A little bit of everything

The Bassmaster Classic is always an exciting event and a major accomplishment when you qualify to compete. I am extremely grateful to qualify for the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota. 

When B.A.S.S. announced that this year’s Classic would be at the Tennessee River, I was pretty excited. I didn’t realize how much I was going to like Fort Loudoun. The first time I went, which was for the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series event, the practice was miserable. I only had one bite in practice, and it was really cold. But I went on to catch them really well in the tournament.

The Tennessee River is a super cool place. We are going out of downtown Knoxville, and we can run down the lake which has tons of creeks, main lake bluffs, eddies and you have a little bit of current running through there. There is a little bit of everything that you would want to fish. I felt like there were little pieces of all of the other Tennessee River lakes all together in Fort Loudoun. 

Previously, I picked an area that I felt set up more like Chickamauga and finished third. 

I think we will be a little bit further along for the Classic than we were for that event. We should have warmer water temperatures and maybe the whole lake will fire off a little more than when we were there last time. 

With the bass being further along, I think that will open up many more areas. In 2021, you had to pick an area and guess and hope they show up. The fishing should be really good, and I think we will see a lot more of what that lake has to offer. We were just barely scraping the beginning of when they were coming in. There are some really big bass in there, and I think it will be even better this Classic. 

In my Classic experience so far, my favorite parts have been the tournament takeoffs and then actually getting out there and competing. It is packed in the mornings, and everyone really shows up for the Classic. Last year at Hartwell, it was an hour before takeoff and they were turning people away. It was unreal. I was driving in and they were not letting anyone else in. 

It was so full. I pulled up to back my trailer down and people were watching me back in, and I was thinking to myself that I need to make sure I don’t hit anything. It was nerve-wracking having that many people watch you put in and pull it out.

My strategy for my past four Classics has been to get on the front end of whatever the pattern is, and I feel like sometimes it is just not there yet. I normally take bigger risks in these big events. 

For instance, at Hartwell I tried to force something that was days away from happening, and it killed me. I missed the cut. But sometimes I feel like you have to take that risk and try to make something happen to get on the front end of it and catch a big bag. 

Even in the Ray Roberts Classic where I finished outside of the cut, Hank Cherry and I pretty much started on the same spot. I missed one and he caught two giants. In a regular season event, I might have stuck around. But I saw how his day was going, and I left that area, bounced around and in my second area, Hank was over there jacking them again. 

If I have learned anything, it is that you have to be there on the final day to even have a chance to win. I don’t necessarily need to play it safe, but I also have to fish what is going on that day. 

I really enjoy fishing these types of events. For one of the 53 guys, this tournament will change their life at the end of the week. It is what we work for all year, for this opportunity to fish the Classic. Normally I would be happy to make the cut and then maybe the top 10, but this one sets up really well for me. I definitely feel like I should have a shot at finishing in the top five.

I am looking forward to seeing how this Classic plays out. Every angler has to enter the tournament believing they can win it. I’m praying that this weekend might be that time for me.