Opens angler to fish home waters in Classic

When Jason Christie learned that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic was slated for Grand Lake, the Oklahoman knew it presented a grand opportunity.

When Jason Christie learned that the 2013 Bassmaster Classic was slated for Grand Lake, the Oklahoman knew it presented a grand opportunity. The 46,500-acre reservoir is Christie’s home turf.

To qualify for the Classic, Christie would have to win one of the Bassmaster Opens, a tall order for any angler.

He rose to the challenge when he fished the second Bass Pro Shops Northern Open at Lake St. Clair. His three limits of smallmouth bass totaled 67 pounds, 4 ounces, enough to claim first place.

Later that summer, Christie, 38, put an exclamation point on his season, winning a Bassmaster Northern Open at Fort Gibson, another Oklahoma reservoir he knows well. In the span of a few months, Christie went from being unknown to Bassmaster fans to being one of the favorites to win the Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake.

“Fishing the Classic on your home lake is a dream come true,” Christie said.

Christie may be new to Bassmaster fans but he has proved to be a skilled tournament fisherman by competing in non-Bassmaster events. His success allowed him to quit a teaching and basketball coaching position at a junior high school and become a full-time bass pro in 2008.

“My dad got me into fishing and hunting early in life,” Christie said. “That’s where I learned to love and respect the outdoors.”

Christie’s father, Jerry, occasionally fished bass tournaments with him. But it was three of his father’s five brothers, Don, Charlie and Kevin, who got Christie hooked on competitive fishing.

“I started fishing team tournaments around home with my uncles when I was 12 or 13 years old,” Christie said. “We would trade partners, and I got to fish with all of them.”

Within an hour of Christie’s home were Grand Lake, Fort Gibson, Tenkiller and Eufaula. He and his uncles often fished tournaments on all these reservoirs. They won a number of events and claimed several boats as prizes.

Since Christie’s father and uncles were shallow water anglers, he learned the nuances of fishing skinny water with everything from surface baits to flippin’ jigs.

“I still prefer to fish shallow,” Christie said. “That’s what I resort to when the going gets tough.”

Then again, Christie also feels comfortable fishing deep. About the time he was 16 years old, Bassmaster veteran Mark Davis was kicking serious butt by fishing offshore structure. That prompted Christie to break away from the shoreline and learn the mysteries of the deep.

He learned his lessons so well that he started schooling his father and uncles on how to catch deep-water bass. He prefers to fish deep with big-billed crankbaits, but he can dredge up bass with a variety of lures.

At St. Clair, he relied on a Yum Tube and a Carolina rigged Yum Zellamander to carry him to victory. While practicing for the event, he narrowed down a square mile of patchy vegetation to a key spot the size of a house that held a mother lode of heavy brown bass.

Christie claims that finding the gold mine was “absolutely luck.” However, this is clearly another instance where an angler made his own luck through skill and hard work.

When asked whether he’s likely to be fishing shallow or deep during the 2013 Classic at Grand Lake, Christie wouldn’t tip his hand. He plays down his home-field advantage saying that Grand Lake has so many bass anyone could find the winning fish.

“The fishing will be tough because the water is typically 37 to 41 degrees in February,” Christie said. “But a lot of big fish will be caught at the Classic.”