Ultimate Bass

Classic Contenders Flock to Louisiana for Valuable Red River Scouting Time

The first woman who will compete in a Bassmaster ClassicMany 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers are in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., this week, checking out the Red River before the off-limits period goes into effect Dec. 15. After the cutoff, their next look…

The 2007 Classic champion, Boyd DuckettMany 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers are in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., this week, checking out the Red River before the off-limits period goes into effect Dec. 15. After the cutoff, their next look at the water will be the official Classic practice days, Feb. 13-15. Competitors will have a final look at the Classic waters on Feb. 18.

The 2007 Classic champion, Boyd Duckett, is one of the 2009 Classic competitors looking for hints this week at how the Red River will fish on the Classic competition days of Feb. 20-22.

“This is my first trip here. It seems to fish very similarly to the Tombigbee, the river where I live,” said Duckett, who is from Demopolis, Ala. “And I’m seeing some really good-looking February stuff.”

By that Duckett means he’s found areas he believes will produce when the Classic competition plays out. Duckett is figuring in February that the river level likely will be higher — the river’s very low now, he said — and the bass probably will be in pre-spawn mode.

Duckett, who was the first angler to win a Classic in his home state when he won on Alabama’s Lay Lake in February 2007, said he has been surprised by the quality of the bass he’s found in the Red River. He predicted that the winning weight of the Red River Classic will approach 60 pounds. The record for the heaviest three-day weight (based on a five-fish limit) caught in a Classic is held by Luke Clausen, who boated 56 pounds, 2 ounces, in 2006 on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga.

“There are bigger fish here than I realized,” Duckett said. “I thought it would be a 13- to 14-pound-a-day tournament. Now I think the leader’s going to have one or two big bites a day that will help them into that 19- or 20-pound-a-day range.”

Weather and water temperatures will be key, he said, but cold or no cold, he still expects hefty bags each day.

“The third week in February, that’s early spring in Louisiana. If we get just a little bit warmer weather, and the water temperature gets to 54, 55 degrees, that will run the pre-spawn fish up toward the banks. But even if we get some really cold weather, I’m still betting there will be some anglers who will figure out how to catch those big pre-spawners. But it’ll be an unbelievable tournament if we get some warm weather.”

TOP 2008 STORIES: The sport of bass fishing continues to earn widespread attention from mainstream, national media. In addition to 2008, ESPN outlets, including ESPN2’s The Bassmasters, delivered bass-fishing to varied outlets.

* Although it’s still developing, the story of Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., as the first woman who will compete in a Bassmaster Classic already has the media’s ear — and the 2009 Classic is still two months away.

The USA Today featured Bain and her quest for the first woman Classic berth heading into the final WBT event of the season, the Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors. Additionally, Bain-Moore’s historic Classic qualification was highlighted by ESPN’s First Take, SportsCenter and ESPNNews.

Bain, who was born in Australia, continues to be a media darling in her birth country receiving coverage in many of Australia’s major newspapers. She also has recently been the subject of lengthy features in The Palm Beach Post, Birmingham News and others.

* In August, when Kevin VanDam became a four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, it was a feat that garnered headlines nationwide, including coverage from the Associated Press and extensive coverage by ESPN. The Kalamazoo, Mich., Elite Series pro’s accomplishment was No. 3 on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays of the Day.” VanDam also appeared on First Take, ESPNNews and on Mike and Mike in the Morning.

*In February, Mike and Mike in the Morning broadcast live from South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell during the 2008 Bassmaster Classic. Mike Golic and occasional host Erik Kuselias did the show’s first-time coverage of the Classic, bass fishing’s most prestigious tournament.

The two are scheduled to team up again for a show at the 2009 Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. They’ll broadcast live from the launch site, Red River South Marina in Bossier City, from 6-10 a.m. Feb. 20.

* In March, newspapers such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times, as well as TV, radio and Web sites covered the visit to the White House by two bass fishing champions. Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, was invited by President Bush for a visit after the angler won the 2008 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. Judy Wong of Many, La., received her invite after triumphing at the Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors on Lake Keowee, S.C.

MARSHAL SUPPORT. The 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., came out strong in his Dec. 4 blog at Bassmaster.com in favor of the Bassmaster Elite Series’ new Marshal Program.

A four-time AOY, VanDam said the program is “one of the best things to happen to our sport in years.”

The Marshal Program offers in-the-boat observer experiences to fishing fans. Those who sign up for the program will be randomly paired with a different Elite pro on at least two of the four days of a 2009 Elite competition. The $100 program cost, VanDam points out, is a deal for what amounts to intensive seminars on tournament fishing, one-on-one with the sport’s best pros.

Wrote VanDam: “The Marshals who go out with me will get a seminar on how I’m fishing. And I know the other Elite Series competitors feel the same way. I haven’t talked to a single one who isn’t excited about this program and who doesn’t intend to do exactly what I intend to do.”

Details of the Marshal Program are available by clicking here. Fishing fans can register by calling 1-877-BASS-USA.

IN THE HUNT. If you needed to track down Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle this time of year, you’d have to walk the woods near Union Springs, Ala., very early in the day, wear orange, and don’t forget to look up.

Any given day Monday through Thursday, he’s very likely to be found perched in one of his numerous treestands on his hunting lease near Union Springs, Ala., a few hours southeast of his home in Warrior, Ala. He shares the 3,000-acre lease with six deer-hunting buddies.

“I have an extreme obsession — it’s almost an affliction — with bow hunting, to say the least,” Swindle said. “I stay at it pretty hard. I cycle between 24 and 26 treestands.”

He said bow hunting is his way to get away from it all.

“This is the corner of my world where I come and just forget about everything. I can absolutely ‘get lost’ in the woods. It recharges me for the next fishing season and gets my mind off of everything else,” he said.

So far this year, he said he’s taken one management buck (a younger male deer with no chance of growing into a trophy) and four does with his bow. Although he likes venison, he often donates the meat to a charity that provides food to people in need.

The best part of the hunting season is yet to come. Late December or early January in Alabama is when the rut is in full swing. He and his wife, Lee Ann, plan to head back to the lease Christmas night to get in a few days of hunting.

“My daughter has hunted some with us, but she’s at that age — 17 this spring — when one day she wants to hunt, then doesn’t want to the next day. She and my wife gun hunt. They’re good shots, if I can keep my daughter off her cell phone and get her to lay off the text messaging.”

ELITE BABY: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bradley Hallman and his wife, Dawn, have a new baby in the house: Katelyn Taylor, born Dec. 2. That makes two girls for the Hallmans, who live in Norman, Okla. Their first child, Makenzie Dawn, is 4 years old.

Hallman said his family doesn’t travel with him on the Elite trail, but Makenzie has already developed an interest in fishing. “She’s spent some time with a rod in her hand, for sure. It probably won’t take long for Katelyn to do the same,” he said.

FISHING FUN IN MEXICO: “I’m getting ready to head back out to Lake El Salto again — second time this year! Hey, it’s a tough gig but somebody’s gotta do it.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Denny Brauer of Camden, Mo., in his Dec. 5 blog at Bassmaster.com

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNMediaZone.com. for ESPN’s latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video, audio clips and more.

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