Daily Limit: A Classic study in sleep deprivation

“Don’t give up on your dreams so soon, sleep longer.” – Anonymous

Getting more shuteye wasn’t a realistic proposition for the 56 anglers chasing their dream in the 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors.

To a man, competing in the world’s championship proved an exhausting endeavor — adrenaline-fueled days followed by short nights. Afterward, walls were hit and Zs reclaimed.

Although wire-to-wire winner Justin Hamner reported on stage that he “slept like a baby,” that was only four to fove hours a night.

“I didn’t get a ton of sleep just because I was having to stay so late for media then trying to run and eat,” said Hamner, who turned 33 a day before competition began. “But once I got in the hotel room, I was out.”

Classic leaders have been known to suffer restless nights, yet the fourth-year Elite from Northport, Ala., had only one where he wasn’t out like a light. It came after his Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the event, 22 pounds, 6 ounces, on Day 1.

“After leading the first night, I wasn’t tired enough yet,” he said. “My mind might have been racing a little bit. The second and third night, naw, I was out. I was too tired to even think about what was going on, probably.”

Hamner increased his lead to 5-7 heading into Championship Sunday with his second 20-pound sack, which after media clamour had him hitting the sack around 11 p.m. His wake-up time of 4 a.m. was later than average.

“I was one of the last guys there every day leaving the boatyard, but I made it up pretty good on that turnpike,” he said of the 92-mile drive from Tulsa to the Wolf Creek launches.

If he seemed relaxed winning the 54th Classic, it was because he pretty much was.

“I was not really that stressed out or worried about it. It was a very weird feeling,” he said. “Now even thinking about it, I start getting nervous and stressed out, but I just had such a peaceful, relaxed feeling all week.”

Easton Fothergill sits in his boat during Classic Media Day at the Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow.

First-timers experience Classic rush

Adam Rasmussen, Kyle Patrick and Easton Fothergill found out firsthand how Classic Week is the ultimate “grind,” yet they all performed well, aided by adrenaline. Although physically and mentally taxed, each left their first championship with a greater desire to return.

“Everyone told me it would be a lot, and it was above and beyond that,” Fothergill said after finishing 16th. “It’s been a wild ride. I’m ready to get some sleep now that I’m not fishing.

“I could not sleep. I was too excited all week long. I haven’t slept in a long time.”

That’s ironic. In August, the 21-year-old college student was sleeping 23 hours a day because of excruciating headaches, leading doctors to discover a brain abscess that required emergency surgery. A lot of sleep was also important for his recovery, which came just in time to win the College Classic Bracket berth.

Fothergill, of Grand Rapids, Minn., said the four or five hours sleep during Classic competition wasn’t too bad — a good tired — but there was cumulative effect.

“Once you do it for about a week, you really start to feel it,” he said. “I’ve been on an adrenaline rush this whole week. It’s been amazing, really. It could have been better, but to make the final day as a college kid, you really couldn’t ask for much more.”

Patrick also felt accomplished with his showing. The 26-year-old from Cooperstown, N.Y., was beaming after weighing a big bag on Day 3 to finish eighth. In eight years, he ascended from tooling around in a 16-foot BassTracker to bass fishing’s biggest platform.

Kyle Patrick shows his excitement to weigh a big bag on the final day.

“Realistically, in that time frame, it’s so short, I can’t process it,” Patrick said. “I’m at a loss for words because it is so special to be on that stage.”

Patrick started competing in St. Croix Bassmaster Opens in 2021, and last year he was among the nine Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifiers, winning at Lake of the Ozarks to secure his Classic berth. Although exhausted, his excitement to be in Tulsa, and working for a return engagement, was evident.

“Really hectic, a lot of sleep deprivation, but I enjoyed every second of it,” he said. “I love doing media. I love talking with people. I’m an outgoing guy, high energy. This is what I want to do with my life.

“This is going to just make me work harder to get back here. I’m probably going to have a few cold Cola-Colas tonight, more than a few, then it’s focus on Florida.”

Adam Rasmussen takes the lead on Day 3 with only Justin Hamner to weigh.

Rasmussen, who came in hoping to make the Top 25 and not work the Classic Outdoors Expo, was in the hunt from Day 1. The significance of his runner-up finish, 2-15 behind Hamner, has sunk in.

“It’s taken me a week to realize that second is not a bad thing,” he said. “Obviously, we all want to win, but I’ll take it since I was kind of the nobody who showed up in second place.”

The 39-year-old from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., thought he’d fair well after his decent “dark-to-dark” practices alongside travel partner Jay Przekurat, who took fourth in his second Classic. Rasmussen was forewarned of the hectic pace, yet he might not have anticipated the late nights and early 3:30 a.m. alarms.

“It’s exhausting. You just run off pure adrenaline for the week anyhow,” he said. “It didn’t hit me until last Thursday. I just hit a wall. I need to get some sleep. It’s a busy week, and it was busy afterward.”

As a salmon guide in the summer, when days start at 2:30 a.m. and end after 9 each night, Rasmussen has learned “to live on four hours a night.” Naps are appreciated, but with most all fishing pursuits, he knows chasing the Elite goal requires sacrifice.

“I think we all love this sport so much we’d all be willing to go months with no sleep and be just fine to get to where we want to be,” he said. “After this Classic finish, I’m not going anywhere. I’m fishing the Opens until I make it.”

Justin Hamner and family take a victory lap around the BOK Center floor.

With the W, Hamner catches up on Zs

After interviews and celebrating at the Classic Champion’s Toast, Hamner was up late before tucking in with the Ray Scott Trophy.

“That first night, (the trophy) definitely didn’t leave too far from me,” he said. “I sat there and looked at it, reading all those names on it. Gosh, I probably cried like a baby.

“To me, sleep is very, very important for our health and well-being. I set my phone to turn off all the notifications and didn’t turn it back on till about 8:30 after waking up, having coffee with my wife and playing with my little girl a bit. Get back to family things, that’s so important to me.”

Then the whirlwind touched back down, his phone blowing up.

“I was tempted to throw it in the lake a couple times,” he said. “Everybody keeps telling me it was going to be crazy. I wasn’t expecting this much crazy. I keep trying to get caught up. I’ll text back three people and get five new ones.”

Hamner hit his wall three days later, sleeping tight for 10 hours.

The title won, Hamner gets emotional on stage.

“I was about useless Wednesday,” he said. “All the adrenaline, a lot of adrenaline, I think just finally dumped out of me.”

The $307,000 prize money, along with $20,000 from Yamaha’s Power Pay and added sponsorship opportunities, will have all the Hamners resting easier. Hamner, famously a grass cutter for the University of Alabama grounds (Roll Tide), sold his business to concentrate on fishing.

There were long stretches away from home chasing bass, then more time away for work. Hamner already has convinced his wife, Christina, to quit her job cutting hair to be his business manager and a stay-at-home mom for daughter, Scarlett.

Seemingly more impressed with confetti than daddy’s trophy, the 4-year-old tossed the red, white and blue scraps in the air and made confetti angels on his boat during the victory lap. Hamner joined her. She’s in part why his tears came in waves.

“That emotional part just comes from all the stuff we’ve been through and how tough it was,” Hamner said. “Gosh, just putting my family through all that stuff, being gone and being flat broke and them still sticking with me and supporting me, that’s what gets me every time.”

Told he is only the 43rd person to ever hoist the trophy, Hamner said the overwhelming feeling of his great fortunes almost resurfaced.

“That’s crazy. That’s nuts. Don’t get me emotional again,” he said.

As one who held the dream as a youth, Hamner found it tough to fathom that his story, a working stiff fighting big odds to make it on the big stage, will be a source of inspiration for kids who were just like him.

“That’s pretty cool. That’s weird to think about,” Hamner said. “We all have that same passion for fishing, and crazy as it is, I hope I can be that motivation for some of those kids out there.”