The past two weeks have been a blur. It started Sunday before last – the final day of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. I had a big catch, but I didn’t know quite how big, and I didn't know if it would be enough to catch my friend Jason Christie, who led the tournament each of the first two days.
Everyone keeps asking me when it was that I knew I had won the Classic. Well, it was a gradual feeling, but it didn’t really sink in until I had the trophy in my hands and was back in my boat taking the victory lap with my family in the BOK Center.
After fishing that day, I got in the truck with my father-in-law for the drive from Grand Lake back to Tulsa for the weigh-in. I think he was as excited as I was. He told me that according to BASSTrakk, Jason didn’t have a good day, but I didn’t put much stock in that. On each of the first two days, Jason caught a big fish late – after BASSTrakk had shut down for the day – and I was prepared for him to do it again. He’s a tremendous fisherman; he’s won a lot of tournaments on Grand Lake. I always expect him to come in with a good bag.
I even tried to call him from the road, but there was no answer. You might think the drive from the ramp to the weigh-in is a quiet time, but that’s not necessarily true. There are a lot of calls, a lot of conversations and a lot of guesswork that goes into those drives. In some ways, the drive is more hectic and exhausting than the time spent on the water.
When we finally got to the boat yard near the BOK Center, it really hit me that I had a chance to win. I did a “First Look” interview with Davy Hite and got choked up just thinking about the possibility of winning. It was something I was trying not to consider too much, but when I did, it was emotional.
It was about that time that I found Jason and learned that he had only four bass. He told me it wasn’t even going to be close.
From there it just became surreal. The drive into the BOK Center, the Super Six, weighing my catch and the bag being even heavier than I expected, the trophy presentation, my family coming out, the victory lap. It was all a dream come true, and it was every bit as great as I hoped and expected it would be.
Winning the Bassmaster Classic is all I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a kid. It’s what I wanted for my career, but in 14 previous tries, I always came up a little short. I hoped that I could reach the goal, but you can’t know you’re going to get there until you actually do it. And it was an unbelievably special moment when it finally happened.
I want to thank God, my family, my friends, my sponsors and my fans not just for the support – which has been tremendous – but for your part in the journey. You made it better, you made it special, and you made it possible. I couldn’t have done it without you. You all have a piece of our accomplishment.
We did it!