BASS Reporter’s Notebook: Bassmaster Classic Qualifiers Scout Lay Lake for Feb. 19-21 Competition in Alabama
Category: press release
Dec 15th, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Dec 15th, 2009 at 12:00 AM
Jami Fralick has competed on dozens of fisheries around the country, but Lay Lake doesn’t happen to be one of them. So when Fralick qualified for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay, he carved time out of his schedule to scout the Alabama impoundment.
He was there the first week in December, just before the lake was put off-limits to the 51 Classic qualifiers. The off-limits period began Dec. 14 and will continue until the official Classic practice days of Feb. 12-14 and Feb. 17. Then, on Feb. 19, the super bowl of fishing will begin, ending Feb. 21 with a new Classic champ who will claim the top prize of $500,000.
What he saw, he liked, said Fralick, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Martin, S.D., who will be making his third Classic appearance in February.
“It was the first time I’d ever even seen Lay Lake,” said Fralick, who led the Classic heading into the final day of competition last year on the Red River. “I grew up fishing the Missouri River, and there are a lot of similarities.”
Like on the Missouri, current will be key for him on Lay, a river impoundment of the Coosa River.
“Anytime you’re on a river, the fish are used to eating when the current is flowing,” he said. “No current, the fish pull off and are harder to catch. So, I’ll be looking for current.”
He guessed that the daily weights could match or exceed the bags of the 2007 Classic on Lay Lake, when Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., won with 48 pounds, 10 ounces, and became the first to win a Classic in his home state.
“Or, it could take 15 a day,” Fralick said. “Current, weather…it all depends.”
Fralick and fellow Classic qualifier Matt Herren could not be further apart in their Lay Lake experience. From Trussville, Ala., Herren grew up fishing Lay and its sister Coosa River impoundments. Still, Herren felt he needed to take a hard look at Lay.
“I probably had less knowledge of the lake than other Classic qualifiers because I hadn’t fished at home lately,” he said.
The bite in February will hinge on the weather, Herren said.
“If it warms up – if we have a little warming trend a week or so ahead of time like with the 2007 Classic – then you’ll see some bigger bags, with largemouths. If it’s really cold, then the weights will be down. Mother Nature will dictate what happens.”
Herren said he spotted many of his fellow Classic qualifiers on the lake.
“I wouldn’t say everybody, but I’d say a majority of the field has been there to look around,” he said. “For a lot of these guys, this will be their third or fourth Classic on Lay Lake, so they don’t need to do a whole lot of looking around.”
Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., has two Lay Lake Classics under his belt. The first, in 2002, was in July. The one that will help him the most was the February 2007 event.
Still, he put in his scouting time. He said he checked out the water five or six different days within the month before cutoff. Like his fellow Elite pros Herren and Fralick, Howell predicts the weather will rule the bite.
“Warmer weather will make the largemouth bite. If it’s cold, then the spotted bass will be the factor to win,” said Howell, whose 2010 appearance will be his ninth Classic.
Fans can watch the outcome at the daily free-admission weigh-ins Friday-Sunday at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham. The tournament will receive more than 10 hours of television coverage on ESPN2 during the three-day event.
NEW ELITE: Byron “B.J.” Haseotes is an old salt from Cape Cod who will be a rookie Bassmaster Elite Series pro for the 2010 season.
Not that he’s old. He’s 36 – young enough to be starting on a new career, old enough to handle the challenge of top-tier competition.
But he qualifies as an old salt in that he cut his fishing teeth on the saltwater version of the sport, not on freshwater fishing. Being from Centerville, a small Massachusetts town with Nantucket Sound on one side and Cape Cod Bay on the other, saltwater fishing was part of growing up, part of his father’s legacy to his son.
Haseotes, who qualified for the 2010 Elite Series through the 2009 Bassmaster Northern Open circuit, didn’t even try bass fishing until he was a 19-year-old intern studying food service at Disney World in Florida. One day on a whim, he acquired a rod and reel. He cast lures from the shore of Lake Kissimmee for hours. Soon he was hooked enough to invest in a small Skeeter/Yamaha rig.
Internship over, he towed the boat back to New England, joined a bass club and began to compete in local tournaments. But by the time he was 25, his work and life in general pushed bass fishing into the background.
“It was hard to compete in bass tournaments, and work – I was building up a commercial real estate company,” he said. “I took a hiatus from bass fishing. It slowed down my learning curve. If I had not taken that time off, I’d be a lot better fisherman than I am right now.”
All along, he continued to fish for fun, targeting tuna and other species on trips with his father and brother, with whom he continues to share ownership of an offshore boat. Then, about five years ago, he decided to get back into bass fishing. By 2008, he felt he was ready to advance, and he entered the 2009 Bassmaster Northern Open season. He ended up 10th in the points standings, good enough to garner an invitation to move up to the Elite level.
Besides the eight events of the regular 2010 Elite season, he plans to compete again in the Northern Open trail and, possibly, in a second Open division. In mid-December, he was already on the road to scout several fisheries on the schedules.
He knows he’s planned an ambitious first season as a full-time pro.
“It should be fun,” he said. “I can’t get enough.”
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR: “BASS Reporter’s Notebook” will be taking a two-week break, but will return Jan. 5, 2010. Thanks for following throughout 2009. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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