BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The 51 professional anglers who are competing in the Bassmaster Classic this week will have to deal with frigid temperatures that will make for tough, frustrating fishing.
After struggling yet again to catch decent numbers of fish on the final day of practice Wednesday on Lay Lake, several of the pros echoed the sentiments of former Classic champion Davey Hite.
When giving seminars, Hite likes to talk about fishing in extreme weather conditions to emphasize the importance of not losing your focus in a tournament.
"I never fished a tournament where no one caught a fish," Hite says. "No matter how tough it is, someone will catch something."
After four days of practice that had the anglers dealing with snow -- which was a first for Pam Martin-Wells, who qualified as the Women's Bassmaster Tour angler of the year -- as well as ice, muddy water and water temperatures in the 40s, anything is looking pretty good right now for the Classic, which is Friday through Sunday.
"The winner won't need to limit," Greg Hackney said, referring to the five bass a day that anglers are allowed to bring to the scales at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. "It's quality, not quantity."
When Boyd Duckett won the Classic on Lay Lake in 2007, he caught a three-day total of 15 fish weighing 48 pounds, 10 ounces. Duckett, of Demopolis, Ala., who is fishing this Classic, won three years ago by catching a quick limit of largemouth bass on lipless crankbaits, then targeting bigger largemouths by flipping a plastic crawfish.
Several anglers have said they plan to target more aggressive spotted bass this week because they believe the cold has made the largemouths too lethargic to bite. But Hackney, of Gonzales, La., said it might be too cold even for the spots.
"The extreme temperatures have affected the spots as much as the largemouths," Hackney said.
After getting only four bites in his four practice days, Classic rookie Billy McCaghren, of Mayflower, Ark., has set his sights fairly low for the tournament known as the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
"I can see a few people catching big (stringers)," he said, "... but I think limits are going to be tough. I'll fish for three good bites a day."
What: The 40th Bassmaster Classic is Friday through Sunday in Birmingham, Ala.
Where: The Classic's 51 anglers fish about 40 miles south of Birmingham on Lake Lay, a 47-mile-long, 12,000-acre impoundment of the Coosa River. Three other Classics -- 1996, 2002 and 2007 -- have been held on Lay Lake.
Who: The field includes the top 36 anglers in the point standings from the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series, the top two anglers from each of the Southern, Northern and Central Open tournament trails, the six Federation Nation division champions, the defending Classic champion, the angler of the year from the Bassmaster Women's Tour and the Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship winner.
Among the 51 are 2007 Classic champion Boyd Duckett, who won his title on Lay Lake; five-time Bassmaster angler of the year and two-time Classic champ Kevin VanDam; and Florida anglers Bobby Lane (Lakeland), Shaw Grigsby (Gainesville) and Terry Scroggins (San Mateo).
Classic format: Boats launch at 7 a.m. local time. Weigh-ins are at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham. The entire field fishes the first two days. The top 25 anglers fish Sunday. The angler with the heaviest three-day weight claims the $500,000 first prize.
Viewing opportunities: The daily weigh-ins will be available live from 5-7 p.m. on ESPN360.com. Bassmaster.com and BASSInsider.com will have blogs, analysis, photo galleries, videos and BASSTrakk, an unofficial leaderboard.
Programming on ESPN2 begins Saturday with taped highlights of Friday's competition from 10-11 a.m. Coverage of Day 2 begins at 10 p.m. Saturday. Coverage Sunday starts at 6 a.m. and runs until 10 a.m. At 10 p.m., a two-hour show features the final weigh-in. ESPN Classic airs coverage of previous Classics from 5-10 p.m. Sunday.