The 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic Champion, Randy Howell, was asked how he was able to beat the rest of the field after falling to 11th place and nine pounds back at one point in the contest. He told reporters that his 7-year-old son wrote down a prayer for his dad to win the classic this year. His wife Robin stuck the note on Randy’s bathroom mirror for him to see everyday; and the rest is history.
Divine intervention can certainly give bass anglers a leg up at the late winter classic, but advice from the best bass fishermen can put you in the best position to qualify for, and potentially win, the $300,000 grand prize at next year’s Classic.
First You Have to Get There
The Bassmaster Classic has undergone many changes since 1968 when Ray Scott incorporated the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. For example, Bob Murray won $10,000 at the first Classic in Lake Mead in 1971. First place prize money reached as high as $500,000 from 2006 to 2013, before being reduced to $300,000 for 2014.
Photo of Lake Mead from Hoover Dam by Kumar Appaiah via Wikimedia Commons
Qualifying for the 2015 Classic entails participation in one of three regional events totaling nine tournaments in the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. The remaining events for this year include Lake Norman in Charlotte, N.C. from October 2-4 in the Southern Region; the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Okla. from September 11- 13 in the Central Region; and two more for the Northern Division. They include Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y. from July 31-August 2, and Lake St. Clair in Detroit from September 4-6.
The qualifying tournaments will help you conquer one of the biggest hurdles at the Bassmaster Classic: mind games. Make sure you are prepared for any and all curve balls thrown at you. Train for deep-water fishing just in case it rains heavily days before the event. There is no such thing as too much practice and applying what you learn from it.
Boyd Duckett, who won the Classic the first time he competed in 2007, said his experience tournament fishing and practicing extensively on Lay Lake, that year’s Classic venue, is what ultimately won the event for him. He employed a strategy of using a flipping stick for six hours per day, knowing he has caught his largest bass this way. His patience paid off and he ultimately beat runner-up Skeet Reese by six ounces.
Spinnerbaits in Clear Waters
The reaction from many people who see spinnerbaits for the first time is that they look like exotic earrings due to the combination of shiny metal and plastic. But the illusion created by light reflecting off the metal in water makes bass believe they are about to swallow a minnow.
Eight-time Classic qualifier Bernie Schultz told Bassmaster.com that he, like most other seasoned anglers, used to regard spinnerbaits as a lure solely for muddy, cloudy waters; however, Schultz’s friend Chris Christian reminded him how four-time Classic champion Rick Clunn used spinnerbaits at the 1986 U.S. Open in the clear waters of Lake Mead.
Photo by Islamoradasportsman via Wikimedia Commons
Like most new and unorthodox concepts to catch fish, Clunn’s idea of using spinnerbaits in clear waters was one of trial-and-error. The fact that Lake Mead is clear enough to see fish as deep as 10 feet under makes his method all the more amazing. Though cover at the lake is scarce, Clunn discovered he could make fish feel the lure from the sonic vibrations it created.
The fish spot the bait and chase what appears to be an escaping minnow. Kevin VanDam, the other four-time Classic champion, recommends using a trailer hook with spinnerbaits for those bass that are hesitant to strike. He said at least one-quarter of his tournament bass catches were brought in with the trailer hook.
Schultz lives in Florida and said he perfected the technique by utilizing the state’s numerous clear water lakes. He successfully used the technique at the Canadian open at Lake Ontario in 1990. A state boater education course and practice on the water can give you the advantage of potentially utilizing spinnerbaits at clear water venues. Next year’s Bassmaster Classic will be held at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, which is known for its crystal clear waters.
Its no secret that the Classic has been somewhat of a boy’s club since its inception. So when Kim Bain-Moore became the first woman to compete in the event in 2009, the guys had to overcome the “I can’t get beat by a girl” thoughts, while Bain-Moore had to deal with the weight of the world being on her shoulders.
First-time qualifiers will likely be awed by the presence of ESPN and other global media covering the event. No matter how big the event may seem, you are still simply fishing and enjoying one of your favorite pastimes. Sure you’ll be asked to do interviews and participate in press conferences. But the bigger you make the event in your mind, the more likely you’ll succumb to all the distractions and make that one fatal mistake that will cost you a championship.
Photo by Don McCullough via Flickr
Winner of the Bassmaster Classic in 2006, Luke Clausen told Outdoorhub.com that having fun is the best way to deal with distractions. Soak up the event for what it is. Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is something only 50 or so people do every year. The fact you are in a position to compete for a spot may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Enjoy it while you can.
Visit Bassmaster.com for all the latest news and updates about the 2015 Classic.