Just like the 2022 Bassmaster Classic, everything worked out how it was supposed to last week for me to win the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. From catching a 6-pounder with minutes left on the third day to even be in contention to not losing a fish all week. And then on the last day with the fog bank. It didn’t really force me to pull over, but the older I get the more I’m scared of lightning. I don’t do dumb stuff like I did when I was younger.
The area I pulled over to fish was going through my head all week, but every time I would look at it there would be a local or a competitor there. It’s not like I just ran into fog and got locked in the creek. I was trying to decide where I was going to start and that fog made it easy. I didn’t feel safe in the fog I was running, and I pulled over and tried that stretch. It was going to be a 30-minute stop, but I got bites and ended up staying there.
It was a grind each and every day. Each day I caught a lot of keepers. The first couple of days I caught 20 to 25 keepers. Day 1 I had 16 pounds, but the next five would have weighed 10 pounds. The second day I had 20 pounds, and my next five fish would have weighed 13 or 14. I wasn’t catching a bunch of big ones, but I caught just enough each day to stay in contention. I really think the third day, stubbornness and the ability to grind and stay locked in was what did it.
I had zero hope of winning when I checked in on the last day. I was idling in and there were a bunch of people saying, ‘Congratulations!’ I looked around thinking they were talking to someone behind me. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t think I caught them like I needed to on Chickamauga Lake to win.
It didn’t surprise me that I was in contention. I thought after practice that if things worked out, I would have a decent chance to make the Top 10. I was surprised I won, and I was more surprised with the weight I won with as opposed to really winning. You wouldn’t think that 73 pounds would win on Chickamauga. I would think that someone would get into the mid to upper 80s, but the weather played into my hands on the area I was fishing. If they had been biting and a lot of fish had pulled up, the Tennessee River part of the lake probably would have won this event.
The day after Championship Sunday, we got a reminder on Facebook that the Sabine River win was this same week last year. It had been 364 days between blue trophies. I’ve always told people that prespawn is my favorite time to be out there. Like it was last week and at Hartwell when you have a coat and gloves on, I feel comfortable fishing under those conditions. I prefer this time over any other fishing.
This was kind of a weird win. There wasn’t a single bait that dominated for me, and there wasn’t really one thing that stood out all week. Every part of everything I had was a player this week. During the Classic, everyone saw the LiveScope, and I used it each day in this tournament as well. I had an area where I was catching them on stumps, and I could see them in practice when the water was clearer and lower. The creek got higher and dirtier so I was using LiveScope to catch them. There were a lot of little things that happened for this win — and a lot of cool things.
Guys that have been in my position over the years understand it, but when you get in the groove, you don’t second guess yourself. I don’t care what anybody else has in their boat. Whenever you are doubting yourself, you think, “Oh my gosh, Drew Benton is fishing over there, and he has probably fished the whole creek.”
Right now, I’m in the mindset where I don’t care if someone has fished it or not. I’m not saying that in disrespect to anyone, you just get in that groove, and you feel like every stop you are going to catch one. That’s how it felt on Day 2. No matter where I went on the lake I would catch a good one. I would be riding down the lake and say, “That looks good.” I would pull over there and catch a 4-pounder.
Everything is going good right now in life and fishing, and there are no distractions. It is nothing but fishing.
Even though it was weird, and it still hasn’t sunk in yet, I still appreciate it. You don’t know when it is going to be your last one. I don’t know if this will be my last win or not. You have to appreciate it, because the guys are getting better. I used to be one of the young guys, and now I am one of the older guys. You just don’t know how many wins you have left in you.