Here’s the brutal truth about the Bassmaster Classic: The only person anybody remembers is the guy who wins. And I find myself in a pretty unique situation as we get ready to head to Lake Hartwell in a couple weeks to start practice for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.
I’m the only guy in the field who could go back-to-back … in two different decades.
I’ve fished three Classics, and the last one I fished – in 2006 – just happened to be the one I won. I caught a then-record 29 pounds, 6 ounces on Day 1 and eventually weighed 56 pounds, 3 ounces on Lake Toho to win the first Classic held in February after B.A.S.S. moved it from late summer.
I haven’t been back since.
I fished the FLW Tour for 10 years after that 2006 Classic before qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2016, and I am pretty happy to find myself back in a position to compete for another Classic trophy.
Confidence is high on Hartwell
I’m pretty confident heading to Hartwell this time of year. I’ve been on that lake several times with FLW, fishing a similar time of year, so I have a pretty fair grasp of what takes place there.
I also just like the way I’m fishing right now.
I’ve had four top 20s in my last five Elite events, and finished fifth at the last two (the 2017 AOY Championship and at Lake Martin). I have pretty good momentum. I seem to be making good decisions in the past six months, I like the way things are going and I feel like there’s a pretty decent chance that I’ll have a shot at this thing going into the final day.
Every year seems to be a little different at Hartwell depending on how much the water level and temperatures fluctuate, but I feel like I’m pretty well prepared to fish up shallow if they’re in pre-spawn, or out deeper if fish are still in a winter pattern.
You’re going to see guys do well with both, and I expect I might have to play both the deep and shallow games and take the opportunities as they present themselves.
I can tell you for sure that a Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Finesse Jig and a Duel Hardcore Minnow Flat 110SP will be two of my powerhouses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a ChatterBait shows up as a wild card if the water temperatures get high enough.
Clausen 2006 vs. Clausen 2018
I’ve been asked a few times to compare what I was thinking before that 2006 Classic, and what I’m thinking now. One thing you have to keep in mind, I was 27 years old when I won that Classic, I had won the Forrest Wood Cup just 18 months earlier and had only been fishing on the tour level for three years.
My whole mentality as an angler was a little different back then.
I can remember that I was pretty optimistic right before practice, but I really didn’t know what to expect out of Lake Toho. That all changed after practice: I had maybe the best practice for a tournament I’ve had in my whole life, so I went into that Classic feeling really confident.
Catching 29-6 on Day 1 sure helped.
So I find myself in the same position approaching Hartwell: I’m very optimistic, but I feel like I’m more capable of making the right decisions to just make things work, no matter what the conditions.
And I’m honored and excited to be competing with these guys. No matter what the weather does or what the fish are doing the week we’re there, these guys are going to figure them out, and it’ll be an outstanding tournament.
Twelve years is a long time to wait for a chance to go back-to-back, but that’s my lone goal come March 16. I hope I see some of you out there.