PITTSBURGH, Pa. When it comes to the pursuit of the top prize and title in this week's CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Wednesday is a pivotal point.
Although the 47 contenders won't begin officially casting until Friday, Wednesday is the only practice day this week. It offers competitors eight hours to scour portions of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers for the last time before the tournament begins.
But strategies will vary, anglers said. Some won't check their best spots so they aren't seen fishing there by competitors. Others will hit those spots to make sure the bass haven't moved. Still, others will spend the day searching for new locations.
Here's a sampling of their strategies:
Tim Horton, Alabama: "I'm really torn because there's two different pools that I'm interested in. I'm probably going to fish the one that I like the least simply to eliminate it. Because if I go to the one I like the best, I know the run I'm going to make anyway, as far as how I'm going to fish it.
"I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted in this one pool because of weather. I had a decent day in it and I want to expand on it to see if it's as good as the other pool. So this is the biggest decision — which pool to spend the day in."
Kevin Wirth, Kentucky: Wirth enjoyed a rare productive scouting period during a tough fishing week. But Wirth says he will not visit his best stretch, in fear of being seen or over fishing the bass that live there.
"I'm going to try to eliminate some things from my mind that I think could probably take place," Wirth said. "I can either add them to my arsenal or throw them totally out. It will be something that I can possibly win by doing. This way, I throw it completely out of my mind and concentrate on the job at hand and the patterns that were already working."
Greg Hackney, Louisiana: "I've kind of got a little area picked out where I'm going to start on Friday. I'm going to run that area that one day of practice and go from there. The main thing is to run around and see if things have changed if it has a different appearance from what it had before."
Terry Scroggins, Florida: "I'm going in the area where I found my fish before and try to broaden it. I'm going to cut my hooks off and make sure I can get a bite there. But it doesn't really matter because that's where I'm going to fish anyway."
Preston Clark, Florida: "I'm probably going to check my scouted locations and then I'm going to try to find some overlooked stuff. Some stuff that's not very obvious. I'm going to do a lot of work with my depth finder. I did a little of that (in practice) and I only saw a couple of boats doing that. And I found a couple of spots where I got bit once or twice and then left."
"I think there's going to be a couple of spots offshore where you can catch a fish or two."
The 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will receive unprecedented coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 this year. A total of 12 hours of programming will be devoted to Classic tournament coverage from July 29-31.