By Todd Ceisner
Jared Lintner saved his best for last this year, and even then it almost wasn’t good enough to earn him a trip to the Bassmaster Classic.
The Elite Series veteran came into the season finale at Oneida Lake knowing he needed to win or finish among the Top 15 to have a shot at clinching a trip to Grand Lake in February. His season-best 13th-place finish pushed him into 33rd in Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) points but he, technically, remained outside the cut line for Classic qualification. Not until after the Bassmaster Opens had concluded and the multiple-qualifier berths were sorted out did he know for sure he’d be fishing at Grand.
It came as a relief for the Californian who missed three straight Classics between 2008-2010, but he didn’t fret too much about it. Back in 2010, he narrowly missed making the Classic and he recalls being tied up in knots over the ordeal.
“This time, I was like, ‘If I don’t make it, I don’t make it,’” he said. “It was pretty much my fault, especially after Green Bay where I fell apart. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind every day all day.”
Prior to Oneida, his best finish of 2012 came at Lake Okeechobee (20th) as he cashed checks in four of the first five events of the season. Two missed cuts in Wisconsin, however, put his back to the wall heading to Oneida, where he’s traditionally performed well.
Green Bay Blues
The line between success and failure on the Bassmaster Elite Series is so fine these days, many anglers can pare their seasons down to a single make-or-break moment on a single day during a single tournament. Looking back now, Lintner said his 2012 season, and ultimately his Classic berth, hinged on a frustrating second day at the Lake Michigan tournament in late June.
He was tied for 16th after day 1 with 16 1/2 pounds and that came sight-fishing in rarely seen flat-calm conditions. The wind was expected to pick up on day 2 and that had him thinking he could hold his position or move up the leaderboard since he’d had a productive practice in windy, overcast weather.
No matter what he tried, though, he couldn’t trigger any bites. The four baits he had working 2 days before … nothing. It took until noon for him to boat a keeper and even then it was a squeaker that weighed less than 2 pounds. Facing a 3 o’clock check in and a 2-hour ride back to the ramp in 4-foot waves, he seriously considered dumping his lone keeper and calling his wife to come pick him up at a nearby ramp.
“I started thinking that I had to drive 35 miles back in the rough water, probably spear some waves and beat myself and my marshal up,” he said. “I didn’t think it was worth it and for about an hour that’s what I was planning to do [call my wife]. But I’ve never quit at anything – basketball, fishing, work or family. For me not to go back to the weigh-in, even with a 1 1/2-pound fish it would have been more disappointing to my family and sponsors. They want to see you regardless if you catch them or tank.”
He kept the fish, put his boat on pad and headed in, stopping short of the check-in point to make a few more casts. He stuck a solid 2 1/2-pound largemouth on a crankbait and called it a day. While he tumbled to 55th in the final standings, he knows that second fish put him in the Classic. He was the final qualifier through the AOY standings, edging Scott Rook by a single point.
“If I hadn’t stopped and caught that fish, I’d have fallen another seven or eight spots and that would’ve been it,” he said. “That fish got me in the Classic. It was absolutely the low point of the season. I was mad right there. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t catch them. I had a good practice in the wind on swimbaits and jerkbaits.”
Passed Up Scouting Trip
While a good number of Classic qualifiers headed to Oklahoma in recent weeks to get an advance look at Grand Lake before it went off limits, Lintner chose to stay home.
He’s done the pre-practice thing in the past for the Classic and other select Elite events, but he’s discovered showing up and fishing the conditions is how he excels. He pre-practiced for the Mississippi River event this past season, figuring it suited his skills perfectly – a shallow-water scenario with current- and grass-oriented fish keying on topwaters like frogs.
“I was telling my buddies I was looking forward to that tournament the most out of any,” he said. “I had good areas and a good pattern.”
He lost a couple 3-plus pounders on day 1 that would’ve certainly helped him make the weekend cut. Instead, he finished 58th.
“That wasn’t fun,” he said. “In the Elite Series, everybody is real versatile. You have to be to fish a tour like that, but when it comes down to fishing your strength, whether it’s a body of water or time of year, you have to capitalize on those opportunities because it doesn’t happen like that all the time. That’s what I was most frustrated about – it was a froggin’ and flipping bite. That’s what I live for.”
Not wanting to stir up any more bad mojo in advance of the Classic, he decided to pass up a trip to Oklahoma.
“Two other times that I’ve gone ahead of time, I didn’t have good tournaments,” he said. “The one time I didn’t (go) was my first Classic and I was just happy to be there and that sort of thing. I just showed up and fished.
“I thought about the Mississippi River and every time I seem to go pre-practice somewhere I end up not having a good tournament. That was in the back of my head. I don’t want those demons in there. I want to have an open mind.
“I’ve fished Grand before. I’m not an expert by any means, but I remember where things are at and what it looks like. I’m going to go into it with an open mind and just fish off what the conditions are. It’s an awesome lake with a lot of big fish in it.”
> BassFans who've been watching the World Series of Bass on NBC Sports Network in recent weeks likely saw Lintner participate in the 4-man pro qualifier portion along with fellow Elite Series anglers Brandon Card, James Niggemeyer and Mike McClelland. He said he got involved with the new tournament concept through McClelland and despite some early skepticism, he's confident it could be a viable option for non-tour-level anglers next year.
“I was skeptical at first, but after I saw what was going on, it was really well done and well thought out," he said. "Based on the few times I’ve talked to (owner) Joe (Habib), I think it’s going to be a go.”
> He also plans to fish some of the new Outdoor Heritage events out west when his schedule allows.