provided by John E. Phillips
Mossy Oak Fishing Pro Bill Lowen of Brookville, Indiana, finished 11th on the Bassmaster Elite Circuit in the Angler of the Year competition in the 2019 season, which qualified him for the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, to be held March 6-8, in Birmingham, Alabama, and fished at Lake Guntersville, one of the nation’s top big-bass lakes.
In Alabama during the first week of March, we may have 20-30 degree temperatures or possibly 50-70 degree weather in which to compete. So, I’ll make sure when I show up to fish the Classic that I have the right type of clothing for any weather condition we may have. I’ll have our camper stuffed full of warm clothes, rain gear, shorts, t-shirts, boots and tennis shoes. Even in a day’s time we may have drastic temperature changes that I have to prepare for mentally and in terms of clothing. But one thing I’ve learned is that early spring tournaments bring a variety of weather situations. You have to know what gear you need to fish and what you need to wear while you’re doing it.
Not only have I got to be prepared to face the elements, but I’ve got to be prepared to know where the fish go, if where we’re fishing has a cold front hit during the Classic or a warm front. Those drastic temperature changes reposition the bass and the depth of water in which they’re holding. One of the big equalizers in tournament bass fishing is the weather before the tournament even begins. We may have a week of warm nice weather the week before the tournament, and then on the first day of the tournament, a cold front may hit. Everything we’ve learned in practice can be thrown out the window. The bass’s locations and depths can change, and most of the newcomers will panic; but the anglers who have fished here before will figure out where they need to be, when the weather moves them off the places they’ve been previously.
But really and truly, regardless of what the weather does and what the bass do, we’ll still be fishing one of the best bass lakes in the nation. We will find bass and catch them. I still believe that even the worst weather won’t prevent some big bags of bass being dropped on the scales. You have to remember these are some of the best bass anglers in the world, and even if the bass are in the shallows, they won’t move very far if a front hits. They’ll probably move to the closest deep-water drop-off on the edge of spawning flats. And even though you’ve got your mind set on the lures and techniques that you plan to fish, the winner will have to be willing to change strategies, if the bass move, and the bite slows down. However, I believe that regardless of the
conditions, there will be bass holding in 1-10 feet deep water. So, if the weather’s warm, the bass should be in 2-5 feet of water; or if the weather’s cold, 8-10 feet of water. You have to remember this is the time of year they know they need to spawn, and they have to come to shallow water to do it.
One other unknown factor that plays a role with some anglers in how they perform is spectator pressure. Birmingham is one of the greatest places for spectators, and we know we’ll have a lot of people there watching. But one good thing is that everyone understands the prominence of the Bassmaster Classic, and typically all the spectators I’ve ever seen have been very respectful when I’m fishing a certain bank or structure. I’m not expecting any problems at all with spectators and appreciate them wanting to see how we fish. Over the years, I’ve learned that typically if a spectator boat comes too close, or if there is a problem with the spectators, someone in the crowd will manage that problem. Regardless I have to stay focused on my job: catching fish.
During the last Bassmaster Classic I fished at Guntersville, I honestly thought I would win. But strong storms came in, and the lake rose several feet and flooded out all the places I planned on catching bass, so I didn’t do well in that event. After the tournament ended, and my wife was packing up for the drive home, I told her I couldn’t leave just yet. I had to return to the lake. In my first 10 minutes back on the water, I caught a 6 pounder, one just above 10 pounds – both sort of broke my heart. I knew if the weather had held, I could be riding around the Civic Center with a trophy on my boat. That’s why we say that weather is the great equalizer at the Classic.