One more dress rehearsal before the big lights go on. Whatever the 50 Bassmaster Classic competitors still need to learn about Lake Hartwell and its bass, they'd better learn it today.

It's the final walk-through before the sport's premier event, and how each angler approaches it depends largely upon how he fared during the 3 official practice days last week. Some will go out just to make sure what they found is still there, while many others will seek a revelation that eluded them before.

BassFan posed a series of questions to eight Classic competitors on the eve of the last practice day in an attempt to determine whether they thought they could contend for the title on what they found during official practice, or whether they'd need to stumble across something today or during the tournament to have a chance. There was a lot of moaning and groaning about the tough bite last week, but as always, a few guys got onto something good.



Boyd Duckett: Defending Champ Wants to Stay Deep

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – It was pretty decent – I'd probably give it an 8.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – That would probably be weather . There are a lot of fish at the threshold of swimming shallow, and if we get 3 or 4 warm days in a row, they'll move to the banks and it'll change the tournament. I've got fish that are deep and some guys don't, so I'd prefer that it doesn't change too much.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I'm going to check the locales of where I found the largest numbers of fish, and I hope to find them sitting right where I left them last Thursday.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I'm ready to start. It's been a long offseason and I think all of us are ready to compete. I'm chomping at the bit.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – I think it's going to take an average of 18 pounds a day to win, so I want to catch more than that.

    Todd Auten: The Sun would be Welcome

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – Probably a 6. I'm kind of disappointed in myself – I was really hoping to have a better practice.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – I think it's the weather. If the sun comes out, it should help me. If it's rainy and cold, I don't think that'll help me at all.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – To get on the mother lode. That's the only thing I know to wish for right now.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I am excited, even though I didn't have a good practice. If I'd been catching 5-pounders, I'd probably be a nervous wreck.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – I'd say 15 pounds or more would be a good goal – that's what I'll need to catch to stay in it.



    BassFan
    Photo: BassFan

    Greg Hackney doesn't want to have to rely on the fish he found last week to carry him through 3 days.

    Greg Hackney: Not Finished Looking Around

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – I'd say it was a 5. But I have such high expectations for the Classic that it'd be hard to have any practice that I'd rate higher than a 6.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – If the weather forecast holds up and it's warm and rainy, the bite's going to be totally different than what we've been seeing. Those conditions have a way of making fish bite. If that happens, I think you're going to see a lot of fish caught.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I want to find something better than what I've found so far. I don't want to have to depend on what I've got.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I'm pretty laid back. It'll probably be (Thursday) before I really get the Classic jitters.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – To be within striking distance when it's over, and to dial in something that I can improve on over the following 2 days.

    Alton Jones: Plan Needs Some Fine-Tuning

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – I'd put it at about a 6. I feel like I know what the fish are doing, but I'm having a hard time getting them to cooperate as well as I'd like.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – Somebody finding a glory hole – one place where they can camp and catch fish 3 days. I certainly haven't found anything like that.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – Just to figure out what lure I need be fishing to trigger strikes, or maybe the little tweak I need to make to my retrieve. Sometimes it's something real subtle.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I'd say I'm excited. It's the biggest event in the sport and I'm ready to get the game started. The hardest part is waiting for kickoff. Once we get past that, then I can settle back into fishing.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – That's going to be a critical day, so obviously I'd like to catch a big sack. I'd like to get to a point where I feel like I should back off of my fish, but you can't do that in this tournament because they might not be there tomorrow.

    Dave Wolak: In Search of the Magical School

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – I'd say about a 6. I spent most of my time moving around and trying to locate that one magical school of fish. That's usually what it takes to win one of these. Somebody will find a good group of 4- to 5-pounders. I just hope it's me.

    BassFan
    Photo: BassFan

    Dave Wolak is confident, but he'd still like to find one big school of fish.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – Suspended fish can play a big factor in this tournament if somebody figures out how to catch them. A guy like John Murray who's good with a dropshot could have a good chance at catching those fish.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I'm looking for that magical group of fish that I can ride all 3 days. I know that school is out there, I just have to find it. I'm looking for that, and I'm looking for a spot that'll replenish itself.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I'm really excited. This is my third Classic, so I've been through the whole nervous thing in the past. I don't want to say it's just another tournament, but I'm confident in what I'm doing, and I feel pretty relaxed.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – I used to be a big proponent of saving fish throughout a tournament, but I don't think that way anymore. I'm looking to catch as many fish as I can every single day. This is the Classic. You can't save anything or hope to just get by. I think 17 pounds a day will be really strong.

    Chris Lane: Looking for Five Bites

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – As far as locating fish that'll win the Bassmaster Classic, I rate it a 10. I've found some good-sized fish. Now I just have to find a way to get five bites. I have about 10 different areas I plan to hit twice every day. Hopefully I can put a limit together doing that.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – Definitely the weather. My best day of pre-fishing was when the weather was the nastiest. I wish it would rain every day of the tournament, but the forecast is looking pretty stable right now. If the sun comes out and warms things up, we could see some more fish moving shallow on the final day. That could change everything up.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I've found two schools of really solid fish. I'm just hoping I can go back and locate those schools. If I can find those schools during the tournament, it could be over in five casts.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I haven't really had time to get nervous. I'm super-excited. I'm excited for me and my brother (Bobby). Right now all I'm thinking about is getting five bites a day. If I can do that, I've got a shot at winning it. That's exciting to think about.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? –
    On the first day my goal is to bring in a 20-pound sack. I think it'll take somewhere between 18 and 20 pounds a day to win – maybe even more than that. With the way the weather is shaping up, I think the total weight record could be broken this week.

    (Editor's note: The current record for the heaviest 3-day total in the Bassmaster Classic is 56-02 set by Luke Clausen in the 2006 Classic at Florida's Lake Toho.)

    Derek Remitz: It's Been a Real Scramble

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – Right now I'd say probably a 1, maybe a 2 if I'm being generous. I think I was just trying to make them bite the way I want them to bite, and it hasn't happened for me yet. I'm throwing jigs and fishing the bottom, but I think there are too many suspended fish for that to work.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – The weather. It's supposed to be fairly stable, but you never know. I think these fish want to move up, but the temperature just hasn't hit that mark yet. If we get on a warming trend these fish could move a lot. Right now they're just following the bait.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I'd like to find that miracle school of 3- to 4-pounders. I hear people talking about the schools and I know they're out there. I haven't found them yet, but I'm going to drop back and punt (today) and see if I can put something together.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – If the tournament started today I don't know what I would do. I'm mentally prepared – I just don't have anything to try. I'm not too nervous, though. You know me, I just do what I do. If it works, it works. I'm looking forward to it.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – I'd like to catch 15 pounds a day. I don't know if that'll win it, but it should be close. I think if you can get a 20-pound day, a 16-pound day and a 13-pound day, you'll be in good shape.

    Fred Roumbanis: First-Timer is Psyched

  • 1. Rate your practice on a scale of 1 to 10 – If you're talking about quality, definitely a 10, but quantity is a different story – probably a 3. A lot of changes are going on right now. If we get some stable weather during the tournament I think the bites will come. They're sort of dormant right now, though.

  • 2. What do you see as the biggest wildcard, or "X-Factor" in the event? – The schools are going to be a factor, of course, but it's going to be really tough to rely on that for 3 days. The guy who wins is going to have to execute perfectly. I think a lot of guys will be in a position to win, but all it takes is one 6-pounder that gets off and it's over for you. It should be really fun to watch.

  • 3. If you could have one wish for the final day of practice today, what would it be? – I want to focus on getting more bites on some different baits and try to build up my confidence. I feel comfortable with what I've found, but I want to add a few more good spots to my list.

  • 4. Describe your emotions about the event right now – are you excited, nervous? – I'm really, really excited. This is my first Classic, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. Just to walk across that stage is going to be pretty awesome, but it'll be even better if I've got a big bag of fish to take with me.

  • 5. In terms of day 1, what's your goal? – My goal is to catch five fish. If I can catch five then I should have about 20 pounds, and I feel like that'll be a pretty solid weight. I think 18 pounds a day will probably be enough to win it.