Bassmaster Classic Musings

The Bassmaster Classic has long been my favorite fishing event to follow but this year’s tournament featured the added weight of many of the competitors possibly making their final appearance. Indeed, 20 of the 25 anglers who made the cut to fish on Sunday have taken their show on the road to the Major League Fishing circuit (including all of the Top 5 in the snip above).

As a result, this year’s event packed a few emotional farewells as longtime Bass competitors said their piece. In addition, animated angler Mike Iaconelli took the opportunity to defy some longtime marching orders from the Bass brass. His antics included tossing his tourney jersey into the crowd before making a successful “stage dive” onto the arms of the fans at stage side (yes, they caught him). A good show all the way around for the record breaking crowd.

A multitude of ways to enjoy the Classic are available as the event unfolds

Now this thing is always an emotional event as it is a life changer for the angler who takes the title. The pressure is palpable as the three biggest days in bass fishing unfold and it is even cooler with today’s technology. The live coverage gives the armchair angler a close up view from anywhere there is internet access. Initially, I kind of thought that the concept would ruin all of the fun and spoil the edge of your seat excitement of the final weigh-in. Not so much, as I took in live on the water coverage, up to the minute blogs, weight updates and webcast weigh ins from the living room, van and even the garage as I did some fishing gear cleanup in preparation for my own 2019 kickoff.

The Basstrakk feature provides unofficial on the water data but still leaves plenty of room for suspense at the weigh-in 

All of this coverage has been a welcome addition for a guy who used to be content with reading about the results a month later when the latest issue of Bassmaster magazine hit the mailbox. Of particular interest is watching the live on the water talks with the anglers and eventually getting the scoop on what, where and how they do their thing.

Now this is pretty cool as the live feed tracks and talks with several anglers as they fish

And 2019 was cool as the techniques featured a very high percentage of power fishing with the likes of crankbaits, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and chatterbaits getting it done. So much more my speed than flipping and pitching and great to see that one of my favorites, the spinnerbait, hasn’t been completely lost among some of the pros after all.

Perhaps I invested a bit too much of my weekend in following the Classic but it’s just too hard for this old angler to resist the new types of access.

Finally, I wondered, is it weird to get goosebumps when watching fishing?

Probably not, if you’ve been doing it and watching it since you were a kid.

Probably not, if you’ve had a Bassmaster magazine subscription since 1983.

Probably not, if you pulled the trigger on the Bassmaster lifetime membership in the early 90s once you got a decent job and had a little extra money.

Probably not, if you still appreciate every bite you get and also realize that sometimes you (and even the pros) don’t get bit at all.

I guess that sums it up for this near 52 year-old fisherman who is older than all of the 52 angler field in this year’s Classic (yep, got Kevin Van Dam by just about three months).

Talk to you later. Troy

Bassmaster Classic Results

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic held on the Tennessee River out of Knoxville, TN is in the books with local angler Ott DeFoe claiming the title. DeFoe was easily the odds on favorite as he was essentially fishing in his backyard and he made good on living up to the lofty expectations. Easier said than done regardless of experience on a body of water when you are up against the best in the business.

I also thought that it was cool how DeFoe handled the pressure of being the favorite after a rough day two knocked him out of his day one first place perch (top bag of 20-0 on day one). He took a rough second day bag of 10-5 in stride although he commented that it made him “mad” as he slipped to fourth place. However, a final day weight of 18-14 pushed him to the title with a winning margin just shy of four pounds.

It was a tournament of ups and downs as each of the anglers in the Top 10 had at least one tough day. DeFoe was able to sandwich his with a pair of top bags and that made all the difference.

So, you’re probably wondering (or not), how did my picks turn out?

Ott DeFoe (picked for first place, finished in first place) – I picked him to win and he did. Really not a surprise but no matter what sort of “home lake advantage” is attributed to an angler, a lot of stuff still has to go right. And it did, on the biggest stage in the sport. I enjoyed a comment by Bassmaster tourney emcee, Dave Mercer, regarding the pressure that DeFoe faced as the favorite. Mercer noted that the pressure didn’t just start this past week, it truly began last April when Bass announced that DeFoe’s hometown would host the big one.

Chris Zaldain (picked for second place, finished in twelfth place) – Things were looking good for Zaldain as he sat in third place entering Championship Sunday on the heels of a 21-12 day two that was the biggest bag of the tourney. However, conditions changed on Sunday and he only managed two bass for 3-4 with both caught as the day wound down.

Jesse Wiggins (picked for third place, finished in third place) – Wiggins’ down day was a day one bag of 10-11 and while he jumped each of the next two days with 15-15 and 17-4, the climb was just too steep without a “big bite.” There was a lot of talk of a pivotal six-pounder being a game changer for anglers but only a few came aboard and not for the right guy at the right time.

Bradley Roy – (picked for fourth place, finished in fiftieth place) – A four fish day of 6-15 to start put Roy in a spot where I suspect he had to shift gears and gamble. Whatever the case, on day two he would end up blanking. I felt bad for the guy but it makes my rough days a little easier to take knowing it happens to the best in the game as well.

Not too bad for an amateur bass fishing handicapper in landing three of four in the Top 25 who qualified to fish on Championship Sunday. Also kind of cool to get my pair who made the Top 3 in the right spots. Makes it fun even if there is no potential financial windfall, only pride or shame in offering up picks for public consumption.

Another exciting Bassmaster Classic is history with an interesting field, the likes of which we will not see again. The sport continues to evolve and I’ve got some thoughts on that aspect and more regarding the Classic coming your way later this week. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – March 20, 2004

We head back 15 years today with a look at an afternoon of strip mine fishing with a couple of the Brothers Jackson. And for added effect, you get the original post from a larger fishing report originally submitted to family and friends on March 27, 2004.

March 20 – Brent and I head out for Snakeden Hollow for some biking and bassing. Air temperatures were around 60 F with sunny skies and strong winds out of the Northwest. Our first target, Long Lake, was rather disappointing as we failed to catch any bass in about forty-five minutes of fishing. Jigs, crankbaits and jerkbaits all failed to produce. This lake is typical strip mine habitat with steep banks and crystal clear water. Looking for a change of pace we headed up the bank to a shallower lake that had more stained water and more diverse structure.

 

This is kind of fun as I took this shot of Brent’s new lake record from “across the lake”, not far in a straight line but a long walk in strip mine distance.

We spent about an hour and a half on Crosscut Lake and combined for ten bass. Brent posted an addition to the record book with a 2-10 that hit a Mann’s 4- crankbait (chartreuse). The bass also broke the lake record of 2-0 set by Tim Townsend on 3/23/00. All of our fish came on Mann’s 4- crankbaits worked with a steady retrieve along dropoffs in 2-5′ of water. Jigs produced a couple strikes without hookups and lipless crankbaits got no attention. After working over this relatively small body of water, we decided to head for Little John. However, we had to bike back to the truck first, directly into some fierce winds. At one point, the wind actually exceeded gravity. We had to pedal to go downhill as the wind was so strong that we couldn’t coast. Not exactly a treat paired with my current level of physical fitness.

Still have the lure that did the trick per the above database entries but can’t tell you the last time it hit the water.

Definitely gets me fired up for another year on the strip mines. It’s always a treat to hop between the potholes and fingers that dot the landscape and gets me to wondering about a new look at some of those old places. Lots of ideas, just need some time and open water. Talk to you later. Troy

BM Classic Thoughts & Picks

The Tennessee River out of Knoxville, TN serves as the launch site for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, March 15-17

Friday kicks off the 49th Bassmaster Classic, no doubt the traditional top dog of bass fishing championships. It’s the equivalent of the Super Bowl or Daytona 500 when it comes to the pinnacle of the pursuit.

But the landscape of professional bass fishing is in the midst of some significant changes with a load of anglers parting ways with the Bassmaster Elite Series and moving on to Major League Fishing. As a result, this year’s Bassmaster Classic is an interesting mix of competitors. While there are various means of punching your ticket to the tourney, for many of the anglers, it may be their last time claiming one of those spots.

I won’t get into the specifics on the exodus but it seems to be a blend of cash and control resulting in a number of longtime Elite Series anglers potentially fishing their final Classic. And I’m talking some legitimate legends of the sport. Names like Kevin VanDam (28th Classic appearance and four-time champ), Mike Iaconelli (20th Classic and 2003 champ), Edwin Evers (18th Classic and 2016 champ), Aaron Martens (20th Classic and four-time runner-up), Skeet Reese (19th Classic and 2009 champ) and Jordan Lee (only his 5th Classic but as the two-time defending champ he is looking for an unprecedented three-peat).

Folks, those are some pretty heavy hitters who are launching on Friday in pursuit of a Classic title via their 2018 Elite Series qualifications while having bid the 2019 Elite Series season farewell. An interesting dynamic in the field of professional bass fishing. Kind of weird for a fishing fan who first started following the Classic back in 1982 when Paul Elias took the title thanks to a crankbait fishing technique called “kneel and reel.”

Lots of Classic memories for me in between so kind of bittersweet seeing a bunch of familiar faces take their show on the road with another organization. It has indeed been a bit odd following the first two events on the Bassmaster Elite Series. I must admit having a few Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid moments in asking “Who are those guys?”

But time marches on and the business of fishing continues to evolve.

For old time’s sake though I’m going to revisit an old bit that I first rolled out while blogging about the 2012 Classic. Here are my picks for the Top 4 finishers in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, a tourney that will leave a memorable footprint in the history of bass fishing for many reasons.

Fourth Place = Bradley Royfinishing the 2018 Elite Series in third-place for the Angler of the Year title has this young angler riding high as the Classic comes nearly nine years to the date of his first Elite Series event fished when he was only 19 years old.

Third Place = Jesse Wiggins – just a good guy with a lot of qualities that the regular angler can relate to, a darn good young fisherman who remains humble, hasn’t forgotten his roots and I like to pull for good things to happen to good people.

Second Place = Chris Zaldain – the lone angler among my pics who stuck with the Bassmaster Elite Series, Zaldain is coming off a strong runner-up finish in last month’s Elite event and I look for him to keep rolling in the Classic.

Classic Champion = Ott DeFoe – not really going out on a limb here as the hometown angler is a popular pick and he has proven his mettle with four top 10 Classic finishes in his seven previous appearances.

Come Sunday we’ll see how good of a prognosticator I am and I invite anyone out there to pitch in with your own selections. The Classic field can be found on the Bassmaster website by clicking here.

Good luck and back on Friday with a flashback that features a lake record. Talk to you later. Troy

2019 Top 5 Stats & Guidelines

(Note: click here for the rules and guidelines for the Top 5)

Been a rough winter around here so pretty slim pickings to start the 2019 Top 5. If it weren’t for some dedication from Top 5 veteran, Jim Junk, we’d be shutout. His New Year’s Day bass saved the day and stands as the lone entry to date. Winter arrived in full force shortly after that catch resulting in the first February blank since kicking off the project back in 2014. But, as always, if we’ve got fish, we’ve got a monthly stat update.

Our lone bass of 2019 but here’s hoping for another banner Top 5 year 

2019 Totals (* = new record)
January = 1 bass
February = no submissions
March = no submissions…yet

Top 5 Weight by Month (* = new record)
January = 3-3 (3-3)
February = no submissions
March = no submissions…yet

Boat vs. Bank
Boat = no submissions
Bank = 1 bass

Boat vs. Bank Weight (* = new record)
Boat = no submissions
Bank = 3-3 (3-3)

Public vs. Private
Public = 1 bass
Private = no submissions

Public vs. Private Top 5 Weight
Public = 3-3 (3-3)
Private = no submissions

The Baits (* = new record)
Lipless Crankbaits = 1 bass (Top Bass 3-3 Jim Junk)

Monthly Top Bass (* = new record)
January
3-3 Jim Junk
February
No submissions
March
No submissions

Angler Weights
Jim Junk 3-3 (3-3)

Other Species
No submissions

Locally, winter is showing signs of loosening its grip and we’ve moved into the later sunset so things are headed in the right direction. I’m going with the lack of entries being due to weather as opposed to a lack of interest so send ‘em my way when you finally get a shot to do some casting. One final note to pass along is that Jim’s catch puts us at 592 bass all-time so what do you say you take a shot at being the answer to a Top 5 trivia question regarding bass #600? Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Anticipation

“Takin’ my time, choosin’ my line, tryin’ to decide what to do.”

Walk Away – James Gang (1971)

You never know what lies ahead as you head to your fishing holes.

Today we conclude the series with a pic that to me is a visual representation of the beginning of every fishing trip. No matter terrestrial approach as displayed here or chasing those fish via watercraft, the concept is the same.

Before you venture into somewhere out there, there’s a degree of preparation and planning for what you feel may lie ahead. But in actuality, anything can happen which is all part of the fun.

But at the moment represented in our final pic, here frozen in time, hopes run high, the heart beats a little faster and a smile graces the face. The image still does all of those things as I sit here typing while letting my mind wander to thoughts of the next time I get to take that initial step into that world.

You know what’s funny?

Today’s title, lyric and feelings also apply each time I find myself in front of a clipboard or a keyboard.

Thus we conclude the “Blog Banner” series, thirty up and thirty down. An exercise in explaining what the outdoors means to me via some words behind the photos.

And what a journey it’s been.

From Alice Cooper to ZZ Top…Bigfoot to Martians…Joe Jackson to Jack-in-the-Pulpit…legends to one-hit wonders…Sister Sledge to Mr. Hand…tunes featuring the likes of Charlie Brown to Bela Lugosi… Blue Glimmer to Snow White Shad…Julius Caesar to Virgil Ward to Hank Parker… my family to The Addams Family…

All in the name of conveying the title and tagline that reside just above those 30 pictures that I call the Blog Banner.

I’m going to leave the current one around for the rest of the month before another change of blog scenery, thinking perhaps a bit more retro outdoor theme. We’ll see.

Of course, more stuff coming your way and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I get a chance to chase that first March bass. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – If A Boat Could Talk

“I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks,

but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing…”

A Pirate Looks at Forty – Jimmy Buffett (1975)

So many stories and still rowing strong

I’d say that this post details how a boat looks at forty but no one really knows the age of this old faithful watercraft. Its true origins are unknown, says so right on the registration, which is pretty cool. Adds a little character.

The origins of it becoming “our little boat”, however, are known. Dad and a friend found it completely submerged while clearing a log jam on a creek in Henderson County, IL over forty years ago. Adds a little more character.

And, as the saying goes, the rest is fishing history.

As the above lyrics reference there are a few minor leaks but I suppose that’s to be expected. After all, that thing has been hauled thousands of miles in the beds of trucks, drug over all types of terrain, launched on ramps of gravel, grass and concrete, rowed over ice, pushed over logs, pulled through shallows, rained in, snowed on…you get the picture.

It’s outlasted a few sets of oars, a couple boat seats, numerous poles, lures, tackleboxes, lifejackets and anchors.

I have no idea how many fellow anglers we’ve rowed around on how many waters and I hesitate to think how many hours there are on “the motor.”

And how many fish?

Still going strong and ready to get back after it, hopefully soon. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – March 19, 2009

March 19, 2009 – first bass of the year, Snakeden Hollow State Fish & Wildlife Area near Victoria, IL

Hey, how about that? Open water in these photos, looks good.

Not so much in 2019 and I suspect that we’ve still got a final weekend of icefishing on the local haunts. It will be interesting to see how things play out in terms of getting on the board with the annual goal of a March bass. A goal that has been achieved every year since 2002 (with a few bonus February catches thrown in the mix).

This first pair of bass from ten years ago came from two walk-in lakes at Snakeden Hollow in Knox County, IL. From 2009 through 2014 this was the standard plan for nabbing the first bass of the year and the collection of strip pits never let me down.

Original log entry from the outing, only a two bass day but I’d certainly take that right now

Here’s the original, brief report that was submitted as part of the rundown on the start to 2009.

2009 is off to a slow start for me, much the same as 2008. Weather, work and family responsibilities have all conspired to keep me off the water. I managed a pair of bass on 3/19 from a couple Snakeden Hollow lakes with the larger of the two (actually more like the least small) weighing 1-4. Both came on Bomber Flat A crankbaits (baby bass).

Top Bass for the day 13.5″ and 1-4 on a Bomber Flat A crankbait, a classic cold water bait

Yep, 2009 had a rough start on the water and it lasted through much of the summer as Julie and I welcomed a third kid in late May. However, once I consistently got a chance to cast beginning in mid-August and running through October it turned out to be a pretty darn good year. And a lot of that success was due to the opening of a place called “Emiquon.”

But those are stories for Friday Flashback posts later this year. Don’t worry though as there’s plenty to fill the all the Fridays until then. And don’t forget, there are two final Blog Banner posts coming your way to complete that 30 post series. Sooner or later got to be some fishing too. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Nature’s Ninjas

“They were chopping them up, they were chopping them down…”

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas (1974)

Jayce and Zac wielding a butcher knife, a boomerang, a katana and a staff

Wildcat Den State Park, IA – May 13, 2017

The outdoors is a wonderful place.

So is a kid’s imagination.

And when those places collide…well, it’s quite an adventure.

The wooded ravines of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine County, Iowa were a bit safer on this day thanks to a pair of martial artist brothers. Not only were their hands considered lethal weapons but they also managed to collect several other weapons from nature’s stash.

Who knew that lying trailside amidst the towering bluffs, along the running streams and beneath the forest canopy one would find such an arsenal?

Sadly, not a fifty year old guy more concerned with the flora, fauna and geographical features of the site. But you know, those young imaginations are more than a bit contagious.

So while I scan the terrain this spring for Virginia bluebells, bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches I’ll also be on the lookout for swords or hatchets or spears.  All the while under the watchful eyes of my entertaining and stealthy outdoor protectors. Talk to you later. Troy

Blog Banner – Uncle Martin

“And I freaked ‘cause the guy sitting next to me was a Martian”

Martian Boogie – Brownsville Station (1977)

Inadvertent backdrop took me back to an old TV show

This shot was included in the Blog Banner as an example of a weird accident turned trivia opportunity that wasn’t noticed until taking a closer look at the pic after the trip. These days we do have the welcome feature of immediate feedback on digital photos but I generally just give them a quick glance. I make sure the shots are in focus and that my lighting is acceptable before giving it the okay and letting the fish swim away.

In the case of this shot, it was not a particularly impressive bass but it was my first of the evening which calls for a picture. After all, while you intend to add more to the log, you just never know when those fish will get stingy and leave you without another bite. Since taking up blogging, the first fish shot has become a habit just for such a reason.

Upon having a closer look when compiling my fishing report I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the “antennae” protruding from my floppy hat courtesy of one of the electrical towers in the background. The photobomb immediately made me think of the old sitcom My Favorite Martian that used to run in rerun on weekday summer afternoons as a kid. I was never what you would call a fan as I was more of an outdoor kid but I saw enough to get the character of Uncle Martin lodged somewhere in my brain.

And there you have it, another fun bit of once useless trivia put to work all of these years later in an outdoor blog. The actor who played Uncle Martin had a later role that hit closer to my generation. It was none other than Ray Walston who portrayed History teacher, Mr. Hand, in the classic 80s comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Good stuff. Aloha and talk to you later. Troy