Going out on Day 3 with a chance

Bassmaster LIVE cameras capture the action as 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic champion Jason Christie catches an important bass on Championship Sunday.

Prior to last year’s victory, I had several chances to win a Bassmaster Classic and always came up a little bit short. That’s not unexpected when you’re fishing against 55 of the best anglers in the world, but it’s still incredibly painful. I’ve never really articulated this before, but if I’d fallen just a little bit short again I’m not sure I would’ve ever been able to overcome that mentally.

The Classic, of course, is our sport’s crown jewel. It’s a big part of the reason that I came back to B.A.S.S., and it’s the reason I’ll stay here until it’s time to retire. It’s been said a million times that it’s an all-or-nothing deal. Second place doesn’t mean much, but you have to make it to Day 3 to have that shot. Then you have to be ready to pounce when the opportunity presents itself.

My strategy remains the same as it did before I won – I’m going to stick with techniques that I know can help me win. You’re probably not going to see me throwing a wacky worm. That definitely catches fish, but it’s not a winning confidence technique for me.

You also have to practice smart. Unlike a regular season event where the practice period is immediately before the competition days, this one occurs a week before. You’re not working to get dialed in on a particular bite, but rather to see where the fish are headed. If it was during the summertime, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but this time of year things are changing every day. You have to fish your gut, and I like that. You also have to be prepared to take a chance or two, and judging by some of my results that’s something I do every event.

I love the fishery at Knoxville, and I finished fifth here in 2021 even though it doesn’t necessarily fit my style. I like to pick an area and milk it, whereas in this venue you need to move around a lot. It’s a big playing field, but it won’t fish very big. You know you’re going to be fishing where other people have put a lure already, but with new fish coming all the time that’s not necessarily a huge deal. It would be worse for me if it turned out to be a spawning event.

While last year’s victory gave me a great deal of satisfaction, I still expect to get pumped up when we’re going through boat check, and then again when they pull me into the arena. After competing in other sports for most of my life, I know that I ache to perform best in front of a full arena. There’s nothing like seeing 5,000 fans at takeoff and several times that amount at the weigh-in. The competitor in me wants to live up to their expectations, and I thrive on the attention.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about this Classic and fishing around home to build up some momentum. Last week’s announcement that the 2024 Classic will take place at Grand Lake almost threw a monkey wrench into that focus. Obviously, I don’t want to miss any Classic, but I especially don’t want to miss that one. Before I start to think about it, though, I have to qualify, and after two tournaments I’ll have some work to do to make that happen.

In the meantime, I’ve qualified for Knoxville, and I have a chance to hold onto the crown for another year. With no disrespect intended to our incredible fans, I don’t want to be working the Expo floor on Day 3. I feel that I can do more for my sponsors by being on the water.

I love going out there on the third day with a chance to win – I’m sure every competitor does. That’s really all you can ask for in this sport.