tends to be a little more stable. In the spring, however, the fish are flighty and the weather often changes by the day, if not the hour. For example, at the Lake Hartwell Classic in 2015, it was 7 degrees at takeoff one morning and got into the high 50s the next day. At Guntersville you can expect similar swings. That makes it a bigger challenge.
Of course, another advantage of fishing during the prespawn is that that’s when the fish are at their fattest. On our biggest stage we should be fishing for big ones. It’s not that you can’t catch big bags during the summer — I set the three-day weight record on Fork on a summertime pattern — but also that we have to take care of the resource. If we are going to be trailering our fish to the weigh-in, we have to take every possible precaution to make sure that they’re in good shape when we put them back in the lake. B.A.S.S. does an incredible job with fish care, and in early-season Classics the impact on the resource is negligible.
As much as I’d love an opportunity to compete in a summertime Classic, I firmly support the decision to keep the event early in the year. It doesn’t have to be our kickoff event, but it needs to be at a time and a place when we can absolutely jack ‘em. That’s what I want, and I think that’s what most fans of the sport want, too.
What do you think?