No Classic assumptions

Despite what you may have been told about the dangers of assuming, there are certain assumptions that can be safely made.

You can assume tonight that people will argue about politics on social media tomorrow. You can assume today that many bass anglers won’t be completely truthful with you about which baits they intend to use in a tournament tomorrow.

But one thing you can never assume is that any lead — no matter how large — is safe in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota.

Just ask Jeff Gustafson.

When the Day 2 weigh-in of this year’s Classic on the Tennessee River in Knoxville came to a close, Gussy led by nearly 6 pounds, and in six days in two major events on the fishery, he had never so much as trailed.

He had led all four days of the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series event in Knoxville — his first career Elite win — and the first two days of the Classic.

So, the fact that two of his closest competitors — Alabama pro Scott Canterbury and Maryland whiz Bryan Schmitt — almost sounded more confident than Gussy seemed very telling.

“I need 20 pounds and for Gussy to stumble,” Schmitt said with that wry smile of his. “But this lake can really leave you dry.

“There will be a lot of nerves tomorrow — and anything can happen.”

Canterbury echoed that sentiment.

“If I catch 20 pounds, I’ve got a shot,” he said. “The fish live here for me to catch 20 — and Gussy’s still gotta do his part.”

That’s why assuming anything in the Classic is dangerous.

Sure it’s good to have a lead. In some ways, the bigger, the better.

But by contrast, the bigger the lead, the bigger the spotlight. The bigger the expectations, the heavier the pressure is for you to do what you’ve set the whole world up to believe you’re going to do.

No one can say for sure if pressure played a role in Gussy’s Championship Sunday struggles. He caught only two bass that weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces. But that could have been because his fish had been pressured and his pattern was going away or because he was feeling the weight of the world on those broad shoulders.

But anyone who had just assumed the Canadian superstar would waltz away with the Ray Scott Trophy had to be nervous as Schmitt and Canterbury — two true veteran professionals — fished that final day like they had nothing to lose and the most important title in the fishing universe to gain.

Schmitt caught five bass that weighed 11 pounds, 1 ounce and finished just over 1 1/2 pounds back from Gussy’s final 42-7 total. Canterbury caught 12-1 and finished just over 2 pounds back.

If not for a midday keeper by Gussy that finally sealed what had seemed like a done deal 18 hours earlier, we’d be talking about one of the other two as Classic champ.

When it comes to the greatest anglers in the world fishing the biggest event in the world, you never assume anything.

“That’s reason No. 10,477 why the Classic is — and will always be — the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.”