Wednesday, February 23, 2011
By Mike Suchan Bassmaster.com
Sounding a little weary -- the Classic hangover it's commonly called -- Elite Series angler Jeff Kriet was a half hour into his practice Tuesday afternoon for the Bass Pro Shops Central Open 1.
"Quick, man. It's quick," he said of the turnaround between events. "I wouldn't have minded a couple days at home. When this is what you do for a living, I guess it's what you have to do."
Kriet made his way from the Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans on Sunday, where he finished 21st after being the final angler in the top 25 cut, to his home in Ardmore, Okla. After getting some wash done and prepping his boat and tackle, he was off to Lake Lewisville Tuesday afternoon for the Open that begins Thursday.
"I'm going to see if I can catch them with one day of practice," he said, adding that he's behind the rest of the field ... "Knowing them goobers, probably weeks."
For the dozen or so Elite Series anglers, or most any pro fishing the Opens, the Bass Pro Shops events are mainly about one thing -- qualifying for the Classic. This is the first year that the winner of each of the three Opens in each division, Southern, Central and Northern, receive a spot in the 2012 Classic.
Kriet will be joined in this one by other Classic qualifiers Todd Faircloth, Stephen Browning, Clark Reehm and Dale Hightower. Other Elites llke Rick Clunn, Jami Fralick, Scott Ashmore, Chad Griffin, Bill McCaghren and James Niggemeyer will also fish the Thursday-Saturday tournament, hoping to win and be an early qualifier for the Classic.
Elite pro Gerald Swindle was the first to qualify last month, winning the Southern Open 1 on Florida's Lake Toho. Swindle has said it will most likely alter his fishing, make him not worry so much about points in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and fish events to win.
Jeff Kriet is among the Classic anglers who had a quick turnaround if they wanted to fish the first Central Open for a shot at the 2012 Classic.
At the Classic, Swindle joked if a practice morning was cold, wet or just plain miserable, he might be at the Waffle House enjoying a hot cup of joe. Or he really might.
"It would take a lot of stress off for the rest of the year," Kriet said of getting the quick pass to the 42nd Classic, to be held Feb. 24-26 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
In previous seasons, the top two anglers after three Open events made the Classic. Swindle and Kriet said they like the new winner-take-all format.
"It would be the greatest thing in the world," Kriet said. "That's the only reason I'm here. It's 100 percent the reason I'm fishing the Open."
Winners do have to fish all three Opens in the division to maintain their Classic status. Kriet said if he followed an Open victory with an Elite victory, also a new avenue to make the Classic, he would not fish any more Opens.
"I have enough on my schedule now," he said. "There will be a stretch where I have seven tournaments in a row. That's really brutal.
"So it's all about winning these. The points don't matter. I'm not going to stress out over these. I might stress out in a couple weeks when we go to Florida" for the first Elite event.
His three Central Opens aren't too far from home. The first is about the run he made from New Orleans to Venice in the Classic -- "I'm pretty beat" -- the second is one state over at Missouri's Table Rock Lake and the third is three hours away in Muskogee, Okla. The final day weigh-ins for each are at Bass Pro Shops stores.
He'd like to make a nice showing there, but first he's got to find some fish in Lake Lewisville.
"I'm going to try some stuff and if I get bit, it's all good," he said. "I have no idea how to catch one yet ... I haven't had a bite. I'll figure something out. I can find some pretty good stuff in one day of practice, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn't."
He's rooming with Faircloth and said they can, and will, share information.
"Hopefully, one of us will figure something out and we'll be good to go," he said. "One of us will throw the other a bone."