Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Earlier this week, I wrote about the strategic elements in deciding when and where to gas up in tournaments requiring long runs. With Monday’s announcement that the 2020 Bassmaster Classic will be on Lake Guntersville again, it raises another critical issue for those competing — where do you sleep?

The launch ramp at Guntersville is about 70 miles away from where the fish will be weighed. I know that some fans blanch at that distance, but in order to visit prime fisheries which also have facilities to host tens of thousands of fans, sometimes that’s the only way to get it done. It’s a paradigm that we’ve experienced not only in Birmingham, but also in Tulsa and Houston.

During a week where anglers are already pressed for time, that kind of distance requires exceptional time-management, because each day you’re going to have to make the drive at least twice: either from Birmingham to the ramp in the morning, and then back to the coliseum, or to the coliseum in the afternoon and then back to Guntersville after weighing your fish.

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In recent years, B.A.S.S. has not forced all competitors to stay at the host hotel. You can stay anywhere you like. Ott DeFoe even got to sleep in his own bed. In some ways, though, that additional choice adds a complication to the week. When you were told where to stay, you just accepted it. When you have a choice, it’s always possible to second guess.

Pros for staying in town: when you’re done weighing in, you can work on tackle, grab some food and go to bed, and your boat and truck are protected in a secured lot

Pros for staying at the lake: probably quieter; you can rent a place with a kitchen for meal prep; you’re probably not in a high rise; and you can access your boat at any time of night if you suddenly get an urge to tie on a Ned Rig (Hint: if you’re tying on a Ned Rig at Guntersville, you’re probably not winning).

For me, I’m such a nervous Nellie about the potential for a traffic accident or some sort of weather incident that I’d almost certainly choose to stay at the lake. It might sound like a bad recurring dream, but the idea that others would be blasting off while I’m stuck behind (or in) a 12 car pileup is about the worst nightmare a competitor could face. Because of that, I’d probably need to leave extra-early, which means that I’d have an extra 30 or 40 minutes after launching, doing nothing.

No matter where they decide to stay, picking the proper caddy is the icing on this cake. If you have a caddy who not only drives safely but also one who understands your moods, they can prop you up emotionally and give you time to catch up on phone calls to family, sponsors, and hopefully the fishing media who want to ask about your big day. Most importantly they’ll know when to shut up and grant you some much-needed Z’s.