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DAY ON THE LAKE: Stetson Baylock reflects on Bassmaster Classic practice round

Mar. 21—During the practice round of the Bassmaster Classic, anglers go out looking to get a strong idea of what fish are biting at whatever lake they are fishing.

Some anglers are looking for the biggest fish or the most bites, but Benton, Arkansas native Stetson Blaylock fishes to grow his confidence.

"I think the biggest challenge will be staying focused. It's the classic; there is a lot on your mind. You want to start on a good note and stay in the hunt. If you aren't on anything, it can put that thought in your mind that it won't happen, but if you keep working, you can run into those fish," Blaylock said. "I haven't had the practice I thought I would. Quite a bit smaller-caliber fish than I wanted to catch in practice."

Before the official practice round at Grand Lake, anglers have a chance to fish for three days on their own the weekend before the classic. During the practice round, Blaylock was catching a lot of fish — nearly 40, he said — but not a lot of them hit the 14-inch limit set for keepers. Fast forward two days later, and Blaylock's fortunes shifted some.

On Wednesday, March 20, Blaylock didn't have the numbers to match his weekend outing, but despite this, he managed to put together a decent bag. Throughout the eight-hour practice session, Blaylock picked up five keepers that totaled 15 to 20 pounds. Going into the day, Blaylock expected the pattern that was successful during the weekend to continue, but after everything was said and done, he struggled with his old pattern and caught his fish on a variety of baits.

Blaylock picked up fish on at least five different bait types.

"I just like to mix it up and do a little bit of everything," Blaylock said. "Even if they aren't supposed to be in a certain area or spot, I'm going to try, because if you find something off the wall, it gives you the chance to win. But at the end of the day, you need to get bites; you can't win without fish."

Despite Blaylock's original pattern not playing out, he was ready to adjust on the fly.

"This time of year, in March and the spring, things change every day," Blaylock said. "You can literally have no clue what is going to happen, and if you just keep your head down and keep fishing, you can run into that school that can win it for you."

Blaylock has been to Grand Lake before in his career, though this time is different. According to the Arkansas native, the water conditions are a lot different than he is used to.

"It's got a different feel than it has in years past, mainly because the water is lower and clearer than it has been," Blaylock said. "Those two attributes alone will make fishing different. To me, it seems there are a lot of small fish, which isn't necessarily the worst thing. There are good fish coming up but it isn't the Grand Lake I expected."

This year's event marks the fifth classic in Blaylock's career. During his first showing, Blaylock finished third, losing out to Park Hill native Jason Christie. Two years later, Blaylock picked up another third-place finish.

"I think the biggest challenge will be staying focused," Blaylock said. "It's the classic there is a lot on your mind. You want to start on a good note and stay in the hunt. If you aren't on anything, it can put that thought in your mind that it won't happen, but if you keep working, you can run into those fish."

The Bassmaster Classic officially kicks off Friday, March 22, at 7:15 at Wolf Creek Boating Facility in Grove. Weigh-ins start at 5 p.m. at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa.

"It's what you work for, you want the opportunity to make this tournament," Blaylock said. "When you work and make this tournament, it makes you feel good. It keeps you happy and your family fed; it's what the Classic is about."

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