Lakecaster Online

Classic Bound
By Ed Snyder

Huxley Bay Area, Lake Toledo Bend, TX.

Early morning greetings among the breakfast tables were more curious than anything else as the three of us sat down to enjoy our "Huxley Bay" servings of biscuits & gravy. Across from me, swabbing up cream gravy with crispy bacon strips, was Todd Faircloth of Jasper, TX, and across from him, forking up heaping globs of biscuit n' gravy towards his hunger, sat Harold Allen of Huxley, TX. And betwixt both of them, with my just as shameless early morning feeding habits, was this writer/angler who became an active part in this "pre-fishing melee" as we spooned, forked, and slurped our way into this story of "Classic Bound", which would deal with how two of our lake area BASS Professional's managed to qualify for the upcoming 2001 New Orleans World B.A.S.S. Classic.

Harold Allen, a representative Lake Toledo Bend and a true legend among the bass fishing crowds, qualified to compete at the 2001 New Orleans World Classic, his 13th World Bass Classic of his long and remarkable career. Todd Faircloth, relatively new to the National BASSMaster circuit, has already collected one World Classic Patch on his pro/tournament career, will be representing Lake Sam Rayburn with his 2nd BASSMaster Classic qualification in as many years. "And this outdoor writer/photographer, a three time Classic press-angler, will be representing the readership interests of Lakecaster Publications as well as for the millions of inter-net surfers who enjoy clicking to the web-pages of www.fishingworld.com to read the latest tournament results and fishing stories.

"FOLKS" I don't care how you cut it, but being in the same boat with two of the finest bass anglers in our nation today was an absolute joy to experience, as from our early morning repast of biscuits & gravy, to our lake area search & catch adventures for camera fish, to the fishing action photo and voice bite sessions, to our Huxley Bay cheeseburger luncheon and "mega" ice tea wrap-up, the constant angler banter and friendly "shake-down" cruise confabs betwixt these two "World Class" anglers was thoroughly enjoyed with all the bass fishing mishaps, laughter and serious input that helped to build this article.

"This will be the 13th Classic for my career, Harold Allen began to interview, "And I feel very fortunate to be going this year. "To qualify for the BASSMaster Classic, Harold advised, "A lot of things has got to happen, first of which you have to become a decent fisherman to be able to fish waters which are normally not conducive to your style of fishing. "And two, you've got to have luck, lots of luck! "Now, I know a lot of anglers won't admit to needing luck, but I definitely think that "luck" plays a major roll in your having a successful career. "Of course sometimes you have to make your own luck, but that's another thing to be talking about. "But my making it to the Classic this year came in the form of being "lucky" early on as the seasons first two events were really "tuff" with the bass bite being lock-jawed and tedious. "But I specialize in "Tuff & Tedious" and was able to do good early on and just kind of hung on for the rest of the season. Reaching over to backslap Faircloth as Todd landed our first bass of the morning, Harold stated, "Unlike Todd here, who managed to hammer them all year long!"

"Yeah, "Well, uh, "like Harold here, Todd joined, "I'm really excited about going to the Classic this year, quickly live-welling a nice 3 lb picture-bass, Todd added, "But it'll be very unlike the Chicago Classic of last year where it took a lot of finesse fishing to win. "The Louisiana Delta region of New Orleans, Todd advised, "will require more of a power fishing pattern to win the Classic this year, which is the type of fishing that Harold and I are used to doing. "The Delta is a massive body of water that has a lot more stuff to fish and look at and will require a strategy of picking a body of water and just staying there to fish it until you've developed a good pattern for catching the bass-weight you'll need to win. "And I really feel, informed Todd, "That by locating in just one area and sticking to that spot will be the key to winning this years BASSMaster Classic.

"That is the reason why I'm so excited about the Classic coming back to New Orleans again, Harold explained, "Which is "because" of that massive amount of water that will put the 45 Classic anglers fishing this event on an even keel. "And "because" of that massive amount of water, "I think that it's quite possible that we won't see another angler anywhere around us during the entire three day long event. "And normally that doesn't happen on the smaller lakes, Harold advised, "where, after pre-fish and practice, most anglers will be crossing over each others fishing areas. "And I guarantee you that this won't happen in the New Orleans, Mississippi Delta area, as that massive body of water and structure will "pretty much" keep everyone spread out and away from each other.

"Yeah, I agree with Harold on that item, Todd answered, "as I much prefer fishing alone rather than being bunched up with a lot of other anglers, making it better for everyone as they'll be put on a much more even keel, which in turn will make them much better fishermen "because" of the fact of having so much water and structure to fish. "But it's going to be the angler who can find the "mother-lode", Todd advised, "as whoever can catch the better fish is going to win the World Classic Title in New Orleans this year.

"To get to where Todd and myself are at right now, Harold answered to my probes, "You have to be a very versatile fisherman who can work with several different types of baits, as you can't get to where we're at right now on just one bait alone. "My personal favorite is to bottom fish with soft plastics being my #1 choice and the bass-jig being my #2 bait of priority. "For me this year, it has been a soft plastic bite all year long that helped to get me to the Classic, "with the soft plastic NOT being the bait to win on, mind you, but the bait that kept me consistently in the upper leader-board marks for my leading Classic point standings. "Now, mind you, Harold advised, "when we get to New Orleans this year the fishing cover there will always dictate just what we need to use to catch bass, which could mean a top-water bite for the first hour or so, then going to a worm or a jig, or even maybe a crank-bait pattern for the rest of the day, "So, Harold furthers, "you can see right away why versatility becomes such an important factor for doing well for your career as a professional bass angler, and this fact will be proven in New Orleans this year.

"I totally agree with what Harold has said, stated Todd, "As I think there will be a lot of bait switching going on in the Louisiana Delta fishery with the low light conditions of early morning providing a good top-water bite. "But after that Cajun sun comes up, and it begins to get hotter, it will most likely involve a pitching and flipping pattern for the better catches that will dominate the Classic weigh-in, as I feel that whoever can get on the right group of fish with that pattern will most certainly bring in the better fish. "And this is my style of fishing, Todd advised with a wide grin, while explaining that he really likes to flip and pitch to the visual stuff. "But, as Harold stated earlier, Todd points out, you have to be versatile and be able to fish a lot of different baits in a lot of different circumstances and situations, "but, Todd stressed, "you also have to feel comfortable with certain styles and techniques, such as I do, and pitching and flipping is what I do best and that technique has helped to get me to the Classic again this year.

"I first got started back in 1971, Harold reviews, "by part time guiding on Lake Sam Rayburn during weekends, but later, after taking a good look at Toledo Bend Lake, I quit my job in Nacogdoches TX, and went full-time out of Holly Park Marina, which is in the Patroon Creek area, "where in just a short time during '75 and '76 seasons, we had a very large customer base that kept me very busy guiding an average of 300 days a year. "This taught me so much about fishing under pressure, Harold advised, "with the constantly changing weather and fishing conditions providing all the negatives and positives for being successful at catching bass. "The one savior I had back then was that we were on Toledo Bend, which had a tremendous number of fish in it, and when you can pattern them each day, regardless of what the water or weather conditions are, you can learn an awful lot about catching bass in a hurry. "But guiding all those days each year began to burn me out at that time, Harold informed, "so I began looking at doing something else, such as fishing bass tournaments, "especially the BASSMaster circuit as my good friend Tommy Martin recommended. "So we fished one BASS event in 1975, two in 1976, then went full time in 1977 where I qualified for my first Classic's in 1977 and 1978, barley missing it in 1979, then making nine more Classic's after that. "This was a major step towards my becoming a fulltime professional angler, stated Harold, "as I absolutely adored fishing, as to me, it was the only way to go and tournament fishing helped to provide that next step up. "We probably fished for 3 years before getting any paid sponsorships as we still weren't sure of our abilities, but after making the Classic's we began branching out, then after getting a few sponsors I finally quit guiding in 1980 where I could fish tournaments on a fulltime basis and start promoting my sponsor products for the bass fishing industry. "You are only as good as your equipment, Harold strongly advised, "And of the 13 Classic's that I've qualified for, all of them have been out of Skeeter/Yamaha bass boats, and I'm very proud of that fact, just as I am of my Accent Baits, Reaction Lures, CMC hydraulic jack plates, Shimano V-Rods and Shimano Reels, Triple-Fish line, and my Pin-Point Electronics, which by far is the absolute best visual imagery sonar fishing unit on the market today! "As you've seen today, Harold reminded me. ("Amen to that "visual fact" after witnessing Harold finesse a "tuff" bass bite from rolling four foot main-lake waves to catch our 2nd camera bass, a solid three -plus- pound bass from a 16' timber-flat. Harold relied on his "high resolution" Pin-Point Electronics to keep us on that structure and I was amazed that you could actually see his bait being worked over the structure.")

"I share a lot of fishing memories with my dad, Todd Faircloth recalled for my notes, "where dad introduced me to fishing tournaments by teaming me up with him at the age of 12, which became a really exciting adventure for me and helped me to become a very competitive angler at a very early age. "Then, along about 1995-1996, I started fishing some tournaments by myself such as Anglers Choice Pro/Am circuit. "But, unlike Harold here, Todd advised while reaching over to backslap Harold who had just missed a bass-bite, "I never got into the guiding thing as my dad has a construction business in Jasper TX, as I worked for him, but could take off to go fishing "whenever" I needed to. "As Harold stated before about getting burned out on guiding because of having to perform for your customers everyday, was not a factor for me. "But, "ya-know, Todd explained, "even though a lot of people who started out as guides are now some of the better professional anglers on the circuit today, "I actually learned a lot more about fishing by "not having" that kind of fishing pressure of just having to catch fish for the customers. "As having the kind of fishing freedom that I had actually gave me time to experiment with trying different baits and styles. "And not having a client in my boat actually helped to allow me to learn a lot more about catching fish under different fishing conditions. "I fished my first BASS Invitational at the age of 19, Todd informed, "and continued to fish BASS for three years until I qualified to fish my first BASS Top-150 event. "I was really "kinda-sorta" scared at this point, Todd grinned, "As I really didn't set out with the intentions of doing this for a living in the first place, and definitely never really anticipated being where I'm at right now. "Although I had some money saved up from fishing by winning local tournaments, I really wasn't sure if I wanted to take that kind of a gamble on trying to make it as a fulltime professional as I didn't have a lot of paying sponsors. "But, I took a chance and went ahead to fish the BASS Top-150 circuit where I qualified for my first Classic in Chicago, Illinois, my first year out. "After that, Todd smiled, "it kinda-sorta just started happening for me as I managed to pick up a few more sponsors, making it a bit easier for me by allowing me to learn a lot more about fishing other lakes around the country, which begun to build my confidence level at being able to compete against the BASS legends, such as Harold Allen here. "I had a very good season this year, Todd explained, "where I managed to qualify for the Classic through both the BASS Invitational, and the BASS Top-150 circuit. "Everything is going real well for me right now thanks to my sponsors, Skeeter/Yamaha bass boats, Lake Fork Tackle, Stanley Jigs, Erhardt Fishing Sticks, and with many thanks going to my tournament "mentor" two time World Bass Champion, Ann Thomason Wilson, of Ann's Tackle Shop in Jasper, TX. "Ann has been a great person and friend, Todd stated, "as she has been in this fishing industry for a long time, and gives me lots of pointers & expert advice for steering me in the right direction on some of my sponsorship decisions, "and" who is also one of my greatest cheering fans, as are my parents and girlfriend, Angie. "Ya-know, Todd reminds us all, "If you didn't have the emotional support contacts while out on tour to help encourage you during the often-times up and down extremes of tournament fishing, it would be a lot tougher to be doing this and I'm very thankful for their support as it really means a lot to me.

"I'm really excited about this years Classic, Harold Allen stated, "as I have a tremendous number of friends in the Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas area, and feel that they will be among the thousands of people who will be arriving to watch Todd and I fish this World Class fishery. "Ya-know, Harold grinned, "New Orleans is really a fun place to visit and a great place to spend your vacation as it has great food, great people, and an absolutely awesome fishery, which will provide us Classic Anglers several limits each day for the Classic weigh-in. "Don't you dare miss this show folks, Harold grinned as he reached over to backslap Todd one last time, "or you'll miss seeing me out-fishing my compadre' here on the final day of the Classic in the New Orleans Super Dome. "This is going to be an absolutely awesome Classic Show this year, Harold finalized, "and I'm really cranked up for it!!

"I feel the same as Harold here, Todd Faircloth eased in with his finish, "as I think this is going to be the greatest BASS Classic ever, with the previous New Orleans Classic in 1999 drawing over 40,000 people to the final weigh-in at the Super Dome. "And like Harold here, "I am really looking forward to this years BASS Classic, "but with one slight difference, Todd pointed out as he reached out for one final backslap, "if you want to see me whip-up on my buddy Harold here, "you'll have to come to the "The Super Bowl Of Bass Fishing" to see me do it!

While recovering our boat at the Huxley Bay ramp, I could almost hear the faint, but "hauntingly" shrill cry of Cajun Queen, Marie LaBeaux, as "Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler" slowly echoed across from the Louisiana waters of Lake Toledo Bend.

For more information on the "Super Bowl of Bass Fishing" being held in New Orleans, LA, contact BASS at 334-272-9530 - click to www.fishingworld.com for the nightly Classic updates - pick up the September issue of the Lakecaster or click to www.lakecaster.net/online to read the classic report.


Todd Faircloth landing one of Harold Allen's finessed bass

Harold Allen & Todd Faircloth easing out into "Classic Bound"
< photos by Ed Snyder >

Harold Allen landing a fiesty Toledo bass

Todd Faircloth landing a good Toledo bass

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