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Garrett has seen it from both sides now

It wasn’t a view he necessarily wanted, but John Garrett was able to see tournament bass fishing from the outside looking in during the recent Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake. The 26-year-old former Bassmaster College Series Bracket Champion hoped to be competing on the Elite Series this year. He missed qualifying through the Central Opens last year by one point. Garrett served as a camera boat driver for various Bassmaster.com photographers all four days at Pickwick.

“I learned more about how other guys competed than anything,” said Garrett, noting that former college competitor Jacob Foutz, who finished fourth, and former Bethel University teammate Cody Huff, who finished second, concentrated their efforts in very few places.

“To me, that’s so hard to do,” he said. “It was nice to get a different perspective on how everyone has a different mindset. I’m not questioning their methods. I enjoyed sitting back, not stressing and watching everyone’s decision-making process.”

Interestingly, in a conversation before the tournament began, Garrett was spot-on in predicting how it would be won.

“It’s a tournament where everyone is expecting an offshore bite,” he said on the eve of the event. “But we’ve had some cooler weather recently. There are going to be some fish on those 7- to 12-foot ledges. There are still plenty of fish in 18 to 25 feet that everybody is going to find. They’re easy to scan.”

Brandon Lester found one of the “7- to 12-foot ledges” and capitalized on it all four days in winning his first ever Elite Series tournament. He topped 20 pounds each day and finished with a winning weight of 86 pounds, 1 ounce.

“From the outside looking in, I do not feel like I could have won that tournament,” said Garrett, who lives in Union City, Tenn., and fishes Pickwick often. “That shallow ledge bite is one of those once-in-a-blue moon deals. It’s always out there, but it’s so hard to find. Those fish are harder to see (on sonar) than the fish in 15 feet or more.”

Garrett is competing in all three Bassmaster Opens regions this season hoping to join his former Bethel University teammates Cody Huff and KJ Queen on the 2023 Elite Series.

“We were teammates for five years,” said Garrett, adding with a laugh, “It took us five years to graduate because of bass fishing.”

However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for the Elite Series through the Opens, and Garrett hasn’t had a good start to his season. He has posted finishes of 60th and 171st in the two Southern Opens, and he was 153rd at Ross Barnett in the only Central Open held so far. In the Northern Opens, Garrett finished 26th at the James River in April. The next one will be key for him – New York’s Oneida Lake, July 7-9.

“If I don’t do well at Oneida, I’m looking at another year of trying to qualify for the Elite Series,” Garrett said.

If that’s what it takes, that’s what Garrett is determined to do. He’ll pay the bills in the offseason with his duck hunting guide service, as he has for several years. John Garrett will qualify for the Elite Series at some point. He has demonstrated in both college and through the Opens that he has the ability. His persistence in pursuit of that goal is unwavering.

And maybe, just maybe, something he observed on Pickwick Lake as a camera boat driver will spark a key moment in his journey.