Jeff Gustafson wins 2023 Bassmaster Classic.Posted on April 1st, 2023
Being the first Canadian to win the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota is pretty special. We have a lot of people in Canada who love bass fishing and a lot of good anglers who aren’t going to have the same chance that I did.
I respect all of the guys I fish against so much as well as all the names that are on that trophy. It will be nice to have this one over Chris and Cory Johnston for a while as well. I only kid … and the reality is those guys are super good and their results speak for themselves.
I was totally wowed by the crowd inside Thompson-Boling Arena, all of the lights, the music, the whole spectacle. It was the highlight of my fishing career and really my life.
It all happens so fast. You are so excited, and a lot of emotions run through you. When all the confetti went off around me, I thought I lost my hearing. There was so much of that stuff it blocked everything out.
I really can’t believe how it all worked out. With the moping technique, I am glad we had the Live video going so people could see what I was looking at. It probably isn’t exciting to watch, but I love doing it. The fans being able to see my bait, see what the fish were doing and how they were moving around was awesome.
It is something I love doing and am confident with.
I have been using a new Aqua-Vu system this year where I can plug it into my Humminbird Apex unit and look at it on that screen. It is a much bigger screen and brighter. It is beautiful and awesome for using the Aqua-Vu.
So when I got to Knoxville and started practicing on the Tennessee River, I went to that canal where I caught them last time right away. There were more fish, probably more bass than there were the last time. But half the field spent time fishing there. Then on Saturday there was a local tournament right at the ramp there and a lot of those guys were fishing there.
Basically, I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to win in the canal. Those fish were getting really hard to catch.
But I had my Aqua-Vu, and I have the exact dots where I caught a lot of my fish last time. There are rocks there, and I would put the Aqua-Vu down and see the bass sitting in the cracks of these rocks. What it taught me was, you couldn’t idle around and find these fish on Tellico. They were glued to the bottom. That’s why I think, for the most part, no one got on these fish.
It wasn’t super clear to where you could move around with it and see a lot of fish. It was finding the rock and then quickly put it down there. I saw a few smallies with their bellies to the bottom in some of the little cracks. That was all I needed to see.
My third and fourth day of practice, I spent the entire day idling and every once in a while, I would find rock on a ledge or a point that had a few hard sports. It was pretty obvious, and as it panned out no one else found it. When I was idling, if I saw something interesting, I put the trolling motor down and dropped a bait down and they would show themselves very quickly.
The first time I fished those bass, they were super easy to catch. As the tournament went on, they got harder to catch. The combination of pressure, having a lot of boats around and then the last day having the sun and no wind made it difficult.
That doomed me a little bit. My ride back Sunday was horrible. I didn’t think I even had a chance and thought I blew this awesome opportunity. When I got back, I learned it was tough for everybody. I had no regrets on how I fished the last day. I didn’t go 10 minutes without working on a fish.
At the time, I didn’t want the finish to be that tight. But looking back now, it is good that it was like that. It made for an exciting finale, and it will be something I will always remember. I didn’t think I was going to pull it off, but it worked out for the best.
Written by Jeff Gustafson – Bassmaster
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