By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Kyle Patrick has secured a berth in next year's Bassmaster Classic and his bank account is much healthier than it was a few weeks ago – he can now afford some hotel rooms instead of spending most nights in the back of his truck when he's away from home.
Nonetheless, he still has work to do to achieve his primary goal for the 2023 Bassmaster Opens season.
His recent victory at Lake of the Ozarks, in the eighth of nine Opens on this year's schedule, was worth more than $44,000 and garnered him a slot in the 2024 Classic at Grand Lake next March. Just as significantly, it moved him inside the cutoff for qualifying for next year's Elite Series with just the derby at Florida's Harris Chain remaining.
The 26-year-old from Cooperstown, N.Y. (the idyllic hamlet that's home to the Baseball Hall of Fame) is now No. 6 in the Opens Elite Qualifier points standings. The Top 9 after Harris will be invited to compete on the organization's premier circuit.
He said a friend crunched the numbers for him and determined that he'll be difficult to dislodge from that group if he finishes inside the Top 50 in the finale. He's done that on six occasions this year, with five of those placements in the Top 25.
"The Elite Series is the deal for me – I think I can compete and I want to experience that," he said. "I don't think I can really fathom (the Ozarks win) until Harris is done because the Elites is where my focus is. That's why I didn't know what to say on stage after I won – it hit me so hard and all of it at once.
"As far as the Classic, that's been a dream since I was about 8 years old. It's just an incredible thing and to make it even one time is just astonishing to me."
At Ozarks, he fished a dropshot and a jig around brushpiles and docks en route to compiling a three-day total of 53-11. He ended up 3 1/4 pounds clear of runner-up Daisuke Kita of Japan.
He caught a lot of fish on the dropshot, but the jig produced the vast majority of the ones he took to the weigh-in stage. That 3/4-ounce Greefish Tackle offering tipped with a Missile Baits Chunky D trailer has been one of three key baits he's utilized throughout the season, along with the heavy dropshot rig (aka powershot) and a ChatterBait.
He considers himself a highly versatile angler – although he's only 26, he's been playing the game for more than half his lifetime and thus was around in the days prior to forward-facing sonar. But now that FFS is a major factor in the majority of high-level events, he takes pains to remain on its cutting edge.
"I grew up fishing the bank and I feel fortunate to have had an upbringing in the sport before all the tech got crazy," he said. "There's a lot of techniques that I can use pretty well.
"I consider myself a good LiveScope fisherman, but I only do it because it's what I have to do to compete. I'm not a crazy advocate of it; I'm just moving along with the times. I love the sport and I love competing and I have to move along with what comes out – we don't have any control over that part and I'm not going to pay (top-level) entry fees just to get my ass beat. I'm looking forward to an event where I can just go back to my roots and flip, but I can't not use it when I know that every one (of the other competitors) will be."
He's been to the Harris Chain on a few occasions – but never in October. In 2020, he was part of a duo that finished in the Top 15 in the Bassmaster Team Championship.
"Florida is hit-or-miss for a lot of people and I've just gotta go there and catch 'em," he said. "This time of year, it's going to be a new challenge, for sure. I think the water temps will be pretty high. I don't want to say it'll be pre-spawn, but they're coming up on that stage.
"You could see really big weights, but it depends on conditions. It could get pretty ugly. I know LiveScope will play, but those fish are trained and they can be hard to catch regardless. About the only guy I'm pretty certain will catch them is Bobby Lane."