By Todd Ceisner
This time around, Jason Christie is hoping an old-school approach leads to a different outcome.
When the Bassmaster Classic makes its second stop in 4 years at Grand Lake next March, Christie won’t be staying at a lavish lake house with a large group of people like he did in 2013. He plans on roughing it BFL-style, just like the earlier days of his tournament career.
“I’ve got a buddy who has a 10-by-10 apartment in his garage and that’s where I’m going to stay,” Christie said. “I just want to limit the distractions and focus on what’s in front of me.”
As he sees it, what’s in front of him will be a prime shot at redemption, a second chance to make a lasting impression in an event where anything short of winning is considered a failure. It’s all part of a different tactical approach Christie is taking as he prepares for his fourth career Classic.
“That first one caught me by surprise,” he said, referencing the tournament won by Cliff Pace amid frigid temperatures. “I’m not saying that I’m going to win this one, but I assumed I was ready for a Classic. I’ll never forget everybody was telling me how I was going to have chaos following me everywhere, but when I took off that first morning and only had three or four boats following me, I remember thinking, ‘This won’t be too bad.’”
He then recalls catching a 5-pounder on about his third cast of the first morning and turning to see that handful of boats had turned into a 70-boat armada.
“I don’t know where they came from, but that moment there changed how the tournament progressed for me,” he said. “I had a lot of little places that I wanted to hit and I’d hit one, but boats would be on the other ones. It’s not their fault. I just wasn’t prepared for it.”
This time, it sounds like he will have his bases covered.
“I wanted to get another chance at this place at some point,” he added. “For it to come this quick, I’m pretty excited. We were extremely lucky to just get one. To get two is pretty remarkable.”
History Was Hindrance
Leading up to the 2013 Classic, Christie was installed as one of the even-money favorites based on his background at Grand in the late winter. He’d like to think his experience there would give him a big advantage, but the truth is he hasn’t fished the lake a whole lot in the past 10 years and his competitors’ thirst for information has closed the knowledge gap considerably.
“With these guys, you don’t have much of an advantage at a place like Grand,” he said. “Just the other day, I had a friend over helping me rig my boat and an Elite angler called him asking for help.”
He said his history on the lake is what got in his way on the second and third days of the 2013 Classic. After catching 18-12 on day 1, he was in 6th place and his confidence was building. He failed to catch 13 pounds on either of the final 2 days and wound up 7th.
“After the event, I was really kicking myself,” he said. “I was pretty down for a week or so just because of the opportunity that was there.
“On day 1, I fished the conditions and moved around a lot. I was in contention and I wanted to blow it out. I knew how many fish I’d caught up there on certain areas, but the conditions didn’t allow for that kind of fishing. I went back there on days 2 and 3 fishing history. That was a good learning experience because afterward I looked back and realized I made a big mistake.”
An encounter with a spectator a few weeks after the Classic only reinforced that line of thinking.
“I was heading to a show in Illinois and I’d stopped in Missouri for gas and a guy comes up and starts chatting,” Christie recalled. “He told me he’d followed me around on the water at the Classic and said, ‘You had 19 pounds by noon on day 1, but after you caught that you fished totally different the rest of the day and on days 2 and 3. Why did you do that?’
“That was a question I didn’t have an answer to. A spectator knew better than I did.”
Later that year, when the FLW Tour made a stop at Grand, Christie let the conditions dictate his strategy and he wound up winning that tournament.
“All practice at the FLW event, I told myself to fish what’s in front you and that worked out good,” he said. “That’s why I’m taking a more relaxed approach into this event.”
Points Were a Focus
Christie was quick to point out that 2015 was the first year since 2010 that he didn’t post a top-level or AAA-level tournament win. He didn’t label it a “down year,” but he mentioned that his frequent victories had conditioned people around where he lives to assume it’d be an annual thing.
“People around here that don’t understand pro fishing would ask me how many I won and when I’d say, ‘None,’ they’d ask why,” Christie said. “The biggest thing about the season was being steady. I felt like with the Classic being at Grand – it was always in the back of my mind – I don’t want to say I fished conservatively, but sometimes I had points on my mind.
“I’m glad that kind of fishing is over because that was pressure that lasted 9 months instead of pressure that will last a month around the Classic.”
While he says he never felt like he was around winning-quality fish during the Elite Series season – he did post three Top-10 finishes en route to a 13th-place finish in points – he felt like the Toyota Texas Bass Classic was going to be his latest triumph. Until Brent Ehrler caught an 11-pounder on the final day to wrest the win away from Christie.
“That’s the one that chapped my hide,” he said. “Ehrler catching that fish cost me $150,000. If I’d caught another decent fish, that gives me my win. I’ve never lost like that. I think it’s my first 2nd in a tournament and it was a hard thing to take. I don’t like losing and I sure don’t like it when I think I could’ve closed it out.”