“This is the coldest Classic,” said Bassmaster’s legendary scribe Dave Precht. “The second coldest was the Oklahoma tournament.”
How cold? Low temperature for the start of the 2015 Bassmaster Classic at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell Thursday night was 10 degrees, prompting B.A.S.S. to push Friday’s launch time to 8:30 a.m., not for the anglers’ benefit, but because of ice build up on the boat ramp the anglers use to launch.
That push was the right decision, but what wasn’t considered was the other problems severe cold can cause during launch. The tournament didn’t actually begin until after 9 a.m. because many of the boats were frozen to their trailer bunkers. Angler after angler backed into the water, put the engine into reverse and went nowhere. Boats had to be “jerked” off the trailers by pulling the launch vehicle forward and backing up quickly into the water and slamming on the brakes.
That Oklahoma Classic Precht referenced was a coming out party of sorts for an angler who has run roughshod through the past couple of tournament seasons, notching multiple wins and nearly always finishing near the top. He’s even recognized as the No 1 Angler in the World by BassFan.
That angler is Oklahoma’s Jason Christie. He’s won several big tournaments on Hartwell, and during Thursday’s annual media day he sat answering questions from fishing writers with the look of a man who knew a secret.
Christie is an honest angler – an oxymoron indeed – who openly admitted to me once that if a question might influence the other competitors, he simply wouldn’t answer it, but he would be truthful with everything he could. A good way to think of it is interviewing a baseball pitcher prior to a World Series game. Think he’s going to give you info on the pitches he’ll throw?
It’s the same with baits, locations and tactics for the Classic. Off limits. But weather this cold limits the lures an angler can use. Still, Christie seemed to know something.
“When’s the last time a tournament was won by an angler doing the same thing as all of the other guys? It’s always the guy who’s doing something a little different,” he said. “I’m kinda mad at myself because I decided back in October or November how I’m going to fish this event, and even seeing the forecast I still am stubborn, because I think it gives me the best chance to win.”
Christie is recognized as one of the best cold-water fishermen in competition – and the jerkbait, specifically a Smithwick Rogue, has normally been the weapon used to conquer the world. Much as been written about his tactics and abilities with a jerkbait, and it’s a lock that he’ll have that in his arsenal no matter the plan put together a couple months ago. Check this:
“I feel like to win a Classic an angler has to do what he does best, so I’m a little scared.”
That would suggest that he has a gold nugget hidden somewhere, but then again, it’s media day and the smoke blown at the event rivals that of a cigar bar on Saturday night.
The how’s and where’s and why’s won’t be answered until Sunday night and the weather really is the main story of this year’s Classic.
Big deal. It’s cold — too cold for 99.9 percent of the fishermen to even consider putting the boat in the water. Classic contenders don’t have the option of pulling up the covers and staying in with loved ones, though.
Cliff Prince, fishing his second Classic, is one of those anglers who openly admits that this will be the coldest tournament he’s ever fished. The Florida angler is more accustomed to dealing with afternoon thunderstorms than temps in the single digits.
Ironically, the first Classic he fished was that Oklahoma tournament, when a winter storm accompanied the competitors during the practice period but the weather warmed some during the actual tournament. Still, he remained upbeat about finding fish during the practice period. His worry was how those fish would react to the water continuing to cool.
“Average water temperature I found during practice was 46,” he said. “Now, where are those fish going to move to? I don’t know.”
The delay of the Day 1 launch was just another hink in Christie’s plan. He blew a trailer tire on the way, and his drain plug was frozen open. The crowd danced on one leg then the other to stay warm, but the morning was miserable cold even for those watching from shore.
But the Classic is on, and bass will be caught. No matter the weather, several of these best-in-the-world bass anglers will make it look easy, like anyone can do it. Most, however, wouldn’t even consider it!