GARY KLEIN at work...

I’m no statistician, but sitting in 61st place in the B.A.S.S. Elite Series with two events to go, Gary Klein has about as much chance of making the 2012 Bassmasters Classic as I do.

He said as much when we chatted a few days ago. The World Championship draws 28 anglers from the Elite ranks, so there is only one way the 29-time Classic qualifier can return to the Big Dance. “I need a win,” he said matter-of-factly.

And it’s not that a first place finish would move him up enough in the standings. The fact is, B.A.S.S. decided this year that winning a tournament will be enough to get you in the Classic. “Suddenly, what chafed many of top pros about the short-cut, “automatic berth” policy in the beginning of the season, is now the only chance for almost three-fourths of the organization’s top anglers.

But there’s more to it than that for the former Oroville resident. This is Gary Klein, the guy with 86 top 10 finishes, 10 B.A.S.S. tour wins and a pair of Angler of the Year titles. When he plans his annual tournament and travel schedule, he takes nothing for granted. He has back-up plans for his back-up plans and is as well-connected as any fisherman in the land. He works as hard as any tour pro, and for that, he just expects to be successful.

All of which makes the 2011 campaign so difficult to swallow. “It’s frustrating, for sure,” he said.

So what then? Did he forget how to fish? Quite the opposite I’m pretty sure.

But he is carrying one bit of baggage that will be difficult to shed. Gary Klein is no longer the intense, youthful, exuberant competitor with the great technical advantage over his fellow competitors as when he started in 1979. Still intense, yes, and technically sound, but those three decades of competitive fishing have stuffed his mental library like a drawer with too many socks.

And the game, which was driven by a much slower advancement of angling knowledge, now features instant information and a publicity network that invites hoardes of energetic new personalities to the pro fishing stage. And it doesn’t matter that many of these guys will never become household names, it only matters that they descend on a tournament water with lures blazing, blowing away the “easy fish” during practice, and literally changing the game.

Long a proponent of the theory that bass are conditioned by their environment, Klein knows what’s happening. “We [the tournament fishermen] are changing the fish.” Practice three days before a tournament might as well be three months before. “Just when you figure out what the fish are doing,” he says, “it’s all gone.”

Which means a serious tour pro today may discover that the venerated requirement of “time on the water” may actually become a liability. Rather, the observant, confident, physically fit and reaction-oriented angler (did someone say “Kevin VanDam”) has emerged over the veteran guys who may over-rely on their experience, including that which tells them about how fish tend to react.

So is Klein done? Will we see his name slide down the charts and out of our memories? Or in this world of fast-and-furious does he have enough left in the tank to compete? I say, Gary, forget the library: just see and react.


2 Responses to “Gary Klein in decline: what’s going on?”

by Kevin Linehan

He’s far from done. Do you think Skeet is done just because he has had an off year? Even if Gary was done, he’s accomplished what only a select few have and will always remain a legend in the game.

Lots of “social networking” done at that level and with the large bodies of water its very hard to practice without some information sharing from the other contestants. Maybe Gary just needs a new group. How about a switch to FLW? It’s done wonders for Stacy King, Larry Nixon etc….