As the week of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic continues in southeast Texas, pre-tournament reaction from the competitors is mixed to say the least as the pros take a break from practice for the event's annual Media Day.
Some of the pros vying for the 47th Classic title feel good about their tournament preparation and their practice sessions thus far.
While some of the others are feeling less than optimistic at the moment, or at least that's what they're saying.
With only one more day of practice left before the start of the March 24-26 event on Lake Conroe, here's a smattering of thoughts right now from several of the Classic competitors in this week's field of 52:
Brandon Palaniuk: "I haven't had a good practice at all," said the 2010 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation champ and winner of two Elite Series events. I've had very few keeper bites so far. The big fish will always play a role on Conroe and I think they will this week too. Having at least one over 7-pounds each day will help. It won't be a total post-spawn event - my guess is the fish are spread between all three stages. The fishing will be tough, but there will be a couple of guys that get dialed in. And I still think it will take 23-pounds a day to win."
Keith Combs: "My practice has been tough, it's been hard to nail down a pattern," said Combs, the local favorite and a rising Texas bass fishing superstar. "There are lots of small fish but not many keepers. As for Conroe's big fish, they will make or break your day and getting the big bite is everything. There are fish in all stages of the spawn right now. I think it will be tough fishing this week but you will still need to be in the low 60s to win. I also believe it will be hard to deal with the spectator traffic and it will be hard to move around."
Todd Faircloth: "My prep went well," said the 15-time Classic qualifier and five-time Elite Series winner. "I think big fish will definitely play a role this week. I've found fish in pre-spawn, (spawn) and post-spawn so far. From what I've seen, the fishing is decent right now. And since some big ones live here, I anticipate some big stringers this week. I think the winner will have 25-pounds a day, maybe less, maybe a little more."
Alton Jones: "My prep has been very good with long days of fishing...but with no hooks," said Jones, the 2008 champ and one of five Texans in the 2017 Classic field. "Bites are not too hard to come by, but getting a big bite is a challenge. A couple of big bites will go a long, long way and help you separate yourself from the crowd. I suspect the winner of this will catch two or three eight-pounders throughout the week. The lake is going to fish small because it is small, so it will be imperative to do whatever you are doing better than the next guy. This will not be a total post spawn event and I think it's possible that we will have another wave of females push in (to spawn) during the tournament."
Texan Alton Jones, shown here at an event last summer, is among the pre-tournament favorites to win this week as the 2017 Bassmaster Classic begins on Lake Conroe near Houston. Jones, the 2008 Classic champ who lives near Waco, expects big bass to play a key role in the eventual outcome. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Ish Monroe: "My personal prep has been good leading up to Classic week, but my recent practice has not been so good," said the winner of two Elite Series events among his four total B.A.S.S. wins. "I think fish will be decent on the first day or if some weather comes in to keep the boat traffic down. But if the weather is nice, the fishing might be a bit tough due to boat traffic. This will not be a totally post-spawn event, but I thought the fishing would be better. Right now, what I'm finding so far is not so good. It will still take good weight to win but I am not sure how much."
Takahiro Omori: "I need a few more things in place before I'll be ready," said the 2004 Classic champ. "Big fish are always a key here at Conroe and will be this week. I haven't found that all of the fish are in the post-spawn (yet). I'm not finding what I like to see so far. I think 20-pounds a day will be good this week, but it will be hard to be consistent here every day."
Gerald Swindle: "Preparation has been (somewhat) distant for me," said Swindle, the 2016 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. "Practice has proven to be very tough. The big bite is key here (and) with the size limit being 16-inches, you may be better off just fishing for three big bites all day. This will not be a total post-spawn event, the fish are in pre, (spawn) and post-spawn stages. I think overall, the fishing is very tough (right now). It's really hard to get bites and there's not much of a pattern (that I've seen). I think it will take 20-pounds a day to win."
Kevin VanDam: "The warmer that it stays between now (and the tournament start), the better the chances are for your local guys like your Todd Faircloths, your Keith Combs, your Alton Jones, etc (to win)," said KVD, a four-time winner of the Classic. "If the fish start to get out a little bit from their spawning areas, those guys with a lot of good knowledge of the lake are going to really be dangerous."