Important parts of preparation for an event like the Bassmaster Classic, from my perspective, are spending a lot of time on the water and keeping the fishing fun. Fortunately, some really good places for having fun fishing are relatively close to me. Last week I spent time at two of those places, with two days at Falcon Lake and one at Fayette County Lake.

I’ve spent a lot of time at Falcon over the years but kind of stopped going down there for a while because of the impact of a major fish kill and a drought that had the lake about 50 feet down. It’s still low, but more like 15 feet than 50, and based on what I saw this week, the bass population definitely has recovered.

There is an abundance of “small” fish, which at Falcon means 2- to 4-pounders, plus enough 5- and 6-pound fish to keep things interesting, and pretty much any day will still produce at least one big bite from an 8-pound-plus fish.

The fishing was really fun both because we were catching 30 to 40 fish a day and because Falcon is way ahead of most of the country and the fish were in serous pre-spawn mode. Most were sitting on the first break out of the spawning areas (as in a break from 3 to 4 feet), ready to most up onto spawning areas with the next warm snap. They were mostly in newly flooded bushes and ready to pounce on a 6-inch YUM Dinger or Christie Critter.

In truth the biggest challenge was getting the fish out after they bit. The bushes were thick, green and thorny, so if you didn’t get a bass moving in the right direction immediately, there was no getting it out. Normally I flip with braided line and a fluorocarbon leader, but in this case I tied my hook directly to 65-pound braid.

Fayette is a highly productive power plant lake that I fish quite a bit during the winter because the fishing is excellent, and the lake’s diverse habitat offerings allow me to practice a lot of different skills. Because of the warm-water influence many bass there were actually spawning and others were in that final pre-spawn stage. Fayette isn’t clear enough to see bass on beds, but you can tell by how they position themselves and behave that they are bedding fish.

I’m glad for opportunities to catch pre-spawn and spawning bass because of the situation I expect to find at Grand Lake during the Classic. Heavy rains through much of the winter have kept the lake stained, which causes the fish to stay shallower. Plus, it has been a mild winter overall, and the dates are a couple of weeks later than last time the Bassmaster Classic was held at Grand Lake. Therefore, more fish are likely to have moved up. Anglers from most areas are only getting to fish for bass in winter patterns right now, so I believe it gives me an advantage to get to fish for bass that are farther along in seasonal patterns.

Plus, it’s just a blast and a good excuse to enjoy really good fishing and call it work!

Speaking of fun things, I get to pick up my brand new Skeeter and begin rigging it this week. I do my own rigging with my Lowrance electronics and the wiring in part because I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and I feel like I’m less likely to encounter problems if I do it myself. Plus, if something does go wrong, I feel better equipped to fix it if I know how I rigged it!

I’m beginning my 26th season as a professional angler, but I still get as excited as ever about picking up my new boat.