Bridging past and present at the Bassmaster Classic

As a 12-year-old, I vividly remember watching iconic anglers like Bryan Kerchal, Rick Clunn, Kevin VanDam and Mike Iaconelli walk across the stage at the Bassmaster Classic. Their presence ignited a fire within me — a burning desire to one day stand where they stood.

I have always been a person who stays in the moment. This helps me play the long game, achieving small milestones before setting my sights higher. I try not to think too much about the future but more about how to be the best I can be in the present. 

Fast forward 14 years, and I found myself participating in my first Bassmaster Classic. This was an experience beyond words. I found myself not thinking about the future or the present but the past. I wasn’t thinking about the media frenzy or the throngs of enthusiastic fans; I was thinking about the profound sense of history that surrounds the event.

I’ve always held a deep appreciation for the sport’s legacy, understanding that it’s the foundation upon which we build our dreams. Fishing the Classic wasn’t about me being in the spotlight or for my personal gain. It was about being part of and honoring the tournament’s origins, tracing back to the vision of Ray Scott in 1971. 

Ironically, although the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo was filled with the buzz of high-tech gadgets and cutting-edge equipment, I found myself relying on traditional techniques in the tournament, which I absolutely loved. Not a single fish was caught on LiveScope, despite my attempts. Don’t get me wrong, I used LiveScope to look at rock breaks, transitions and many other structure types. However, not once did I cast at a fish and watch it eat.

Instead, I found comfort in throwing a jig on shallow rocks, reminiscent of the methods I learned from the legends of the sport while growing up. Watching guys like Denny Brauer, Gerald Swindle and Matt Herren fish jigs and become masters at their trade was a big part of my inspiration. Their approach left a permanent mark on me, shaping my approach to the sport of bass fishing. Yes, fishing has evolved over the years. However, fishing a jig continues to be as timeless as the history of the Bassmaster Classic. 

What makes the Bassmaster Classic truly remarkable is its celebration of uniqueness. Whether you’re a fan, a company owner or an angler, everyone brings something distinct to the table. It’s a melting pot of diverse skills, products and ideas, all converging to elevate the sport to new heights. The Classic isn’t just a competition; it’s a showcase of passion and innovation. This speaks to how much our sport has grown, without losing the essence of what makes it great.  

This year’s Bassmaster Classic was beyond a fishing tournament for me. I found excitement in sharing the passion for our sport with Bob Cobb, Brandon Palaniuk, Dave Mercer and many other extremely influential people in our industry. The Bassmaster Classic is the biggest tournament in fishing … period.

Yet even though it focuses on competition, it’s also where we come together to share our love for the sport, each contribution adding a unique element to the sport of bass fishing. As we continue to evolve and innovate, my hope is that we can dampen down all the negativity. We need to focus instead on celebrating the timeless traditions that bind us together as anglers.

After all, everyone is just wanting to catch little green fish.