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TULSA, Okla. - As Major League Fishing anglers head into final preparation for Friday morning’s crack-of-dawn Day 1 launch at the Bassmaster Classic, every competitor discussed the obvious theme: bone-chilling cold.
“I’m cold right now. It’s going to be colder tomorrow. I don’t like it,” said angler Takahiro Omori, a former Classic champion heading into his ninth appearance in the prestigious event.
“I was hoping it would warm up,” Omori said. “This is the coldest I’ve ever fished.”
Angler Jason Quinn, entering his sixth Classic, said, “Cold will definitely be a factor. It probably won’t be above freezing until 1 o’clock. Your lines will be stressed, your guides will be freezing – and that’s not to mention your hands."
Omori and Quinn addressed the awaiting bitter cold during Thursday's Media Day at Tulsa, Okla.’s, Expo Square. The Classic begins Friday on Grand Lake, an hour northeast of the city. Official weigh-ins will be held at Tulsa’s BOK Center.
Seventeen regular Major League Fishing Anglers qualified for the event:
Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens, Skeet Reese, Bobby Lane, Greg Hackney, Dean Rojas, Mark Davis, Takahiro Omori, Shaw Grigsby, Tommy Biffle, Jason Quinn, Mike Iaconelli, Mike McClelland, Alton Jones, Ish Monroe and Boyd Duckett.
Todd Faircloth and Terry Scroggins, who fished single Major League Fishing events as alternates, also made the Bassmaster Classic field. Faircloth competed in Major League Fishing’s inaugural event, the Challenge Cup on Lake Amistad, while Scroggins joined the field for the more recent Summit Cup, which was held on Chautauqua Lake.
“I’d like to say that I’m looking forward to tomorrow, but right now I don’t have the fish to win. That could change, but I don’t have them now,” said Ish Monroe, a Central Californian who is entering his eighth Classic.
“And it’s going to be ‘reeaallly’ cold. And when it’s cold, you get cold. It makes your hands cold. It makes them chappy. You get cuts on your hands and they swell up. You can’t feel anything, and the wind blows on you. I’ll have gloves and a mask on the whole time.”
Several anglers mentioned that wear and tear that a below-freezing competition can have on equipment. Floridian Shaw Grigsby is competing in his 15th Classic. But this could be the coldest, he said.
“I’m actually pretty excited, But the weather is going to be a challenge to most anglers. The thing is that this is hard on guides, rod lockers, aerators, you name it. It’s really possible you won’t have an working aerator until 10 or 11 o’clock,” Grigsby said.
Gonzales, Louisiana’s Greg Hackney, echoed Grigsby’s concerns.
“I really don’t mind the cold. I’ve fished in a lot of cold temperature,” said Hackney, an 11th-time Classic competitor. “It’s probably not so much about what’s going to do to me as it is what it will do to my equipment. It’s only going to break freezing for an hour. We won’t really be able to tell for an hour.”
One angler you might think would have no concern with cold weather would ey former Classic champion Mike Iaconelli. "Not so fast," said Iaconelli.
“I guess I should be used to this, because I grew up fishing in these conditions and still do occasionally,” said Iaconelli, now in his 14th Classic. “But I wish it was August weather. I’d take 90 degrees any day.”
One angler, however, pointed out that the Classic champion will use the weather to his advantage. Edwin Evers, of nearby Talala, Okla., is entering his 12th Classic and said he’s not dwelling on the weather.
“It’s going to be miserable, so you just have to dress for it,” Evers said. “I still expect the fish to bite. The biggest thing is to keep your rods and reels from freezing, to be able to make that long cast.
"I won’t be cold. I’ve got the clothes. And if the wind’s not blowing, you won’t need gloves.”
One Note About Cold and Psychology
While discussing the effect sub-freezing temperatures will have on the anglers, Hackney said results are often about overcoming what cold weather does to an angler’s desire.
“I struggled with my decisions a little in practice,” Hackney said. “You tell yourself not to do this, but I found myself staying in one area because it’s so cold. I stayed long than I normally would. I knew I needed to get on, but I hesitated. And that will slip by you if you’re not careful. You’ve got to move, the same as you would in an 80- or 90-degree tournament.”
Anglers Say There is No Clear Favorite
Conventional wisdom would give a “home-field advantage” to anglers fishing close to their homes. But only one home-state anglers in recent history has won on his own turf: Boyd Duckett in 2007 on Lay Lake, near Birmingham, Alabama.
Evers, who lives within two hours of Grand Lake, didn’t shy away from his role as one of the event’s favorites.
“The people that have got the patience to throw that jerkbait are going to be favorites,” Evers said. “But I will admit, if the conditions force people to change patterns, I know where there are some fish.”
Local Anglers Might Actually Have an Advantage This Year
Duckett said he doesn’t put much stock in home-state or “local” favorites, but he admits that in 2007 he got a boost from a changing weather pattern.
“I don’t put much stock in local anglers having the advantage, because by the time the Classic comes around everybody in the field is familiar with the water, and there aren’t a lot of secrets. The only true advantage a local has is better history and stronger knowledge in changing conditions,” Duckett said.
“When I won the Classic at Lay Lake, I caught fish in places where there were no bites in practice – none. But when the conditions changed, I relied on some knowledge I had. I knew there was a good chance that fish would be moving there.
“So knowing where to drive your boat is helpful,” Duckett said. “And tomorrow, maybe some of the guys with more experience here will have an advantage. They might drive right to a spot where it might take the rest of us all day to find.”