By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
In 31 career Bassmaster Elite Series events, Chad Griffin has logged just a single Top-25 finish. It was a doozy, though – a win at Lake Oneida during his rookie campaign of 2009.
The 3-year anniversary of that triumph will pass a couple of weeks before the circuit returns to Oneida to wrap up the 2012 season late next month. The winner of the Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) award will be determined and berths in the 2013 Classic will be doled out.
None of that will be relevant for Griffin, who sits in last (99th) place in the points race. His season has been so poor that he still trails Pat Golden, who missed both events in Wisconsin due to the birth of his son.
He's been beset by bad decisions and lousy execution on the water. There have been off-water distractions as well – he's been involved in two child-custody disputes, one involving his own daughter and the other his girlfriend's.
"The last couple of years have been a culmination of a lot of things," he said. "There's been a lot of stuff at home, and in practice I've been running away from 2 1/2 pounders because I want that winning feeling again so bad that it's hard to go out and fish for checks.
"I know what it feels like to win, and I've tried to find fish that I thought I could win on. A lot of times that's burned me."
Everything Fell into Place
Griffin, a native of Alaska who now resides in Cresson, Texas (part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex), described his Oneida victory as a case of "just having one of those perfect tournaments." He lost a few quality fish on day 1, but executed flawlessly from there on while continuing to get the right bites.
"The first day of practice things fell into alignment and I knew if I could land what bit, I had a good chance of winning," he said. "It seemed like it was just meant to happen, and I've been striving to do that same thing over again."
While most competitors were either pounding the banks or fishing offshore for smallmouths, he went with a "tweener" pattern and flipped up largemouths from depths of 11 to 15 feet at the northern end of the lake. He also caught some big bronzebacks on a topwater chugger as they ravaged schools of baitfish.
His flipping bait was a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver, and Matt Herren came to his rescue when he ran out of them.
"Herren had gotten ahold of (Reaction Innovations owner) Andre Moore, and I was able to pick up more baits from Herren. Without those, I couldn't have done it.
"I got those topwater fish on the third and fourth days, but that flipping bite was devastating. Me and (Greg) Hackney were the only two guys doing it, and that's what got me there."
What Lies Ahead?
Griffin's 46th-place finish at Lake Michigan last month was easily his best of the season. He's cashed just three paychecks (for placements of 50th or better) over the past 2 years combined.
"I've lost more fish the last 2 years than I've ever lost in my life," he said. "I don't know if it's the equipment I'm using or what, but it hasn't been meant to be. At La Crosse (the Mississippi River), I had 15 to 17 pounds come off the first day on a frog. Then at Green Bay I lost a 5-pounder the first day and another one that was pushing 4.
"You absolutely have to cash checks to stay in this business, and I've got to get the idea of trying to fish for the Top 12 all the time out of my head."
He's unsure whether he has a future in tour-level fishing. The Elites will reportedly feature a reduced field next year, with perhaps only the Top 70 or so from this year's points list re-qualifying. Then there's the ongoing issue of sufficient sponsorship and he also has a problem with his neck that he thinks may require the type of operation that caused Byron Velvick to miss the entire 2011 season.
For now, however, he's focused on Oneida and trying to recapture at least some of the feeling that he left there with 3 years ago.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it. It was a really fun tournament last time even though it was a really long drive home."