Tuesday finds the 2010 Bassmaster Classic contenders organizing their tackle and their thoughts before a hectic schedule, which begins with tomorrow’s last practice day and kicks the rest of the week into high gear, culminating with the final weigh-in on Sunday afternoon. Here are today’s thoughts.

1.  Based on what you found during your three practice days, do you now want to change your weight prediction to win this year’s Classic?

Kevin VanDam (Plano pro staff) – It’s going to be tough for the overall field, but since it’s a winter pattern, someone can get on a spot and catch ’em pretty good. I say it’s the toughest Classic I’ve fished. Pittsburgh weights were light but just because the fish were small … it wasn’t necessarily tough fishing. I’m saying 45 pounds.

Jeff Kriet (Jewel Bait Co. and Sebile pro staff) – I’m staying with my same guess of 33-34 pounds. It snowed hard here again yesterday, for maybe 3 hours. I’d be happy with 12 pounds per day, thinkin’ I’d have a shot at the win with that.

Todd Faircloth (Sebile pro staff) – My number is still good. I feel it’s going to take around 43 pounds.

Kevin Short (Jewel pro staff) – I can’t say I found anything to change my original weight from the low 40s.

Tommy Biffle (Gene Larew pro staff)- I do want to change. Lower it from my 40 pounds said earlier, to 35 pounds. There will be fish caught, but I’m just not sure the bigger ones are going to be much of a factor under these conditions.

Mike McClelland (Jewel pro staff) – I’m keeping my same low- to mid-40s. I know the quality of fish that live here, and when you put 51 of the top anglers in the country on this body of water, somebody is going to catch ’em.
2.  During your practice, did you find yourself to be rusty at any particular technique because of the long layoff since a tournament?

Kevin VanDam – No, not really. The toughest thing for me is to make myself slow down. I’m used to go-go. This time, it’s really more about being prepared for staying dry and warm. Being from Michigan, I know how to dress for these conditions and I came well prepared to keep my hands and feet as warm and dry as possible.

Jeff Kriet – Yeah, I really did. Some of the bites were so subtle, and because it was so cold, they were hard to detect. I found myself questioning some really light bites, where things just got mushy. I was a little off to start with but got that fixed.

Todd Faircloth – I felt really good. It’s been rather routine, other than having to deal with the snow and ice. It’s just back to work.

Kevin Short – No, I fished all winter to keep that from happening. I really tried to fish 2-3 days every week. It has made a difference with these conditions being what they are.

Tommy Biffle – No, not really. I stay pretty active all winter long, hunting and working in my shop. I’ve been fishing some, and I like to winter crappie fish, too, so that also helps keep the senses sharp for subtle bites.

Mike McClelland – I’ve found my casting to be a little off, but it’s really more from ice being in my rod guides than being rusty. So, not really. The conditions have me limited to just a few techniques to I’ve been able to stay right with what’s going on here.

3.  Standing up and fishing all day in warm weather is one thing, but totally different when fishing in cold weather, especially if fighting wind or river current for any time at all. Did you find yourself to be sore or battle ready?

Kevin VanDam – Well, it is tiring. Because it is cold, you burn lots of calories. I practice from dawn to dusk and it’s a drain. You really feel it at the end of the day when you sit down. You’re definitely tired.

Jeff Kriet – What hurts me the most is a sore back from all of the clothes I’m having to wear in these conditions. I’ve got so many layers on, and the extra weight from them, does give me a backache by the end of the day.

Todd Faircloth – All the clothes you have to wear, including wet weather gear, really takes a toll on your back. It does ache at the end of the day. Otherwise I feel well conditioned. I’ve stayed active during the winter by hunting and spending other time outdoors.

Kevin Short – I actually feel like I’m well conditioned. But I winter-fished for that purpose. In 2007, I laid off from fishing for a 6-8 week period and I was hurting during the Classic that year as a result. I’ve found as I get older, I can’t really lay off and expect to just start back up and be in top form.

Tommy Biffle – No, because I’m a well-trained athlete (said with a laugh). The only real problem comes with having to wear so many clothes to stay warm and dry. That wears on you some, but it’s just something you have to expect and deal with.

Mike McClelland – I’ve been working on conditioning over the last five or six weeks, spending at least 30 minutes a day on the treadmill for five days per week. Your cold weather gear can really wear on you, but I’ve been extremely comfortable by going to a pair of Mustang Survival pants instead of bib pants. I’ve found no bibs take some of the pressure off the shoulders and back, and I’ve stayed extremely warm. Going with light layers of clothing on the upper body also helps eliminate weight.

4.  What’s on your agenda for Tuesday, being basically your last low-activity day before things really get going fast and furious for Classic week?

Kevin VanDam – I’ll be working on some equipment, continuing to prepare for tomorrow’s last practice day. We also have registration today and a rules meeting. Tonight is the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame dinner and I’ll be speaking at it.

Jeff Kriet – I need to get to my boat and tie some baits on, but probably going to have to wait a while because I’m sure my rod locker is frozen shut. I’ll spend some time looking over my lake map, thinking about tomorrow’s practice. We have some BASS scheduled things later in the day.

Todd Faircloth – I’m going to use it as a kind of take-it-easy day. Do some relaxing. I will get to my boat at some point today, dust the snow off and do some tinkering with gear and baits. We also have official registration and a tournament briefing today.

Kevin Short – I’ve got some things to take care of, like laundry to do, gear to wash, and accompany my wife on an outing she needs to make to Cullman. I also need to work on tackle a little, and we do have some BASS meetings.

Tommy Biffle – I’ll spend some time in my boat, getting rods and baits ready. This is my brand new boat so I still have a little organizing to do for everything to be exactly where and how I want it. I’ll get registered today and we have a tournament meeting to attend later.

Mike McClelland – I got my boat washed and shined up yesterday, and my truck cleaned, so today is more about getting some gear ready. I’d like to spend some time in my boat going through stuff, but until I see if it’s going to warm up any or not, I’m going to spend some time looking at my maps for some potential new areas to check out on our last practice day.

5.  How do you intend to use your last practice day tomorrow (Wednesday)?

Kevin VanDam – I’m treating it as a totally independent practice day and will be looking to expand my areas. Because I am having to slow down so much I haven’t been able to get to all the areas I’ve wanted to look at, so there’s still a lot for me to explore; lots of places I haven’t been.

Jeff Kriet – I’ll look at totally different areas. I’ve been all the way north and all the way south, tomorrow I’ll spend in the mid section. I’ll also fish differently. I’m thinking I’ll throw a Flatt Shad for a big part of the day, knowing a lipless vibrating bait can be really effective this time of year.

Todd Faircloth – I’ll fish something totally different than I have previously. I have some areas I feel decent about so now I want to keep looking for something better. I’ll also be trying to make my decision as to where I want to start the tournament.

Kevin Short – I do have one area that I want to return to and explore some more. I saw some things I liked the look of in it and need to do some more research. I also intend to check out some brand new areas.

Tommy Biffle – I’ll do something totally different from what I’ve already practiced. I’ve already looked at what I know I’m going to do, so tomorrow I’ll try to come up with more options. With the bites as few and far between as they are, the last thing I want to do is go back into my areas that I know I’ll be fishing in and waste a bite in practice.

Mike McClelland – I have some areas to be able to run a pattern now, so tomorrow I’ll be using my time to look to see if I’ve overlooked a spot or two that might pay off. My approach has always been to pick a section of a lake and learn it as well as I can for my tournament days. That’s the case here. I’ve eliminated half of the lake as far as anything I’ll be fishing, so I’ll be looking to expand my knowledge in the other half on Wednesday. Some of what I’ll be doing is trying to target largemouths to give me more weight than just having to rely on spotted bass.

6.  For someone who is really wanting to get into bass fishing, not necessarily competitive bass fishing, what is your recommendation for the rod length and action, and the three primary baits to become proficient with?

Kevin VanDam – For the greatest versatility, go with a 6.5 ft. baitcast or spinning outfit, either medium or medium heavy action. The baits would be plastic worm, spinnerbait and crankbait. The good thing is, most aren’t going to limit equipment to just one rod and reel, and only three baits.

Jeff Kriet – I’d steer ’em toward a 7 ft. medium-heavy action casting rod because it will handle everything from my Squirrel Head shaky rig to a jig to a crankbait. Those would also be the three baits I’d encourage someone to learn to fish well. I’m telling you, if you like to catch numbers of fish, that shaky head is something you need to know.

Todd Faircloth – I suggest going with a 7 ft. medium-heavy action rod because you can use that outfit for lots of applications. The baitcast reel should be something around a 6:1 gear ratio for the same versatility. As for baits, it’s going to be crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics.

Kevin Short – It would be to get a 7 ft. medium-heavy action rod with a fast taper. For baits, you’ve got to have jigs, crankbaits the run 8-10 feet and swimbaits. That combination gives you everything you need for fishing shallow, mid-range and deep.

Tommy Biffle – I say it has to be a 6 ft. 10 inch heavy-action rod because that allows you to fish some of the easiest baits to use, which are also among the most productive, and gives you the best tool for the job of pitching or casting. It’s stiff enough to easily detect bites, and stout enough to pull bass from cover. For baits, it should be a jig, soft plastics and crankbaits. Soft plastics, like a craw or my bug Texas-rigged and with a pegged sinker, give almost any level of angler a chance to catch a bass in cover because you can rig them weedless and go right in where they hide.  

Mike McClelland – Go with a 7 ft. or 7 ft. 4 inch rod. The length is good for a lot of different techniques, and provides good hook-setting and fish-fighting leverage. I’m a big believer in jigs, and that ranges from finesse sizes all the way up to Jewel Football Jigs and Flip’N Jigs. And I’d say crankbaits and swimbaits would be the other two categories.