Jason Christie was nearly certain his chance to win this week swam away on Saturday when he tried to swing a 7-pound caliber fish into the boat. He failed to execute and the fish took off back into Lake Dardanelle. Still, he managed to weigh a 20-pound bag to work his way into contention entering the final day.On Sunday, he cemented his place as one of the best closers in the sport with a 19-02 sack that helped him rally from 4th place and capture his second Elite Series win in as many seasons and his fourth tour-level victory in the last 14 months. His 4-day total of 72-03 was just 4 ounces better than runner-up Gerald Swindle, who caught a day-best 20-01 to close with 71-15.Greg Hackney, who led following days 2 and 3, saw his weight drop off for a fourth straight day and his 15-03 bag earned him a 3rd-place showing with 71-11. Rick Clunn's bid for his first win in 12 years fell short as his 15-04 stringer knocked him down two spots to 4th with 70-15.Keith Combs rounded out the Top 5 as he caught 14-00 to finish with 68-03.When it was over the top 4 were separated by just 1-04, an excruciatingly narrow margin on a lake that proved to be a powerhouse despite ever-changing weather and conditions throughout the event.Here's how the rest of the finalists finished up:6. Mike Iaconelli: 67-027. Cliff Crochet: 66-148. Chris Zaldain: 66-109. John Crews: 65-1410. Paul Elias: 64-1211. Takahiro Omori: 63-0612. Skeet Reese: 59-13Christie, the two-tour stalwart who's currently 2nd in the BassFan World Rankings, was coming off a 5th-place finish at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic last week. His familiarity with the Arkansas River, especially the pools close to his home in Oklahoma, certainly paid dividends this week. In 2012, he won a Bassmaster Central Open at Fort Gibson Lake, five pools up the river and had said that Dardanelle fished a lot like Robert Kerr Reservoir.Along with the $100,000 paycheck, Christie notched a berth in next year's Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell, site of his first FLW Tour win in March 2011.Heading into the event, the fishing up the river was said to be worthy of producing winning-quality stringers, but ultimately it was won from the middle of the lake and down toward the host city of Russellville as anglers dealt with a reservoir that changed virtually by the hour. What would've normally been an offshore post-spawn event was dominated by bank-beaters who fished grass, rock, wood and stretches with moving water.Hackney's lead in the Angler of the Year (AOY) chase was short-lived as his finish dropped him a point behind Mark Davis after five events. Davis has 412 points, Hackney 411 and reigning AOY Aaron Martens is 3rd with 390.The Elite Series is off for a few weeks and will resume June 11 with its inaugural B.A.S.S.Fest, a 5-day event set for Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tenn., where Bassmaster Open anglers will vie for an opportunity to compete against Elite Series anglers.Christie 'Shocked'> Day 4: 5, 19-02 (20, 72-03)By the first week of June last year, Christie had turned the top level of his sport on its ear by winning three tour-level events in the matter of 2 months and rocketing to the top of the BassFan World Rankings. As 2014 started creeping toward the end of the May, the Oklahoma pro was starting to wonder if that wickedly superb stretch was just an anomaly.With his win today, his fifth career tour-level triumph and yet another come-from-behind effort, it's safe to say what happened last year was no fluke.
just didn't want it to be a little hot streak and have it be over with," he said. "At the start of the year I was thinking about was it a little spurt or can I really compete with these guys? Every time I've won – every single one – I've had no idea that I was going to have a chance to win. This was no different than any of those. I was shocked as anyone else."
He caught a couple decent 3-pound caliber fish in the first couple hours today along with a pair of 2 1/2s and was sitting on close to 12 pounds most of the day. All week, though, his best stretch of time had been between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. It produced again for him today.
"I'd just put my trolling motor down and fish until it got close to 1," he said. "Then when the current got moving, I'd start hopping stretches that were getting the most current and depending on if the water was coming up or going down."
He spent the entirety of the event swimming a half-ounce Booyah jig around the edges of water willow clumps in Illinois Bayou on the lower end of the lake.
More details about Christie's and the other top finishers' patterns will be published soon.
A lot of fans ask me what life on the road is like for a professional fisherman. Well, there are definitely some unique aspects to this lifestyle, but I’ve come to realize that some things I’ve learned about staying at and fishing waters all across the country can also apply to any angler, whether he travels once a year or once a month.
Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about traveling to and staying at different locations.
The first thing I do when I arrive at a new tournament town is to purchase a local fishing license. Sometimes we need multiple licenses, depending on the waters we're fishing, but I'll get all that squared away first because if I can't legally fish, there's not much point in making the trip.
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I'm fortunate to have some of the best fans in the fishing industry and I'm always interested in knowing what they'd like to learn about the sport. I recently conducted a Facebook poll and from all the many great questions I received, the one that I want to address first is this: How do you break down a new body of water?
As an Elite Series angler, probably the biggest challenge I face is finding where to start when I compete on a new lake or river. I'll be honest, this can be overwhelming if you try to do too much too soon. That's why I've established a straightforward plan for approaching those waters where I don't have any experience.
First off, I'm not a map guy. It's not that I don't value this type of research – I know many good fishermen find it very helpful, but this just doesn't fit my style of learning. I like the digital approach, specifically Google Earth. Looking at these satellite views enables me to locate the key features like docks and vegetation, while also gaining a clear understanding of the layout. I want to know where the major creeks are, where the spawning bays are positioned, where the long points stick out, etc.
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As I start off a new year with a new column, I have a great feeling of excitement and anticipation for what 2014 might bring. As a professional fisherman, one thing you learn really quickly is that there are very few guarantees. I think that’s very applicable for me, as a fisherman and as a person.
I have several special memories from the 2013 tournament season, but I’m handling some of them differently than others. For starters, I’m really thankful that I’m coming off the biggest year of my career. I won the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Bull Shoals Lake, along with two other national level events on Beaver Lake and Grand Lake.
I believe momentum has a lot to do with a fisherman’s performance, but I’m looking at 2014 for exactly what it is — a new set of tournaments. I’m not making any assumptions and I’m committed to fishing every one like it’s my first. Do I want to win again? You bet I do, but nothing that happened last year will make a fish bite this year.
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