In the third season of the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge, Iowa native Chris Miller took the top prize. Chris, from Spirit Lake, Iowa, won a fishing trip with Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona on legendary Lake St. Clair in Michigan. The trip also includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations and $150 in spending money.
Miller, who fishes 20 to 30 bass tournaments per year, is no stranger to competition. In 2023 he fished Division 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens and is signed up to fish Division 3 of the Opens in 2024. A longtime fan of Bassmaster tournaments, Miller and his dad compete every year in both Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing and Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake to see who will come out on top. We got the chance to catch up with Miller and learn his strategy for taking care of business in the Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge.
How long have you played Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing?
Since it first came out. My dad won some prizes early on and we’ve played ever since.
Which format do you prefer? Drain the Lake or Fantasy Fishing?
I like them both. Drain the Lake requires more strategy, and I feel like I have an advantage. With Fantasy Fishing, you’re never out of it; you get to hit the reset button after every event.
What was your strategy when selecting your rosters for the season?
I set a loose roster for each event before the season started but left some wiggle room for each event. I specifically left out the northern guys for the second half of the season and had a little luck with how my guys did in the southern events. Out of the pool of smallmouth hammers, I split them up between the three northern events as to not burn them all in one tournament, then I’d pick two dark horses per event I thought had a good shot. I knew if I survived the first half of the season, I’d have a good shot.
What was your highest finish of the season?
My highest finish was the St. Lawrence River to wrap up the season. I didn’t have any bad events; they were all consistent finishes.
How far in advance did you set up your lineups?
I set my lineups at the beginning of the season but made some adjustments the week of each tournament. There is always a lot of dock talk, and you have to sort through what you want to believe. I would change my lineups and then change them back to what I thought originally, I went with my gut feeling.
How excited are you to fish with Mark Zona?
I’m absolutely jacked for it. I’m a smallmouth guy, and I can’t wait to go catch some brown ones with Zona. When I saw the grand prize was fishing with him, and I knew I was in contention, I really wanted to win.
What advice do you have for Drain the Lake players for 2024?
Set your lineups before the season starts and have a plan already in place. Don’t try to wing each tournament. There is a lot of dock talk around each event, but trust your gut.