VENICE, La. — On the first day of practice for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, at least a dozen competitors were launching from Venice Marina, a good two hour boat ride from New Orleans.
With so much marsh in play, the anglers have a tough choice between spending their whole practice in one area, like Venice, or spreading out to cover two or three areas in hopes of finding the one that holds the winning concentration of bass.
"I'm planning on spending at least two days here in Venice," Tommy Biffle said. "I'll see what happens today. I think there will be quite a few anglers down here. If there are many people here in the tournament it could fish small, especially if guys find the same fish."
As much as the daunting size of the Louisiana Delta will challenge anglers, so too will the cold weather, at least for the next day or two. Chilly temperatures will keep the bass less active, making it harder for anglers to find the most productive spots.
"You might be in a good area and they just won't bite today," Biffle said. "Even if you don't get bites, if it looks good, you know there is going to be fish there. Wednesday is going to be a key day because the weather is going to warm up as part of a warming trend leading up to the Classic."
Like Biffle, Terry Butcher agreed that the cold weather was going to make fishing more difficult on Friday. The cold kept him in his camper until after 7:00 a.m. and he was one of the later anglers to launch.
"The cold is why I'm getting a slow start today, but I couldn't put it off forever," Butcher said. "I look for next week to be really good. This cold weather has slowed things down, but with the warming weather next week, it will be as good as it gets."
Skeet Reese was launching in Venice also and he agreed that the weather was going to change the fish. He planned on spending at least one day down in the Venice area. If he finds fish, he may continue to search for productive holes here, otherwise he might choose to break it up and look someplace else.
"This is one place where you can't cover all the water," Reese said. "What you find now is going to change. I don't think they will move much, but the activity level will go up."
That seemed to be the consensus among all the anglers launching at Venice: next week, the weather is shaping up to be perfect for the Classic. Friday's overcast skies and cooler temperatures will give way to highs in the 60s and 70s as the week progresses.
The weather should open the door wide to a shoot-out come tournament time, which is something Gary Klein is very much looking forward to. A contender the last time the Classic came to New Orleans, Klein has yet to win the big tournament and knows this is the place it can happen.
"This is a great week and conditions are setting up for a great Classic," Klein said. "What my past history here shows is I like fishing down here. If there is any Classic I can win, it's this one."
Klein said that four or five areas are capable of winning the Classic. Most anglers seem to know that Venice is one of them.