It was June 2021 and Buddy Gross’ fondest dreams were about to come true. He’d grown up in the world of competitive bass fishing, first partnering with his dad in local team tournaments as a teenager, then winning $450,000 on the FLW tour and finally moving to the B.A.S.S. Elite Series after qualifying via the Eastern Opens.
“I’d watched Bassmaster televised tournaments since I was five years old and always dreamed of one day qualifying for the Classic,” Gross says. These dreams became reality when he won the 2020 Elite tournament at Lake Eufaula and subsequently earned a berth at the 2021 Classic at Lake Ray Roberts. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really happening! I’m actually headed to the Classic!’”
That’s when fate intervened.
Buddy and his family are avid equestrians, and the evening before heading to Texas for the Classic practice period, Buddy fell off his horse, severely spraining his ankle.
“All 250 pounds of me went down on that ankle. The pain was awful. I needed a one-wheeled scooter to get around, and my family and friends had to load up my boat and truck with my fishing gear.”
Gross missed two full Classic practice days.
“I tried to stand up and fish on the third practice day, but I was really hurting and had to quit early. I made myself stand up during two days of competition, but it was brutal. I ended up finishing 52nd, which I can’t blame entirely on my injury. It didn’t unfold exactly like I’d hoped, but hey, I did finally get to fish the Classic!”
If your summer bass outings aren’t unfolding exactly like you’d hoped, I guarantee you’ll pick up some useful pointers from Gross’ late June trip to Lake L.
◗ 6:17 a.m. We arrive at Lake L’s deserted boat launch. It’s a chilly 54 degrees with light fog. “You might know I’d schedule a late June article around a cold front!” Gross says, laughing. “But I’m guessing many of the bass here have already spawned and moved offshore. If they’re fairly deep, the front shouldn’t affect them all that much.” Gross pulls an arsenal of Fitzgerald rods with Daiwa reels from storage. “I’m ready. Let’s do this!”
7 HOURS LEFT
◗ 6:25 a.m. We launch the Bullet. Gross checks the water: it’s 83 degrees and stained. “I’m gonna start off shallow. I noticed some bluegill beds with bream on them near the ramp, which tells me there should still be some good bass around the banks. Later I’ll spend time idling around offshore to see what structure is available.”
◗ 6:36 a.m. Gross makes his first casts of the day to a stumpy point near the boat ramp with a white 1/4-ounce Boogerman buzzbait with a matching boot-tail trailer. “This buzzer has a real small blade and makes a very subtle surface disturbance. It’s more effective than a big, noisy topwater presentation during a frontal passage.”
◗ 6:39 a.m. Gross switches to a white quarter-ounce Nichols Lures spinnerbait with two small Colorado blades on the point.
◗ 6:44 a.m. Gross rounds the point and proceeds down a shallow bank. Targets here include wood and concrete seawalls, docks and boathouses. He casts a junebug color Zoom Zlinky finesse worm rigged wacky style (weightless with a 1/0 hook through the middle) to a moored pontoon boat.
◗ 6:46 a.m. Gross immediately replaces the junebug Zlinky with the same lure in green pumpkin.
◗ 6:51 a.m. Gross progresses along the shoreline, alternating between the buzzbait, spinnerbait and wacky worm. “I’m seeing bream everywhere. Should be some bass, too.”
◗ 6:54 a.m. Gross catches his first keeper of the day, a 1-pound largemouth, off a deep dock on the wacky worm. “Not big, but it’s a start!”
◗ 6:56 a.m. Gross ties on a 3/4-ounce Nichols Lures football jig in the dinosaur color (green pumpkin, black and brown) with a green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk trailer and casts it to a bream bed. “I won the Lake Eufaula tournament on this same jig.”
◗ 7:11 a.m. Gross’ Humminbird 360 unit displays some logs on the bottom. He crawls the jig across the cover but hauls water.