The 51-angler field, which includes Mississippi's Cliff Pace, takes to the water for one more official practice day Wednesday before BASS kicks off the three-day competition on Friday.
The week's forecast for Lay Lake calls for clearing skies and a slight warming trend, but temperatures likely won't be high enough to prompt a speedy warm-up to reservoir's water. Competition days should see highs in the mid 50s and lows in the 30s to low 40s.
Some anglers – in fact half the field or more – are planning to make long runs north during the Classic to the river, where creeks with current and warmer water are expected to attract bass.
But Kevin Short, an Arkansas Elite Series pro fishing in just his second Bassmaster Classic, said the three-day practice period taught him that the slow, methodical approach might be his best bet – and that he's perhaps better off fishing the lower, deeper end of the lake.
"I've purposefully stayed away from the river this time," said Short, who finished 22nd in the 2008 Classic on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell. "I spent time up there in November, December, just looking, fishing a bit. I didn't like what I saw, size-wise. I just knew if you've got 15 to 20 guys up there it was going to get real small, real quick."
Short has fished slow and fast during practice, and has had bites with both approaches. He said the bites are all about the same size, but he's sticking with 12 to 30 feet of water because he believes Lay doesn't hold enough shallow fish to last through the three days of competition.
Short, who tends to excel in tournaments with tough conditions when anglers have to grind it out, said water clarity is about the same everywhere on Lay.
"The main river is muddy; back up off the main river on bays and creeks, it's less muddy," he said. "Muddy and less muddy are your choices. The only water that I would consider clear was the coldest water I found, and that's not going to work.
"The weather warming up is too little, too late. I know it's a shallow lake, and some places will warm, but it's not enough to pull the fish off the deeper stuff."
Short said he thinks the football jig is going to be king for the Classic, along with finesse worms and, with the weather warming up, lipless crankbaits in the afternoons. He said he won't be at all surprised to see a few 17- to 18-pound hauls on Day 1, more 13- to 14-pound bags, "but then it's going to go downhill."
He said he'd rather land the 13- to 14-pound bag on Day 1, putting himself in position to move up on Day 2.
"I really don't want 17 or 18 (pounds) the first day," he said. "The only day that matters to be in front is the last day, and with the fans we have here, if we get a really nice day Sunday, they will be out in force. And if you're in first, you're going to have a crowd."
The public is invited to attend the Classic in Birmingham and witness the crowning of the 2010 Classic champion, who on Sunday will claim a first-place prize of $500,000 from the total Classic payout of $1.2 million.
Launches are set for 7 a.m. Central Time on Friday through Sunday at Beeswax Creek Park in Columbiana, Ala.
Daily weigh-ins will be at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham. Doors open daily at 3 p.m. Central. All events are free and open to the public.
Before weigh-ins, fans can peruse the latest fishing tackle at the 2010 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods, which will open at noon on Friday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex arena. Admission is free.