By Todd Ceisner
Jason Christie was in some kind of groove.
Nine straight checks, five Top-20s, including a 10th-place finish at last year’s Forrest Wood Cup and no results outside the Top 50. That’s how it went for the Park Hill, Okla., pro from mid-June 2011 through April of this year. Let's not forget he won the Lake Hartwell FLW Tour Major in March 2011 and the Lake Ray Hubbard PAA All-Star Series 4 weeks later.
While it bridged two seasons, the hot streak carried the FLW Tour pro as high as 12th in the BassFan World Rankings and his early-season success this year saw him hold the lead in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY) race after three tournaments.
In short, he was feeling it.
“It was one of those grooves where I never second-guessed any decision or any idea,” he said. “I just went for it and it seemed like it always worked out. I could be driving down a lake and look over and say, ‘Gosh, I bet there’s a fish right there,’ and pull over and catch one.”
The former college basketball player knows the feeling well. He once made 10 3-pointers in a game for Northeastern (Okla). State, a school record that still stands.
All the positive momentum, however, came to a halt at the Potomac River FLW Tour Major with a 125th-place finish. A few weeks later, he struck something in the water and missed check-in on day 1 at Kentucky Lake and wound up 128th. His AOY hopes had evaporated and he suddenly found himself on the bubble to make the Cup with only Lake Champlain remaining on the Tour Major schedule.
He delivered in the clutch with an 11th-place finish that allowed him to finish 39th in points and secure the final berth in the Cup via the Tour Major points standings. It wasn’t exactly how he drew it up, but he’s relieved to be headed to his fourth straight Cup.
“I don’t want to be in that position again,” he said. “I went to Champlain and I didn’t practice for anything other than to win because that was the only chance I had to make the championship. I guess it was kind of good going into the last event having a little pressure and knowing I needed to catch them."
This is Christie’s 5th year fishing the FLW Tour and if there’s one thing that’s been a thorn in his side in recent seasons, it’s been one rogue stinker finish, either in the Majors or Opens.
This season, he was hampered by the bombs at the Potomac and Kentucky. Last year, a 70th at Lake Chickamauga cost him a legitimate shot at the AOY title (he finished 4th). The year before, a 102nd at Lake Guntersville took him out of contention. In ’09, he was derailed by a 118th at Lake Norman.
“What aggravates me is I look back over my last 4 years of fishing and it’s always one tournament,” he said. “If you look at the last 4 years and you take my one bad finish away, then I’m right in the Angler of the Year race every time. I’m not saying I’d have won it, but I’d be right around it. It just seems like it’s one tournament a year that nothing goes right.”
He went to the Potomac this year hoping to avenge his 118th-place finish there in the Tour Open last year. He locked in on one area in practice, but a change in conditions during the tournament backed him into a corner.
“I had an area that when I found it, I was like, ‘This is it! I can win right here,’” he said. “I relaxed a bit because I knew that’s where I was going to fish and I knew the fish were there to win. The wind shifted on day 1 and muddied the area up.
“I’d already decided that’s where I was going to fish. What it boiled down to was all of the previous events, I’d fished on the fly, but at the Potomac I got into a set plan and didn’t want to do any different. That’s really the only bad tournament I had this year.”
Wants Fresh Look At Lanier
Now that he’s made the Cup, Christie can focus on the one thing that matters most in his mind at a championship event – winning.
“I’m in it to win and you can’t win them if you’re not in the tournament,” he said. “I hadn’t felt it since the first year, but missing the championship is almost like they’re throwing a party down the street and nobody invites you. It makes you feel like you’re not where you’re supposed to be at. It feels good to be able to go. You can’t win $600,000 if you’re not there, fishing for it.”
When Lanier hosted the Cup in 2010, he opened in 2nd place after day 1 and was 3rd after day 2. He slipped to 8th after day 3 and missed the Top-6 cut for the final day. He fished a Yum Dinger the whole time.
“That was really my first rendezvous with a spinning rod,” he said. “I remember losing a big fish with about 30 minutes left on day 3. I was around the right kind of stuff and I really think I was doing something different than what a lot of people were fishing. I like it in the fact that it’s a big lake and I like the tougher tournaments and it seems like this could be a tougher tournament.”
He opted not to take a scouting trip to Lanier this year as he instead fished – and won – the Detroit River Bassmaster Northern Open to earn a spot in next year’s Bassmaster Classic. Pre-practice hasn’t benefited him in the past and he’s not going to stray from his routine now.
In any championship, you only fish for 1st place. That’s my mindset. I know a lot of guys are spending a lot of time down there and that’s good for them,” he said. “I want to show up there on the first day of practice with no set plan and no preconceived notions and just go fishing. If there were a time that pre-practice would help it would probably be this event, being that it’s summertime and the same patterns would probably hold.
“I want to show up fresh. I made the decision not to go pre-practice and I’m going to stand by it. I may finish dead last, but for me I’m at my best if I don’t see it before practice. I seem to fish more with an open mind that way.”