Changing weather patterns and a tough river can play havoc with anglers trying to decide how to fish a tournament.
Especially when $500,000 is on the line.
If Kevin VanDam is going to win an unprecedented third consecutive Classic, he’s going to have to make some decisions. A winning decision. A heroic decision.
The three-day practice period ended Sunday, and the final day of practice won’t be until Wednesday. As far as the Red River, the top angler in the world isn’t certain of much, except that practice wasn’t easy.
“Really, pretty tough for me. It always is,” he said. “The river is not at all like it was last time we came. It was low and stable. Everything was clear. Now, the river is running hard and it’s muddy. It’s a lot dirtier than it was.
“I’m going to give it my best, but it’s going to be tough. It’s going to fish real small and you’re probably going to have to have a little luck in your side.”
Good fortune played a small hand for him the last two years. KVD has been lauded for making well-planned decisions, and they turned golden at Lay Lake and the Louisiana Delta. KVD will have to pull more magic out of his hat to become the first to win three consecutive Classics.
In 2010, he locked down on Beeswax Creek and it produced winning bags. Last year, Venice looked like the deal before conditions turned his spot on Cataouache into the winner. On the Red, he’s yet to decipher a winning plan, he said.
“I’m not even sure I know where I want to go on Wednesday practice,” he said. “I’ll make that decision coming up. It’s going to be tough.”
He’d love to find a spot like Skeet Reese did on his way to a Classic win on the Red River Classic in 2009, where Reese intercepted transitioning fish. Something like that is what the 2012 winner will need to do.
“They’re going to have to find a spot where maybe there’s warm water that’s got some fish continuing to move to them, whether it gets cold and they’re coming out or it gets warm and they’re moving in,” VanDam said. “The problem here is you probably won’t have any place to yourself, unless somebody can find something up north. Some of the guys brought aluminum boats, trying to get into some obscure isolated place where there’s decent water quality. You never know.”
Recent rain has the Corps of Engineers running water, which is murky at best, but the warming trend should help fishing somewhat, he said.
“It’s forecasted to be highs at 60 and lows at 40, so it’s going to get a little warmer. We’ll take it all. If it was real cold, it would be horrible,” he said. “It’s going to be helpful. I’d like it to be 80. With that much current flowing through it won’t warm enough.
“We got a ton of rain locally, but we didn’t get it in Oklahoma, where it’s going to make the river rise for days, but it’s still coming in here. They’re ripping it to keep it at the level it is. The backwaters are colored up real strong. Before, you could go behind a wing dam and it was fishable. There’s a lot of current in a lot of places. High water, it just makes (fish) go where you can’t get to them. With the water that dirty, it’s hard to pinpoint fish.”
Though he’s not sure where he’s going to finish practice Wednesday, he was asked if he had idea where this derby might be won.
“I don’t,” he said. “My bet right now is Pool 3, because you could potentially have something to yourself. Or Pool 5, because you get the most fishing time.
“It’s one of those things. Every year you take a gamble. Last two years it’s worked out for me. Last time I was here I gambled on a place and it didn’t work, and I’m going to have to do the same.
“In the end, somebody’s going to look like a hero.”