Starks expects to find bass in large schools, bunched up in deep areas of the lake.
"Jerk baits will play a big role in the tournament. It will surprise me if two-thirds of the top 10 fishermen aren't throwing jerk baits or maybe some cold-water crankbaits. Whether the fish bite well or not will depend on the weather," he predicted.
"We might have 50-degree water temperatures, or we might have 36-degree temperatures. If temperatures are relatively high, it's going to take big weight to win the tournament - maybe as much as 20 to 22 pounds of fish a day."
Starks has plenty of experience at wintertime fishing, and for that reason he thinks he might do well.
"I think it's a realistic goal to make the final-day cut, which in the Classic is the top 25 anglers," he said.
His busy pre-Classic schedule has kept Starks from fishing as much as he would have liked, and he plans to spend as much time on the water as he can before he leaves for Oklahoma.
"It's not like I haven't been fishing. I just haven't been fishing as much as I would have liked," he said. "From the end of August through the end of the year, I spent 44 out of 120 days fishing. I even fished through deer season, which is unusual for me. There's no replacement for time spent on the water."
Starks even made a trip out to Grand Lake to "get a feel for the place" before the mid-December cutoff period for pre-tournament fishing.
"I fished it, but mostly I was looking for the lay of the lake. Chances are it will fish differently during the Classic than it did when I was out there," he said.
To avoid putting too much pressure on himself, Starks tries not to spend too much time thinking what it might be like to win bass fishing's most prestigious tournament.
"It's a life-changing event for anyone who wins," he said. "And not just because of the [$500,000] first-place money. Financially, there's so much more money to be made just from being a Classic champ through appearances, endorsements and long-term deals.
"It's best not to think about all that stuff. It's better just to relax, go out, fish the tournament and see what happens."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmc...@wvgazette.com.