After two years away, veteran angler Jason Christie began his return to the Bassmaster Elite Series in rocky fashion with a 63rd-place finish at the season opener on the St. Johns River back in February.
But since then, the Oklahoma pro has looked ready to make a run at the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. After finishing fifth at the Tennessee River and a respectable 32nd at Pickwick Lake, Christie claimed his sixth career B.A.S.S. victory at the Sabine River last week.
The win brought his career earnings with B.A.S.S. to nearly $1.3 million and moved him into fourth place in the AOY standings, just 38 points behind leader Seth Feider.
Christie’s win marked the second in a row by a member of the XPress Boats Pro Staff, after Indiana pro Bill Lowen won the previous event at Pickwick in his aluminum beauty.
Christie’s aluminum boat came in particularly handy during his win, allowing him to access some shallow backwater areas that anglers in heavier fiberglass boats likely couldn’t have reached. It also helped him with fuel efficiency during the superlong runs he made each day.
His winning weight of 43 pounds, 15 ounces was just shy of the record for lowest winning weight in a four-day event. That record still belongs to Kevin Short, who won an Elite event on the Mississippi River out of Madison, Iowa, in 2009 with 43-3.
Elsewhere in the standings:
Second place: Brock Mosley
Mississippi pro Brock Mosley was almost good enough to win a blue trophy once again, finishing second for the fourth time in his career.
Mosley’s margin of defeat in Texas was 1 pound, 6 ounces. That’s the closest he’s come to scoring a victory in any of his second-place finishes.
It was also the second time Mosley has finished second to Christie. It happened previously in 2017 in the Elite Series event at Lake St. Clair.
Third-fifth: Ito, Johnston, Cook
With a surprising third-place showing outside his deep-water comfort zone, Japanese sensation Taku Ito racked up his seventh Top 10 in only 18 events with B.A.S.S.
It was quite the week for anglers to reach that particular milestone.
Fourth-place finisher Chris Johnston of Canada also earned his seventh Top 10 in his 28th event with B.A.S.S., while fifth-place finisher Drew Cook of Florida recorded his seventh Top 10 in his 35th career B.A.S.S. tournament.
Sixth place: Seth Feider
Don’t look now, but Feider, who’s still known to many as a northern smallmouth specialist, has more than survived the Elite Series’ Southern swing so far. With finishes of third, 29th, 25th and sixth (at Sabine), he now leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
He still has three more tournaments in the Southern half of the United States before the trail swings north for summer. But if he can keep his momentum going, he’ll fish the final two events a little closer to home in excellent position to win pro bass fishing’s biggest prize.
Seventh place: Caleb Sumrall
After opening the season in 83rd place on the St. Johns River, Sumrall has put together and excellent run, finishing 19th at Knoxville, 15th at Pickwick and seventh at the Sabine River.
Even after the rough start, Sumrall is in 15th place in the AOY standings, well inside the cut for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Eighth place: Kyle Welcher
Through four events, Welcher has yet to miss a semfinal cut, and his eighth-place showing at Sabine was his fifth Top 10 with B.A.S.S.
Ninth place: Lee Livesay
Livesay seems to be fishing progressively better as the trail rolls toward his home lake.
In four tournaments this year, he’s finished 50th, 32nd, 28th and ninth — and now, the next event will be held on Lake Fork, where Livesay makes his living as a guide during the offseason.
10th place: KJ Queen
This was the best finish of the rookie’s young career on the Elite Series and his second Top 10 in a B.A.S.S. event.
14th place: Yusuke Miyazaki
This was Miyazaki’s highest finish on the Bassmaster Elite Series since he placed 10th at Toledo Bend in 2012.
17th place: Tyler Rivet
After a slow start, Rivet has now notched back-to-back Top 20s for only the second time in his Elite Series career.
18th place: Hank Cherry
The reigning Classic champ recorded his 26th Top 20 finish in his 100th career event with B.A.S.S.
19th place: Mark Menendez
After missing most of last season with health issues, Menendez has come back strong. With finishes of fifth, 31st, sixth and 19th, the veteran Kentucky pro sits in 14th place in the AOY standings.
21st: Quentin Cappo
For Cappo, this was the highest finish of his three-year Elite Series career.
23rd: Ray Hanselman Jr.
Hanselman is another angler who’s rebounded from a disastrous start to put together a decent season. After a dismal 90th-place showing at the St. Johns River, he has since finished 18th, 17th and 23rd.
27th: Hunter Shryock
Continuing an impressive streak, Shryock has now made the semifinal cut at 12 straight Elite events dating back to last season.
62nd place: Chris Zaldain
Uncharacteristically, Zaldain has now missed the semifinal cut in three of the season’s four events.
70th place: Cory Johnston
This marked the lowest finish of Johnston’s three-year career on the Elite Series.
71st place: Scott Canterbury
Speaking of uncharacteristic, the 2019 Bassmaster Angler of the Year has now finished 75th, 15th, 57th and 71st in the first four events of 2021.