GROVE — Tommy Biffle had to almost shout to be heard over the wind.
“Practicing … Bassmaster Classic. Wind … hear.” The reporter who had reached him on his cell phone caught only a few words.
Biffle was bucking what he later explained were winds of 20 to 25 mph. He said he welcomed the challenges of fishing against that wind. Between now and the Feb. 22-24 Bassmaster Classic presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa out of Tulsa, he wants to put in as much fishing time as possible, preferably in adverse weather. Conditioning, he called it.
That windy day was in early January, and he was on Tenkiller Lake near his home in Wagoner, Okla., not on Classic competition waters of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Grand Lake has been off limits to Classic qualifiers since Dec. 10. Biffle scouted Grand for about a week’s time before cutoff, and then shifted his practice sessions to Tenkiller and other lakes near his home. As experienced an angler as he is, Biffle had not put in much time on Oklahoma waters in winter.
“It’s for the Classic. It’s important,” Biffle said. “I know I’ve spent more time scouting and practicing for this Classic than for any other Classic. I’m not out for a Top 10, I’m going to fish it to win. That’s how I approach any Classic, but it would be great to win this one. I’ve come in second twice in a Classic (1990 and 1993) and three times in the FLW Cup, so it would be redemption to win this one here in Oklahoma.”
Biffle is one of only three anglers who could win a Classic crown at home in 2013. The other two are Edwin Evers, who lives in Talala, Okla., and Jason Christie from Park Hill, Okla. (Another of the 53 qualifiers, Mike McClelland, who won a 2006 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Grand Lake, is just a hop away in Bella Vista, Ark.