My Bassmaster Classics: I remember them all

I’m back home relaxing and thinking about the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on the Tennessee River. I’m going to be there!

Fishing the Classic is something that’s in your mind all year long. I have no hesitation in saying that it’s the goal of myself, my family, my sponsors and everyone associated with my career. There’s no tournament like it, and I couldn’t be more excited about surviving the 2018 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster Classic Bracket to claim a spot in it.

I’ll tell you a little something that’ll help explain what it all means: 

This last year the tournaments were scattered around and required a lot of travel. I hired a driver for most of them. His name is William Guffey. He’s a retired truck driver I met four years ago when he delivered some things to my house.

He did a first-class, professional job for me this year and was rooting as hard as anyone for me to make the Classic. We’re together today, crappie fishing, to celebrate the fact that we reached our goal. We’re having a good time, too, but the crappie don’t seem all that important. It’s the talking, laughing, retelling stories and enjoying the moment that matters. That’s what a Bassmaster Classic berth is all about. That’s what it really means. 

Another thing about the Classic is that you remember every day, and every fish, from every single one of them. I’ve fished six, and I can run them down to you hour by hour. 

I suppose that I have to say that the most memorable one — to date — is my win on the Red River in 2012. I remember it well, and I can remember every fish, especially the one that made my tournament on the last day. 

She was the third one of the day and she weighed a little over 6 pounds. Once she was in the boat I knew I had my chance and that I’d better take advantage of it. She was (is) so important to me that I had a replica of her made. It hangs in my son’s room. I keep a close eye on her whenever I’m home, and I’ve never looked at her without a grin on my face.  

But, I’ll tell you that the first Classic I fished is a close second in my rankings. Bobby and I fished that one together on Lake Hartwell. It was the first time in 28 years that siblings had qualified and were competing. Our family is close. We’ll never forget that week together.

There’s been some pain, too. It wasn’t a bad Classic — there’s no such thing — but it did hurt a little. It was out in Oklahoma at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in 2013. I launched the first morning as the reigning champion and came in the first afternoon without a fish.

Next year’s appearance will be as special as all of the others. I’ll have a spot in the biggest bass tournament of them all. And, my family, my friends and my sponsors will be there with me.