Notes and quotes from Day 2 of the Classic
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Being “too dumb to quit” helped Darold Gleason reach his dream of fishing the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. He espouses that for every tournament angler -- not being dumb, but continuing the fight to qualify.
He agrees that fishing a Classic is the hope of about every bass tournament angler. Weighing in a fish in the sport’s biggest event is next, then comes making it to Championship Sunday. Winning is the ultimate dream, but it’s a rare feat, only realized by 39 men, with the 40th to be crowned Sunday.
Two out of four was still great for Gleason, who weighed seven fish over two days and ended his first Classic experience Saturday. It’s one that will be with him forever. Being among the 600 or so to ever fish a championship made him feel like a celebrity in his circle of family and friends, who told him he didn’t even have to catch a fish.
“They were saying that because they love me, and I truly appreciate that,” said Gleason, a Toledo Bend guide who qualified by winning the Basspro.com Open there. “I’m a competitor though. This was a great experience, and in the days forward I’m going to reflect back how cool this was and it’s going to be great, but for all of us competitors, it isn’t about just making it here.”
A not-so-hot practice made him realize he would require some great fortune come competition days, so while holding out some hope, he lowered expectations, turning it into a personal competition with Lake Guntersville. The famed fishery won.
“It was an awesome experience, that cliché everyone says,” said Gleason, who would love nothing more than to do it all again, including all the research, longs days and hard work. Gleason did all he could to reach the top dream, and he even thought there was still a shot when he landed a 5-pounder in the last 10 minutes Saturday.
“All I could think is catch another and get into that Top 25,” he said.
A third fish weighing 4-11 Saturday would have done the trick, but he left with a 35th-place finish.
Gleason was the second to qualify for this Classic after Whitney Stephens, and through the process they became friends. Having more than a year to prepare for the championship made the venture that much sweeter, he said.
“We had a long time to anticipate and think about this. It was great for my wife to plan all the logistics, order shirts and Fatheads,” he said, realizing they will now be used against him. “All the stuff my friends are going to do with these Fatheads and the videos I’m going to get, it’s not going to be pretty.
“I do think making the Classic benefited my career and my sponsor portfolio.”
A Day 1 appearance on Bassmaster LIVE via Skype was also much appreciated, he said.
“Especially for guys fighting and clawing for every second of exposure,” he said. “I got to go on LIVE, catch a big one and talk to all the guys -- Tommy and Zona and Davy -- that was truly special. Just to share that moment and honor my sponsors and give them a little love was great.”
Friends sent more than 100 text messages after his appearance and he’s had great responses on Social Media. His message back hits home for every angler.
“You want to sum up my career and put it on my gravestone, it would be this guy was too dumb to quit, and I’m not the only one,” Gleason said. “There’s a whole lot of dudes who want it. I encouraged them all -- that’s what I said on stage. If you want to be here, just be too dumb to quit, have thick skin, don’t give up.”
Big G just keeps on keeping on
Lake Guntersville is among the famed bass fisheries in America. It hosts hundreds of tournaments each year, and big bags are abundant in most of them.
Kurt Lakin, fisheries biologist for the Tennessee Valley Authority that manages the entire system, said Guntersville possesses all the qualities of a fantastic reservoir.
“It has riverine flow, it has backwaters, lots of aquatic vegetation, lots of different kinds of habitat, a lot of different places where bass can thrive year to year,” said Lakin, who said it’s amazing the pressure it can withstand. “Nature is a pretty amazing thing, and the fish care has gotten a lot better with catch and release. The big tournaments, the fish care is so much better now that when the fish go back in they do survive so people can catch them again.”
The TVA, which teamed with B.A.S.S. for this Classic, doesn’t deal with fish but manages the water flow through the entire system.
“We monitor the reservoir for water quality, the fish, benthic sediment, a whole bunch of different parameters to make sure the footprint we leave behind doesn’t adversely affect the water quality or impact the system in any way,” he said.