So close I can taste it

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James Overstreet

I’ve been dreaming about fishing the Bassmaster Classic ever since I watched my brother Fletcher compete in his first Classic in 2012 on the Red River. Shreveport hosted that event. It was the first Classic I ever attended. I was amazed to see the magnitude of bass fishing’s grandest show.

Getting to the Classic has been a driving goal for me year after year while fishing the Bassmaster Opens and, now, the Elite Series. After fishing back-to-back tournaments in New York, I’m 30th in the AOY standings.

I’m so close to qualifying for my first Classic I can taste it.

I was under the gun prior to the New York events. I dropped the ball at Guntersville and finished 60th. That set me back to 38th in the AOY standings, which is too close for comfort to the Classic cutline of 42nd place.

The pressure was on big time. If I failed to earn substantial points in New York, my Classic dream was sure to elude me for another year. I managed to pull my backside out of the fire by finishing 14th at the St. Lawrence River and 13th at Cayuga Lake.

Neither of those strong finishes came easy. At the St. Lawrence I couldn’t get on the heavyweight smallmouth it takes to win there. In practice, the smallmouth I found were here today and gone tomorrow. I needed a backup plan I could count on to ensure that I would earn as many AOY points as possible.

I spent half of my third practice day fishing for largemouth in the shallows. I got several bites by working a frog over matted cheese and flipping a Berkley Powerbait MaxScent Creature Hawg. I only set the hook five times or so. I didn’t catch any big ones, but I knew I could count on the largemouth if the smallmouth bite went south for me, which it did.

I boated a 15-pound limit of smallmouth on the first competition day by fishing a drop-shot rig, but I only had three good ones. I fished for largemouth the final two hours and boated a pair of 4-pounders. That’s when I realized there were some quality largemouth in my area. The two 4-pound largemouths boosted me to 20 pounds for the day.

That would have made me one of the leaders at most Elite tournaments. However, it was only good enough for 25th place at the St. Lawrence. What an incredible fishery.

The smallmouth totally let me down the second day. After catching only two brown ones in the first few hours of fishing, I abandoned them and went for the green ones. I salvaged 17 pounds and change, which was just enough to make the cut for day three.

On the third day, I went straight for the largemouth and sacked over 21 pounds of them. That jumped me to 14th place. I wish I had fished for largemouth from the get-go, but I can’t complain about the AOY points I earned.

Although I finished 13th at Cayuga, the bite was tougher for me there. I was flipping grass in 12 feet of water and ground out seven to eight bites a day. I earned every ounce I caught there.

Right now I’m 80 points above the cutline. That gives me a comfortable cushion going into the Tenkiller tournament. I’ll be able to relax and fish the way I want to fish, knowing that every bass isn’t life or death as far as the Classic is concerned.