Ready for the Classic push

As we head into the Northern Swing on the Elite Series, first we need deal with this little event called the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. With COVID-19 seemingly behind us, I expect there to be an enormous crowd in Fort Worth, and they’re going to see some massive limits brought to the scales.

I don’t know a lot about Lake Ray Roberts because I didn’t pre-practice, but I know it has a lot of standing timber and will share some characteristics with Fork. I think there will be both a deep and a shallow bite, so while it’s not a big lake, that’ll spread out the field somewhat. 

Will I come out on top? Obviously, I hope so. I want some redemption for last year’s 47th-place finish in the Guntersville Classic, although that one didn’t bother me too much. In what is essentially a winner-take-all event a top 10 is basically as good as last. I took my shot, and it didn’t work. I moved on.

Nevertheless, there are some advantages and disadvantages to having a summertime Classic. I feel that my chances would’ve been better early in the year when the majority of fish would have been shallow and reaction bites would have played a key role. Some of that may go out the window.

On the other hand, now that the season is several months old, we’ve all been able to dial in our gear and work out any bugs, which means that you should see a very “clean” event. That just means I need to prepare flawlessly to beat this stacked field.

Winning the Classic would mean everything to me. I’ve been banging on the door of winning individual events and the Angler of the Year title for several years, but the door just won’t open. I have four third-place finishes and a runner-up in B.A.S.S. competition, but I haven’t been able to close it out. I’ve seen my brother and Gussy bring trophies back to Canada, but I’m still waiting on my first blue one.

The thing that hurts so much is that I’ve been so close and had the fish on to win on several occasions. One small mistake, or one decision that’s slightly “off,” is often the difference between winning and being an also-ran.

Hopefully I’ll take some momentum away from the fact that Chris and I just won the Sturgeon Bay Open for the third time. Besides the Classic, it’s probably the tournament that we look forward to the most, and even if it didn’t have a pretty substantial payoff it’s fun just to go out there and catch 100 smallmouth a day, most of them from 4 to 7 pounds.

With all of the excitement of Sturgeon Bay and the upcoming Classic, it’s easy to forget that we’re in the midst of an epic Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Seth Feider is in first, my brother is in fourth and I don’t think I’m out of it in ninth place. We’re headed to two of my favorite fisheries on the Elites, and I’m going to do everything I can to get the monkey off my back and win on at least one of them. I’m sure Chris is thinking the same thing.

While we fully expect to do well on the Northern Swing, those are crazy events with a lot of variables. We don’t know yet if B.A.S.S. will let us go to Lake Ontario. If we can’t go to the Canadian side the playing field will be quite small. Additionally, on the big water you always run the risk of breaking something that keeps you from getting out or getting back. 

It’s amazing to me that the bass season hasn’t even opened here in Ontario yet, and we’re already obsessing over end-of-season honors. It’s time to put our noses to the grindstone and keep the momentum rolling along.