Editor’s Note: This excerpt was lifted from “Thriller on the River” by Steve Wright.
Jason Christie prevailed on Lake Dardanelle but he truly believed a 7-pounder he lost on Day 3 would cost him the tournament. That assumption never left him until the last fish was weighed.
Christie started the final day at Dardanelle in fourth place, 3 pounds, 7 ounces behind Greg Hackney, who led Days 2 and 3. Christie said he didn't have any thoughts of winning until Hackney – the last angler to weigh in – came to the stage with a bag that hit the scales at 15-3 – 8 ounces less than he needed to match Christie's winning total of 72-3. Gerald Swindle finished 4 ounces shy.
Christie got some help from the weather when a big thunderstorm dumped rain over the watershed Thursday night. Dirty water and heavy current were Christie's keys to success.
"After the first day, the water was getting pretty clear," Christie said. "Then we got that rain, and it dirtied up again. I think the combination of the dirtier water and the choked down current (between the bridges) was key. When you go from the channel to where it opens up, fish just tend to be there. They want to have flats to roam and feed on."
Christie, who lives in Park Hill, Okla., is experienced on another Arkansas River pool – Kerr Reservoir, in his home state. Rather than flipping a jig, he was swimming it.
"The pool I live on, that's just what we do," he said. "After the spawn, you swim a jig. I had some really good teachers on swimming a jig.
"I tried to flip it, and let it go to the bottom, but they wouldn't eat it that way. (The jig) had to be up high (in the water column)."
Even in the muddy water, Christie said he saw every bass he caught bite the jig, just 3 or 4 inches under the surface. They were holding under shallow mats of aquatic vegetation. He was using a 1/2-ounce Booyah jig with a Yum Craw Chunk trailer, both in black-and-blue.
Although he moved up in the standings each day, from 26th to 10th to 4th, Christie thought he blown his chance to win before the final day. The second day his 16-10 bag included a 1 1/2-pounder, a small keeper he wasn't able to cull. The third day he tried to swing a 7-pounder in the boat, after not retying his jig recently to remove any abrasions.
"I just didn't think that fish was that big," Christie said. "I thought it was a 4- or 5-pounder. We swing those in all the time. Once she started coming out of the water, I knew I'd made a mistake."
Added Christie, "I felt like I was giving the tournament away."
As it turned out, Christie’s final weight was enough to take home the title so he won’t have to face any nightmares of that “one that got away.”