Fishing Lines: Thinking like a fish is the Classic way to bag boatloads of bass

The Mississippi Delta, 5am. It's already hot and steamy. Normal people will still enjoy a few hours' sleep before they even think of stirring. But down at the waterside, a crowd chatters excitedly. Any minute now, a procession of MPVs towing sleek boats with a monstrous engine on the stern will appear. These people, more than 2,000 of them, cheer as each one arrives.

A loudspeaker on the quayside acclaims each driver. It even announces the passengers, press men from all over the US. And me. The crowd, a good-natured bunch, give us a cheer too.

"Here's Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He's amassed more than $2.5 million in bass career earnings, scored three Angler of the Year titles and two Bassmaster Classic wins. He's travelling with Keith Elliott, from the Independent on Sunday in old England." Kevin waves. Like a film star, I give them a wave too. Callow, or what?

This year's Classic takes place on the 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell in Greenville, South Carolina, next month. I'm going because I still can't quite believe what I saw in New Orleans in 2001. Did 50,000 really turn up to watch those guys weigh fish?

But no other angling event comes anywhere near. It's not just the $500,000 top prize, the fact that most of the 50 competitors make their living from fishing, or that people will get up in the middle of the night to watch a man lower his boat into a lake. Everything about the Classic is larger than life.

Ah, those boats. So huge is bass fishing that manufacturers compete to offer their model as the "official" boat of the Classic. It's a small price to pay.'Bassmaster' magazine alone has a readership of more than 600,000. Most own a boat.

Bass boats are water rockets. They travel faster than you can legally drive on American roads, thanks to a 300hp motor on the back. Sounds fun, but at more than 80mph, hitting a log (or maybe an alligator) can have disastrous consequences. Several competitors wear crash helmets when driving. As a passenger, you just cling on.

The aim is to catch five largemouth bass each day. They are kept in a live well, and as a larger one is caught, the smallest one is returned. Fishing is only allowed with artificial lures. Competitors carry hundreds, believing the difference between a chartreuse and a green version can make all the difference.

It's easy to mock, but those who reach this final are extra-ordinary fishermen. It's said you need to think like a fish to be a successful angler. Every one of the 50 finalists here speaks Bass fluently. They can flick a lure into a space no bigger than a tennis ball at 20 yards without looking. I counted one angler cast 15 times in a minute. This isn't fishing for pleasure; it's darn hard work.

I even watched another catch nine bass without getting his lure wet. He flicked an artificial lizard on a lily pad, twitched it, and the bass (largemouth bass are pretty aggressive) came crashing out of the water to take the bait.

The Super Bowl may draw more viewers, but the Classic still does pretty well – the ESPN channel will devote 13 hours to the three-day event, plus nearly five hours beforehand. Almost 300 journalists will be covering it. Watch out for me. I'll be the one without the baseball cap.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test