Many of the 49 qualifiers for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic will make their way to Shreveport, La. over the next month for some pre-practice on the Red River before it goes off-limits. Two-time defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam won't be among them.

He didn't pre-practice prior to this year's Classic at the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans. He didn't do it for the 2009 Classic, which also took place on the Red.

It's not that he's overconfident – after all, he finished in the bottom half of the field in '09 before becoming just the second angler to win back-to-back Classics, giving him a record-tying four victories in the event overall. It's just that he feels there's little to be gained by going down there 2 months ahead of time.

"I've been to the Red a handful of times, and a lot can change between now and (late February)," he said. "I know the lay of the land there, and I'll utilize that when we get down there (for official practice).

"Being a river, it could be stable and clear when we get there, or it could be high and muddy. I think it's really important to keep an open mind to all the possibilities."

Will he try to exact some revenge from the place for his poor showing 3 years prior?

"Yeah, I made a decision on the first day that didn't work out, and on a river system you can't just pack up and run 45 miles. Once you commit to an area, you're really committed, and those are the decisions you have to make.

"It's really no different than last year in New Orleans – if you were going down to Venice, that meant you weren't going to be fishing Bayou Black. Last year I made a good decision, but (in '09) I didn't, and hopefully I can learn from that and be a little smarter this time."

Likes Changes of Scenery

VanDam has not only won consecutive Classics, but he's also bagged four straight Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year (AOY) titles. He likes the look of the schedule he'll navigate next year on the Elite Series in pursuit of a five-spot.

"We're going to some new places and to some lakes that we haven't been to at those same times, and I like that," he said. "Conditions will be different and different techniques will be used. When you go to the same places at the same times year after year, you kind of educate the field as to what they need to be doing.

"Going to familiar places at different times, even if it's only a month or two, totally changes things. The timing for this season, when you look at the events on paper, looks really good across the board. If you were going to pick which times would be best for those places, it looks like we're going to hit them right on the money."

He's never fished the Mississippi River out of Lacrosse, Wis., so he's particularly looking forward to that stop in June. That'll ll be followed a week later by the mystery event at a location that's still to be disclosed, but is also bound to be in the Michigander's home region.

"I like the idea of that, but the only concern I have is it's hard to keep secrets in, this business. It'll be up North and I love that kind of fishing, so I'll try to make the most of it.

"If we could do that all year long – just push a button and we all show up some place and start fishing and nobody knew where ahead of time – that would be awesome."

A Grand Idea

Oklahoma's Grand Lake, which was announced recently as the venue for the 2013 Classic, was the site of one of VanDam's 20 B.A.S.S. victories. He topped an Elite Series event there in June 2007 and was 22nd in another Elite derby the year before that, and he's also competed there in Invitationals during colder times of the year.

Considering that he's qualified for 22 straight Classics, it's a good bet he'll be in that one, too.

"I think that one's going to be incredible," he said. "It's one of the best lakes I've ever fished and it sets up well regardless of the weather. The only thing that could make it tough is if it's super high and muddy and real cold.

"It'll be a Classic that changes a lot from day to day – it won't be like New Orleans, where you could just find a spot and hammer them. You might catch them one day, and then not catch them the next day even though you go back and do the same thing. It's very much a pattern-oriented lake."


> VanDam's 30th-place finish at Shreveport in 2009 was his second-worst ever in a Classic – he was 34th at New Orleans in 2003.

> He doesn't own an Alabama Rig at this point, but saw some at Amistad while taking part in last week's Major League Fishing Challenge Cup. "It's very intriguing to me that a bass would even bite that contraption," he said. "If it's going to be legal then it's something I'm going to have to look at, but I'm not sure there won't be something done about it. From a conservation and sportsmanship standpoint, I don't know if it's best to be using a rig with five baits on it."