Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.

Salem's John Crews optimistic about Bassmaster Classic

John Crews

Salem's John Crews optimistic about Bassmaster Classic

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.

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John Crews, the bass pro from Salem, has earned the reputation of being a wiz when it comes to fishing shallow-running crankbaits, but is that technique going to be productive when he competes in his seventh Bassmaster Classic Feb. 22-24 in Tulsa, Okla.?

B.A.S.S. officials say relying on crankbaits is going to be a disadvantage on 59,000-acre Grand Lake in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, unless the weather is unusually warm. The water is too cold for the bass to be shallow, B.A.S.S. has predicted.

For this reason, the odds-makers have given Crews a one-in-65 chance to win the most prestigious bass tournament of them all.

Go figure, since there are only 53 anglers in the tournament.

Crews, who is 34, isn’t saying what odds he’d give himself, but they would be a whale of a lot more favorable than what B.A.S.S. has dished out. He’s not so sure crankbaits won’t work, but if they don’t he has some alternate techniques to try.

Only two Virginians qualified for the tournament. In addition to Crews, there is rookie Josh Wagy of Dewitt. His odds are 90:1.

Wagy earned a berth in the Classic by winning the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on the James River last season. Crews earned his way by placing 19th in the Angler of the Year race, a spin off of the Elite Series.

Here’s how Crews answered my question:

Q. If you aren’t happy with the odds B.A.S.S. gave you, what would you give yourself?

A. Way better than anyone would believe

Q. Who are one or two contenders you would rank at the top?

A. Other then myself, Mike Laconelli and Mike McClelland.

Q. How would you gauge your confidence level going into your seventh Classic?

A. Very high. I think I know how to win it. Every tournament is different and the Classic is very unique. I think I am figuring out how to do it. You can’t win it every time. You have to take the best gamble and hope you are correct.

Q. What about the Elite Series that begins after the Classic. What is your confidence level heading into it?

A. I am excited about this year. There are some new places with lots of fish to be caught.

Q. Are you going to be doing anything different this season?

A. Just always working to improve as an angler. It never ends. I do feel I am getting better every year.

Q. Do you agree with B.A.S.S. about the water being too cold in Grand Lake for productive crankbait fishing, thus your chances are diminished?

A. The winter has not been too cold, so I think a lot of the fish are staying shallower than normal. I am not ruling anything out yet.

Q. If crankbaits don’t work, what will you fall back on?

A. I have about 10 or 12 ways that I think the Classic could be won.

Q. Not long ago, you launched a soft-plastic lure business called Missile Baits. I’m curious. How can an expert with crankbaits run a soft plastic lure business?

A. That’s funny. I love to crank, but consider myself very versatile. As a lure designer, I really enjoy finding the needs of anglers and making lures to catch more fish.

Q. How is your lure business doing?

A. Business is very good for Missile Baits. We are growing very fast. The best part is that we have a lot of room to grow.

Q. What one new product are you most proud of?

A. The latest baits are the Fuse 4.4 and Warlock head. I designed them to work together. They came out great.

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