John Crews left his home in Salem, Va., Thursday for the drive out to the Bassmaster Elite at Sacramento River. Like all the eastern-based anglers, he’ll drive, and drive, and drive some more.
His three-day trek, covering more than 2,700 miles and 38 hours behind the wheel, was one of anticipation. Crews, who leads the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, is driving for a repeat performance.
“I can promise you there is no other tournament that I would want to win more than being out there on the California Delta,” he said. “I want to win every tournament, but some of them you just want a little bit more than others. And that’s definitely one of them.”
Crews said he had a bunch of different reasons, chiefly the fact that he’ll be defending champ from the 2010 Elite Series event there. Then there’s the East Coast angler winning on a West Coast fishery. He said it had nothing to do with outshining his Elite running mate Ish Monroe, who hails a comparatively short drive away from the Delta in Hughson.
“It’s not about Ish or any other angler,” Crews said. “It’s more of a versatility, repeat kind of a deal. It’s just like Skeet winning two times in a row on Guntersville. That really makes a statement. My hats off huge to Skeet for being able to repeat on a body of water that’s not his home water. That’s really, really strong.”
Reese won on Guntersville two weeks ago, repeating a final day climb from second place just as he had in 2010. But Crews notes that conditions were different in those two events, just like they’ll be this time on the Delta.
“It sends a statement … I like it,” said Crews, who despite only one win has built a solid resume since beginning with B.A.S.S. in 2000.
Of his 143 tournament entries, Crews has cashed in 91, a nifty 64 percent success rate. He has three third-place finishes, 19 top 10s and eclipsed $1 million in earnings in this year’s first Elite event on the Sabine. Crews has fished nine Classics and has made some noise in AOY races. He wants it known he’s capable of winning anywhere.
“I say the same for Skeet, wherever he launches his boat, he’s a threat,” he said. “I feel like I need to continue to prove that I’m the same way.”
Going into each event, Crews said he has a realistic goal of figuring out what it will take to make the Top 12. Then if practice doesn’t go as hoped, he said he’ll take that into perspective and work toward the best finish he can have.
“Some people say it sounds weird, but I’ve said I had some really good 50th-something-place finishes, to where I made the most of what my practice was,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt, but my expectations for every event is to make the Top 12. That’s what I prepare for.”
The Delta in 2010 was one of those perspective events that turned magical. Starting out of Stockton, Crews said he had a terrible practice and figured out the fish during the event. He only caught four fish on Day 1 but they were the right fish, putting him in the hunt tied for ninth. He climbed to third on Day 2 and was feeling good about his chances.
“I remember after the second day, I told Ish and Mike (Iaconelli) that I was on the fish to win. I knew I was,” Crews said. “I’d never had that feeling before, to where you just know you were on the winning fish. All I had to do was figure out how to put a limit in the boat each day.”
Crews then fell back a spot before sacking the largest bag on Day 4 to total 72-6 and beat Reese by an ounce. His key to winning was his area, a dead-end canal with tidal changes but not a lot of flow.
“The tide went up and down, and that’s kind of what I look for on other tidal rivers,” he said. “That period of time, in wintertime, cold front, they don’t want to fight that moving water. They just kind of want to hunker down and not move too much. I think that’s one of the reasons that area had a few bigger ones in it than normal.
“It was cool. It’s funny, like Hackney says, ‘A bass is a bass is a bass, no matter where he is.’ It is so, so true.”
More than a month later in the schedule, this year’s event is held out of Sacramento, adding a bit of travel time to any runs to the Delta waters. But Crews believes the fishing will be better this time. Last weekend four anglers topped 30-pound bags there, he pointed out.
If it turns into a slugfest, Crews will be comfortable. He feels like he can figure out the fish in most any place and hopes to play a major role in the AOY race.
“The way the schedule plays out, there’s a bunch of different types of fisheries we go to in the last six events. I like that,” he said. “I feel like I’m pretty versatile and I’ve had top 10s in about every type body of water you can fish. We do have probably the most versatile group of anglers in the Elite series, but at the same time, as far as versatility, I don’t feel intimidated by anybody.
“Every tournament is all the same to me, but I can promise you that some of the other competitors know I won there last time. It speaks for itself.”
And he can’t ask for anything more than his fishing doing his talking, especially when he’s going coast to coast.