Rocky Mount's Dustin Wilks said one word sums up the first three practice days for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic: Tough.

"It was cold and muddy," the five-time Classic contender said today (Feb. 20). "They call it the Red River for a reason."

And that experience left the Elite Series pro uncertain about the start of the B.A.S.S. championship on Louisiana's Red River.

"I lost confidence in some areas that I know the fish come to, so I don't know if I didn't hurt myself in that respect," Wilks said. "I almost think a guy who didn't practice might have an edge."

He said Alabama's Steve Kennedy supposedly did not go out over the weekend.

"He's sort of known for doing that," Wilks said.

He said areas he fished during the 2009 Classic, held on the same river system, were completely different during practice because of heavy rains.

"Places that in 2009 were real clear were muddy," Wilks said. "Now we've got cold, muddy water rolling down the river, so everybody is fishing the same small places."

Even those who might have caught a few fish over the weekend are probably back to square one during the final practice day on Wednesday.

"There could have been some people who found a group of fish in a ditch or something, but those fish will probably leave by the time the tournament starts," Wilks said.

The reason is simple: The weather is warming up, so fish that in all likelihood were shallow during recent warm-weather spells are just waiting for the chance to head into the backwaters again.

No matter what, he said he thinks fishing quarters will be very tight when competition begins.

"There are probably five well-known places, and they'll get the most attention," he said.

So what will the key be for winning the 2012 Bassmaster Classic?

"With the way practice went, I'm thinking there's going to be a lot of luck involved," Wilks said. "You're going to have to find a spot where fish will move to you."

And there's precedent for that.

"That's kind of how Skeet (Reese) won it in 2009," Wilks said. "I don't think he had a particularly good practice: He found a ridge (during competition) and the fish moved to him.

"He fished that ridge the entire tournament."

That illustrates how Wilks said he thinks the event will be won: Finding a good spot and holding onto it tenaciously.

"It comes down to claiming a little area, establishing a little zone where the fish are coming back and forth, and hoping the other guys don't come through it," Wilks said.

Nailing down such a location probably won't happen until the first day of competition, which in essence could be a fifth practice day.

"I think that'll be the case," Wilks said.

What absolutely won't work is jumping from spot to spot to spot because of the way the river lays out, Wilks said.

"You can't run and gun on this river because it takes so long to get in and out of areas," he said. "At the most you can fish two areas."

That means Wilks and the 48 other contenders for the $500,000 title will agonize over where to begin Classic competition.

"You have to pick right right off the bat," he said.

Keep up with all the Bassmaster Classic news, check out the competitor, watch videos and (once competition begins) see daily leaderboards on the dedicated Classic Updates page on our sister site in Louisiana.