TULSA, Okla. —Defending Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane has a one-word reply for all questions leading up to Classic No. 43 that begins Friday on Grand Lake of the Cherokees.
“Cold,” Lane said after spending five snowy hours Wednesday on the final practice day leading up to the Friday-through-Sunday tournament that’s become known as the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.”
How about a forecast of 19 degees when the 53 anglers hit the Wolf Creek Launch for Friday’s 7 a.m. take-off.
How about Thursday’s prediction that more snow was on the way and possibly followed by an ice storm when most anything liquid will be solid sometime later in the afternoon.
“It’s going to be a mental thing,” Lane said. “It’s going to be physically challenging, but you’re going to have to stay up mentally in order to compete.”
Lane’s last adventure in frigid Classic conditions came in his first Classic appearance, in Greenville, S.C., on Lake Hartwell five years ago.
Snow greeted the anglers that first tournament morning, and Lane admitted those conditions threw him a Sandy Koufax-like curveball.
Lane, then living in central Florida, said he didn’t like the cold, but has since changed his mental and physical approach to his chosen sport, and last year’s 51-pound catch and subsequent 3-pound-plus win on the Red River in Shreveport was proof.
But last year’s Red River chill was a walk in the park compared to what anglers could face on Grand Lake all three tournament days. While conditions will moderate from Friday’s first-round 19-degree morning to a mid-30s afternoon high, Saturday’s sunny 25-degree low/40 high or Sunday’s 28-degree morning and a 60-degree heat wave.
So, will No. 43 be forever known as the “White Classic?”
Maybe so, but only if the contenders forget about the hours of preparation they began since Tuesday when it looked like the coldest-ever Classic was in their future.
Michael Iaconelli, the New Jersey native who chalked up a Classic title in 2003 in New Orleans, said last week’s Thursday-Saturday practice days were a tutorial. That stretch of days started with a warm day, followed by passage of an overnight, rainy cold front and two days of an Arctic chill.
Iaconelli said he started Saturday’s practice day with frozen rod lockers on his boat and a frozen trolling motor prop.
The LSU team of Beau Hadskey and Richard Murdock added $2,000 to their team’s club account after taking a five-bass, 20-pound, 13-ounce stringer to win the Southern Conference Tournament in the FLW College Fishing circuit last Saturday on Toledo Bend.
Hadskey of Baton Rouge and Murdock of Lawrenceville, Ga., said they ran to calmer waters on the south end of the vast reservoir, to the Mill Creek and Six-Mile bays areas and caught fish “...on the sides of points in six feet or shallower water on the side of points.”