Bassmaster Elite Series pro Micah Frazer can't point to a single scene or moment or quote that sucked him into the passion and parade of the Bassmaster Classic. But his heart does hearken back to his adolescent Georgian summers, before the days of online tournament coverage. That's where he traces his first real remembrance of the Bassmaster Classic.
"I've been eaten up with fishing ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, and I've seen every Bassmaster Classic since I was pretty small," Frazier recalls. "And the Classic got so much attention when I was younger that I probably wasn't even aware there were regular-season events — I probably figured every event was like the Classic.
"But then, as I got older, I can remember before the internet era and live coverage, how the Classic was the highlight of my summer. I'd wait all day, not knowing what happened that day in the Classic, then finally being able to watch ESPN on the air that night. It would be pretty late, but I'd stay up. Sometimes I'd fish all day just thinking about and looking forward to watching the Classic that night. It was a lot of fun not knowing what was happening. The coverage is better now, but I still kind of miss the old way sometimes — the fact that the waiting and the surprise is kind of gone."
The GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, of course, now takes place in the first quarter of the year, not summer, but the impact isn't lessened. And as Frazier reached his teen years, and learned the ins and outs of fishing, and how tournaments and trails were structured, the Classic inevitably grew in his mind. But as he progressed in the sport, he followed more and more of the FLW track, so his dream of fishing a Classic seemed abstract, even unattainable.
That changed in 2014 when Frazier qualified for the Elite Series, then made the 2015 Classic as a rookie.
"It was always a dream of mine to fish it, but I never thought I'd be able to fish it one day," he says. "I had no ambition to leave FLW, but I signed up for the Bassmaster Opens for extra tournaments. I ended up qualifying for the Elites and going on to fish the Classic my first year. I'm very fortunate to be where I am in the sport because there are a lot of people out there who've put in a lot more time and effort and have never fished a Classic. I got a lot of support as a kid. My parents got behind me and gave me the opportunity to fish when I was a lot younger than when a lot of other people get the opportunity. That makes a lot of difference.
"Just to be able to do this and fish another Classic this year is an awesome blessing for me," Frazier adds. "There are a lot of people out there who dream of doing things like fishing the Elites and the Classic, but never get to do it for a living. I'm just thankful and fortunate to be able to do what I've always dreamed of doing, instead of having to punch the clock somewhere. I've had really good opportunities in life to do what I want to do."
And with two Classics already behind him, Frazier says he has a good feel for how he needs to fish — especially because he was in position to win last year on the final day. He began Day 3 at Hartwell in third, and only needed to catch about 14 pounds to win. The fishing turned tough for all and he tumbled to 14th, but that experience fuels his confidence that his Classic approach is correct. He's going light on scouting and pre-practice and overall info, and trying to fish more by gut and moment.
"My approach to tournament fishing has changed a lot. I've kind of learned that I just need to show up and try to get on the pattern that's current that week, and not rely on scouting and pre-practicing, or how I'd like to catch them, or what they were doing two months ago. I've really gotten confident in my ability to just show up and get on a pattern or something that's happening currently, rather than visiting the lakes before the off limits.
"It's one thing to visit to learn how to navigate, and I'll sometimes still do that, but just showing up and not really thinking too much ahead of time has really helped me. I'm taking a similar approach for this Classic. I haven't been to Ft. Loudoun or Tellico for the past four years. I did visit in the fall to run around, but I didn't even take a cast. That same approach put me into contention to win the Classic last year, and I'm carrying that idea into this year's Classic and hoping I can be fortunate enough to be in the same position to win again."