Weather Not Everything

Defending Classic champ Chris Lanes writes 'Never fish in snow' on his boat deck. (B.A.S.S. photo)

On Classic eve, competitors say more to it than Mother Nature

TULSA, Okla. — The guard at Tulsa’s BOK Center shook her head.

“We haven’t seen snow in downtown Tulsa all winter. The Bassmaster Classic comes to town, and we get snow,” she said.

And cold, ice, sleet, rain — even thunder and lightning — all in the days leading up to the Friday through Sunday world championship of bass fishing on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Fifty-three anglers will compete for $500,000 and the most prestigious title in the sport.

While weekend anglers might shy away from fishing in inclement weather, competitors in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa don’t have a choice, and most are ready to deal with it. They practiced last weekend in cold and snow. Most braved the snowstorm of Wednesday for the final practice session on Grand Lake.

Some of the competitors say that the angler who handles Mother Nature best on Friday, the first competition day, will set himself up for a run at the trophy in Sunday’s finale. Other competitors say weather is important, but won’t rule the day.

Marty Robinson, qualifier from Lyman, S.C., is in the “will rule” camp.

“I think it’s all about the weather,” said Robinson, who as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro has competed in all kinds of weather, not just what his home state of South Carolina dishes up. He anticipates that Friday’s weather — sunny and clear with a high of 34, a low of 21, according to The Weather Channel — will keep the water temperature low and cut into the catch rates.

“The weather tomorrow is going to make it as tough as it can get,” he added. “We’re going to see this cold front move through, and drop the water temperature several degrees. Once the water temp gets into the lower 40s, the bass get real lethargic and don’t do a lot of eating or moving around.

“Tomorrow will be a survival day more than anything,” Robinson said.

Another Elite Series pro, Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., sees the forecast for Friday as setting up Day One as the toughest of the three, weatherwise. He is ready to adjust and prepared to take the time to stay warm, keep his fingers nimble, do what he can to de-ice rod guides and level winds on reels.

His mental game isn’t affected, he said. He’s used to fishing lakes in the higher altitudes of California, and as an Elite pro, has seen it all.

“I think all of us [Classic competitors] have been out in extreme weather, hot or cold, so mentally I don’t see it being an issue — for anybody,” he said. “It will affect the fishing, sure. Tomorrow, I don’t see them [the bass] standing in line to bite,” he said. “But everybody’s in the same boat.”

Mark Dove from North Vernon, Ind., who qualified as the winner of the 2012 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, would love to see a repeat of Wednesday’s snowstorm.

“They were biting,” he said.

High, blue skies is what he’ll get Friday, he said, and that won’t help anyone.

Like Dove, Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., would like to see a repeat of Wednesday’s storm.

“Snow, and more snow,” he said. “I’m used to it. I like it.”

He won’t likely get snow, so he’ll take what comes, he said. He’s got a game plan to adjust as weather changes.

VanDam said another factor will affect the outcome of this Classic more than will weather: boat traffic.

“There were spectator boats in practice,” he said. “I expect twice as many during the tournament. That’s going to affect the guys doing well. The favorites — Kevin [his uncle, four-time Classic champ Kevin VanDam], Jason Christie, Edwin Evers, Mike McClelland — are going to have to deal with spectators. That helps even the playing field a little bit.”

Elite pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., points out that the 90-minute drive to and from the fishery can be a concern if roads ice over, but as far as the fishing goes, he isn’t going to obsess about weather.

“I think whatever weather we get will be exactly what I wanted to have,” he said. “That’s just how it is. You can only take care of the things you can control. You need to save your focus for the things you do best, what will help you do better than the other guy. You can’t focus on weather.”

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