By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Not a single day at the Bull Shoals Basssmaster Elite Series transpired the way Jason Christie thought it would. He kept having to come up with Plan Bs, and the result of all those fallback moves was yet another Grade-A performance for the 39-year-old Oklahoman.
He captured his second tour-level victory in as many weeks, rallying from 11th place on the final day with a tournament-best 18-pound sack. He came to the event from just down the White River at Beaver Lake, where he'd won the annual FLW Tour derby there just 8 days earlier.
His 56-08 total for 4 days resulted in the first of what is likely to be multiple Elite Series triumphs. He outdistanced runner-up Fred Roumbanis by 1-02.
Here's how he did it.
Christie, who moved into the top slot this week in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Livingston Lures, missed the first day of practice to participate in a charity event the day after his FLW victory. He assumed that sight-fishing would be the dominant tactic once he arrived at Bull Shoals, but the fish weren't as far along in the reproduction ritual as many thought they would be, and a major storm that caused a postponement of day 1 set them back even further.
"I didn't get out there until Tuesday, and then I struggled, to be honest," he said. "I caught a couple on a Spook just fishing the bank and then a couple doing other things.
"The next day at about 11 or 12 (o'clock) I started Carolina-rigging in the 10- to 20-foot range and started to get some bites, and I decided that was what I needed to do. I had to pick an area and run around and catch as much as I could, and then just keep learning during the tournament."
> Day 1: 5, 14-15
> Day 2: 5, 11-08
> Day 3: 5, 12-01
> Day 4: 5, 18-00
> Total = 20, 56-08
The delayed opening day was beset by winds that topped 20 mph and even exceeded 30 at times. Being highly familiar with the region's impoundments, Christie, who spent nearly the entire tournament in a single creek channel far up the White River near Lead Hill, opted to scrap his C-rig plan.
"In the Ozarks, when the wind blows and it gets nasty, you go to the bank and throw a crankbait and a spinnerbait," he said. "I felt confident that I could catch some Carolina-rigging, but I decided to go shallow and crank for awhile.
"Luckily, the first place I stopped I caught one, and then at the next place I caught three. That all happened pretty quick, and all I ended up doing that first day was cranking."
He ended the day tied for 4th place, but surrendered 10 positions on day 2.
"I thought maybe since the sky was still (cloudy) early I could catch a couple cranking, but all I caught was a few shorts so I went back to Carolina-rigging. That was by far the toughest day for me and I really struggled. I got a few bites and I lost a few that really hurt.
"I actually only had four fish when I made my last cast of the day right by the take-off, and I got one that was almost 3 pounds."
He slipped inside the 12-cut on day 3 via still another mode.
"I started that day Carolina-rigging and I fished two places and didn't do any good. The water level kept getting higher and higher and the day before I'd seen some bushes that were starting to get water in them. I happened to be close by, so I decided to try flipping them.
"I got four keepers out of that first stretch, so I did that all day. What I also learned that day, being able to see into all that shallow water, was that there was no big fish up (to spawn). I never caught or even saw one over 2 1/2 pounds, and that made me really convinced that sight-fishing just wasn't going to happen."
On the final day, he was on his way to his second stretch of bushes when he came across a huge population of bass that were busting shad on the surface. He used a Spook over the next 2 hours to compile the weight that would carry him to victory.
The Lew's BB1 was a major part of all four presentations that Christie employed.
"The pocket I was coming from and the one I was going to were only about 400 or 500 yards apart, and in between is where they were schooling," he said. "It was Monday and there was no locals out fishing, and it was dead-calm and extremely quiet. I felt like a bird dog on point on the front of that boat and by the time it was over, my neck was sore from looking around so much.
"I could see the balls of shad on the top of the water start to get nervous, and then a (bass) would blow through it. Right when those shad got to the top, you had to knock them right in the head."
> Topwater gear: 6'6" medium-action Falcon Cara rod, Lew's BB1 casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 30-pound unnamed braided line with 15-pound unnamed monofilament leader, Heddon One Knocker Spook (pearl shad).
> He said the color of the bait was extremely important. "In that real clear water it just looks transparent. Those shad look real faint in color, and that's how that Spook is colored. It's almost sky-blue."
> Flipping gear: 7'3" heavy-action Falcon Cara swimbait rod, Lew's BB1 casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce tungsten weight, Lazer TroKar Flippin' hook hook, Yum Wooly Bug (green-pumpkin/purple).
> Carolina-rig gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Falcon Cara Mike McClelland Signature Series rod, Lew's BB1 casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 14-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon main line, 3/4-ounce weight, glass bead, barrel swivel, 12-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon leader, 4/0 Lazer TroKar hook, YUM Lizard (watermelon).
> "I was using a pretty lengthy leader (about 5 feet) and I think that was one of the problems I was having with hookups," he said. "But with that water being so clear, I wanted the bait as far away from the weight as I could get it. It was pretty awkward to cast."
> Cranking gear: 7' medium-action Falcon Cara rod, Lew's BB1 casting reel (5.1:1 ratio), 10-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon, Bomber 6A (green crawdad).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success "I think it was just fishing the conditions. Every day I tried what had worked the day before for a little bit, then I'd just scramble around and fish. When you're fishing the White River chain, you have to fish the conditions. If the wind's blowing you get on something that's moving, and if not you drag something or fish light line. The chain is full of fish and they're not just on specific spots those lakes have got fish everywhere."
> Performance edge "I made a long run every day and I'm thrilled with how well my (Ranger) 520C with the Mercury is running. I'm just amazed at its dependability."
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