North American Fishing Guides

Pros Prepare For Classic in Various Ways

After completing the official seven-day scouting mission on the Louisiana Delta in preparation for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, the 61 contenders have the next three weeks to rest, relax and enjoy the summer, right?

Wrong. Although there is a break in the action for most, the Classic pros will be hard at work preparing for the biggest event of their careers.

Six pros will get a Classic warm-up this week while competing in the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in Reno. They include Shaw Grigsby, Gary Klein, Zell Rowland, Ron Shuffield, Peter Thliveros and CITGO BASS Federation champion Jerry Shawver.

You can bet that the rest of the Classic field will spend their off time getting ready for the Big Show in the Big Easy. Here's a sampling:

Kevin VanDam, winner of the 2001 Classic held on the Delta, says he will have the Classic on his mind constantly while at home in Michigan.

"I'm trying to get a lot of things prepared based on what I saw down there (in practice) as far as my tackle and equipment," the three-time BASS Angler of the Year said. "I'll call Strike King and place an order for all of the stuff I'm going to need right away. I'll go through and have all of it ready to go - crankbaits tuned, spinnerbaits ready, topwaters lined up, hooks changed on all of my baits. So basically all I'll have to do is tie on when I get down there.

"Usually for the Classic, after I figure out what pattern I'm going to run and how I'm going to fish, I try to fish some of that at home. If I'm planning on flipping down there, I try to go out and do nothing but flipping for a couple of days just to keep in tune with what I'll be doing in New Orleans. Also, I get out in the heat and keep acclimated to it."

It will be difficult for VanDam to recreate heat and humidity similar to what he will face in southern Louisiana, though.

Texas pro Bud Pruitt, who will be competing in his fifth Classic, has been busily preparing for days now.

"I've been really studying my maps and trying to get dialed into things better," he said. "I'm keeping an eye on the weather down there and just getting my tackle about as tweaked as I can. I don't want to go there with 10 rods on the front deck. I need to have about two.

"If I can just keep it simple and do what I do best over there, I think I'll have my opportunities."

Former Angler of the Year Tim Horton is taking a similar approach to past summers for getting ready for his fourth consecutive Classic appearance.

"I will make sure I have everything ordered from the tackle companies that I'm going to need," the Alabama angler said. "Really go through the rods and reels I'm carrying, and make sure they're in good shape because we're limited to 10. I want to be as prepared as I can with what I carry down there.

"And exercising. I've been trying to exercise a lot because that humidity down there is really tough and it can sap the energy out of you. I've been running here in the humidity and lifting some weights. I've been on a little diet and actually lost 10 pounds. So I'm feeling pretty good about that.

"It's important to get into better shape because I think the biggest variable we have down there is the heat. Last time we had a lot of wind, which kind of negated it. But if you have those sultry, still August days, you just feel like you're in the shower, you're so wet."

THLIVEROS' WILD RIDE. The 2003 Tour season was the longest ever with 10 tournaments - and Peter Thliveros is certainly glad.

Considering his roller-coaster performance, the Florida pro needed the long year to qualify for his ninth Classic appearance. "After this season, I feel like a yo-yo," Thliveros said.

That's because he had some great performances - a sixth, two sevenths, a 10th, a 23rd and a 26th. But then he stunk up the joint in four others - 59th, 94th, 109th and 154th.

"The first part of the year, it was up and down, up and down, but finally, by the end of the season, I had it together," Thliveros said. "I had a sixth at Eufaula, a 26th at Clear Lake, a 10th at Stockton, and two sevenths at Lake Hamilton and the Alabama River."

That strong finish gives him plenty of momentum heading into New Orleans.

TYING A DIFFERENT KIND OF KNOT. Alabama pro Kyle Mabry recently reeled in the best catch of his career. He and Beth Garrett were married in Bessemer, Ala., and then honeymooned on a cruise through the Caribbean. "It was the longest I've ever been around the water without making a cast," Mabry said. "That was tough."

CHANGING OF THE GUARD? Believe it or not, this year's Classic field includes just four past Classic winners: Jay Yelas, Kevin VanDam, Davy Hite and Mark Davis.

DID YOU KNOW? Four Japanese pros have qualified for the Classic: Takahiro Omori (2001 and 2003), Kotaro Kiriyama (2000-02), Toshinari Namiki (1997) and Norio Tanube ((200).

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Texan Randy Dearman turns 56 on July 16. Classic contender Kevin Wirth will be 43 on July 20, while four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn will blow out 57 candles four days later, On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Texas pro Todd Faircloth celebrates his 28th birthday on July 25.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... Oklahoma pro and Classic contender Kenyon Hill would likely be a member of the creative world. "I was in college studying marketing, mainly because in advertising and PR the projects are always changing," he said. "I just didn't want to do the same thing every day."

THEY SAID IT. "I've had a great time, and having my wife and daughter with me on the Tour has made a big difference. It cost me a lot more doing it that way, but I don't have a bunch of guys staying with me snoring and carrying on. I was single and did that a long time. I shared rooms with other guys and did it as cheap as I could do it. That's not the way to live. My family keeps me grounded. I come in each day and there's my family. She cooks dinner and just makes it a lot easier for me. I think I do a lot better because of that." Arizona pro and CITGO Rookie of the Year Mark Kile.


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