BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Two days ago on the Ramada Quest stage, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jason Christie bemoaned the crystal water and dead-calm conditions of Bull Shoals Lake.
“Clear water and no wind scares the heck out of me,” said the Elite Series rookie from Park Hill, Okla., on that second day of competition. He dropped from fourth place into 14th. It was a serious fall in what had become the “ounces-count” Quest.
If Christie was scared, he was scared straight. On the third day, he managed to climb up into 11th place and qualify for Monday’s fourth and final round. He was 5 pounds, 6 ounces behind the leader.
Monday at the weigh-in, he showed what having the fire under you can do. He turned in a huge bag, the tournament’s largest: 18 pounds, 0 ounces. Christie landed squarely in the winner’s seat, with his first Elite Series trophy. It came with $100,000 and his second consecutive Bassmaster Classic qualification.
“Awesome,” said Christie about his secure return to the Classic. “I was hooked on it last time, and I’m ready to go again.”
Christie’s winning weight was 56 pounds, 8 ounces. His Day Four bag of five largemouth of 18-0 included two 4-pounders and a 5-0, the largest bass of the day.
His margin of victory was 1 pound, 2 ounces over Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla. That was a notable achievement given that the Day Three leader, Casey Scanlon, led by 12 ounces, and the Day One and 2 leader, Greg Vinson, led by 1 pound and by 3 ounces, respectively.
Christie’s leapfrog from 11th into first place was the biggest Day Four comeback in Elite Series history. (Arkansas pro Kevin Short rose from sixth place to win the 2009 Mississippi River Elite event.)
Christie, 39, came into the Quest hot off an April 14 FLW Tour win on Beaver Lake. The Elite Series title of Monday chalked up rare consecutive wins in the sport’s best-known circuits, both on White River impoundments in Arkansas.
“I just want to ride this train till it wrecks,” said Christie of his winning streak.
He said he saw few similarities in Beaver and Bull Shoals, except for one factor:
“Beaver taught me the fish are not as far along as we thought that they were. The males are pulling up, but the females are still in the eating mode,” he said. “But Beaver and Bull Shoals are a lot different, even though they’re on the same river (the White). Beaver has a lot of colored, flat water — but Bull Shoals has a lot of fish in it.”
At Bull Shoals, his winning pattern was firing casts to schooling fish busting the surface of a creek he fished all four days. But he didn’t see that schooling action until the fourth day. On the first day, he used a crankbait. The second day he tried the crankbait, then put it down when it didn’t produce, and went to a Carolina rig. The third day he went again to the rig, but abandoned it for flipping bushes. On day four, when the fish started to show themselves, he broke out a Heddon Zara Spook One Knocker, a bait with one big internal weight in a transparent finish.
“I was going from bush pocket to bush pocket and they came up,” Christie said. “I stayed there. When I need a 3 1/2 to cull, and I haven’t seen a 3 1/2 all week, I’m going to stay there.”
He said the bass were breaking the surface across a “giant” area.
“The only ones you could catch were the ones close to you,” he said. “They were going so much, I’d turn to one side, go for one, then turn to another. I tried to stay on top of it as much as I could.”
He caught his entire 18 pounds Monday on the Spook. When he was flipping to bushes, he used a green-pumpkin Yum Wooly Hawg. The crankbait was a 6A Bomber in crawdad.
Day Three leader Scanlon of Lenexa, Kan., ended in third place with 54-11. Finishing fourth at 54-1 was Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla. Fifth place was taken with 53-15 by Lake Wylie, S.C., pro Britt Myers, who finished second in the 2012 Quest.
Christie’s victory was his first Elite Series win, but third on the Bassmaster circuit he joined in 2012 to make his bid to be an Elite pro. In the Opens, he won a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open event and secured a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, his first. By the end of the season, he had amassed enough Northern Open points to qualify for the Elite Series. He also scored a second 2012 Open win.
In his first Classic appearance — in February on his home water, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees — Christie finished seventh. His Elite debut was not so pretty: 69th at the Sabine River. He recovered nicely with a Top 12 on Falcon Lake.
The Quest produced a new leader in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race: Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla. Former leader Brandon Card of Caryville, Tenn., dropped into sixth place. Evers has 259 points; Card, 233.
Between Evers and Card in AOY standings are Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla., second place with 250 points; seven-time AOY winner Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., third place with 250; and Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., and Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., both with 238 points.
At the end of the eight-event regular season, the pro with the most points will win the $100,000 AOY award.
Bonuses earned at the Ramada Quest included:
* Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament, worth $1,000 plus another $500 for wearing Carhartt apparel: a 5-6 weighed on Day One by Kentucky pro Bradley Roy.
* Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500 for the best five-fish limit: Christie for his Day Four bag of 18-0.
* Toyota’s $1,000 bonus to the leader in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race: Evers.
* Luck “E” Strike Comeback Award of $500 to Fred Roumbanis, who achieved the biggest jump in the AOY standings, from 67th up to 34th place.
* Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $500 to Christie as the highest finisher equipped with Power-Poles.
* Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500 for leading on the second day: Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala., who also led on Day One. He posted 30-5 over two days.
Next up for the Elite Series is the West Point Lake Battle out of La Grange, Ga. The four-day event is scheduled to begin May 2.