It’s not that Jason Christie didn’t care about the Falcon Rods Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title; he just didn’t anticipate the opportunity he now has.
Coming into this week’s Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Neely Henry Lake, the pro from Park Hill, Okla., leads the AOY race with 735 points. He third in the Eastern Opens with 382 and sixth in the Central Opens with 353.
Is he happy with his season? Of course he is. But again, this was never his objective.
“Honestly, the goal was to try to win events and make the Classic,” Christie said. “Leading the points just kinda happened. It’s not something that I really looked at or watched. After the fourth event, guys were texting me saying ‘Dude, you got a big lead.'”
As is often the case in competitive fishing, Christie’s course has seen highs and lows.
“We’ve had four events and my worst finish (38th) was on the Arkansas River where I grew up,” he said. “I’m still not very happy about that."
On the upside, Christie placed seventh at the Eastern Open on Lake Hartwell and 11th at the Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The latter, he said, provided a huge shot of confidence.
“I think my biggest day in the four Open events we’ve fished was the second day at Rayburn,” Christie said. “I was in 63rd place after the first day (12 pounds, 13 ounces) and then the second day, to be about to go out and catch a big bag (21-08) and make the cut (12th place), that’s the day right there that made the season. That was like a 60-point swing.”
A Bassmaster Elite competitor from 2013 through 2018, Christie has seven Classic appearances to his credit. He’s come close a few times, finishing second on Grand Lake (2016), third on Lake Hartwell (2018) and seventh on Grand (2013). Christie has five Bassmaster wins — three Elites and two Opens.
“The last time I was at the Classic (2019), I told everybody it wasn’t going to be my last,” Christie. “I’m fishing the Opens to get into the Classic, and now the points getting involved, it changes the game.
“To win an event, you have to take some chances, but now there’s two things going on. Falcon Rods is a big sponsor of mine and they’re sponsoring the Angler of the Year, and it would be cool to win it for them. But at the end of the day, it’s all about getting into the Classic.”
Going forward, Christie said the midseason review brings a gut check. With the pandemic requiring several schedule changes throughout the world of competitive fishing, Opens competitors find half of the season in the year’s fourth quarter. Christie said he’s mentally preparing himself for ending the season with grinders.
“We’re going into the fall with some lakes that can be stingy, so (the points race) is not over,” he said. “We have half the season left and these next two events, this week on Neely Henry and next week on Cherokee Lake, are really fickle fisheries.
“The frustrating thing is that I really haven’t been on anything good this season; it’s been kinda winging it. And it looks like this week’s event is going to be the same. I’m not on anything and I’m just going to wing it and hopefully, it doesn’t catch up with me before the end of the season.”
Elsewhere in the AOY standings, Bryan New, who won the Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain, follows Christie with 704 points. Florida stick Scott Martin is in third with 652, Justin Atkins is fourth with 642 and Marc Frazier is fifth with 638.
With two fifth-place finishes (Kissimmee Chain and Hartwell), Martin currently leads the Eastern Open points with 392. Bassmaster Elite Patrick Walters is in second with 390, followed by Christie, Joshua Stracner (382) and Wyatt Burkhalter (373).
Paul Browning leads the Central Opens points with 370 with Logan Latuso trailing by only a point at 369. Fresh off his first Elite win last week on Lake Chickamauga, Lee Livesay is in third with 362, followed by Greg Hackney with 359 and Frazier at 357.