FLW Tour pro Jason Christie sorts through gear in his garage last Thursday while packing for a three-week, three-tournament trip that will hit fishing spots in Georgia, New York and Michigan. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
A PILE OF new Yum lure and bait packages and a stack of new Quantum reel boxes littered the front of Jason Christie's boat as he stood in his garage last Thursday morning, pondering his next move in the cubicle with lure-stuffed pegboard covering the walls and a rack of 50 or more Falcon fishing rods overhead.
"In about 20 minutes it will look like it all exploded," Christie said. "This is the part that I like the least ... packing, getting ready."
Three thousand miles, three weeks and three bass tournaments from now Christie will be back home in Park Hill, but the grueling schedule for the next 21 days is earning him a chance of a lifetime.
Such are the schedule demands of someone who has qualified to fish the world's two premier bass tournaments in the same season, the FLW's Forrest Wood Cup and the BASS Bassmaster Classic. It's a feat many have accomplished in the past, but not so much in recent years as schedules for the two major tours closely conflict. Only five anglers in history have won both the Classic and the Cup. None have won both in the same season, although South Carolina's Davey Hite did it in consecutive years 1998 and '99.
This year Christie earned points on the FLW Tour to make the Cup and won a BASS Northern Open two weeks ago in Detroit to land his Classic berth. It was only the second BASS tournament he'd ever fished, but BASS has a win-and-you're-in rule for Open competitors.
"When I heard the Classic was coming to Grand I had to figure out a way to qualify," he said. "It's my favorite lake to fish."
BASS has Open tournaments closer to home, but scheduling was a problem, so he had to put on the miles and fish the northern series.
"I really didn't expect to do that well," he said. "It's different water; it's smallmouth bass..."
But it was worth the chance, and Christie managed to hit a home run.
Now he's off to the Forrest Wood Cup, billed as "the world championship of bass fishing" by the FLW and growing in prestige to match the Classic. It begins Thursday on Lake Lanier, near Gainesville, Ga.
But as soon as he finishes the Cup, Christie will hit the road for Seneca Falls, N.Y., where he must compete in the BASS Northern Open No. 3 to seal his Classic qualification. After he finishes in New York, he heads for Detroit, where his FLW season starts over again on the Detroit River - only about 30 miles from where he won the recent BASS Open.
It's a series of 12- and 16-hour drives followed by 15- to 16-hour practice fishing days, followed by high-pressure tournament fishing days.
"If there's anybody that thinks my job is easy, they need to come fishing with me a few days," he said. "It has its rewards, but it is physically and mentally demanding for sure."
Thursday morning, a box fan in Christie's garage circulated quickly warming air as the day turned into a scorcher and the boat exploded with gear, as Christie promised. He packed 35 rods and reels. Some reels needed to be replaced or re-spooled with fresh line. Lures were traded out for fresh ones to work instantly upon arrival in Georgia. Gear and oil for the boat added to the list. He hefted a box of safety boating gear specifically for fishing the Detroit River and Lake Erie.
"It's just different regulations there," he said.
He finished off the last Pepsi he would enjoy for the next few weeks and picked up a bottle of water.
His wife, Amy, and three daughters (Ali, 14; Anna, 11; and Jaslyn, 7) appeared in the garage and piled into the family SUV. The girls had sports practice and Amy took note of a few items to pick up for her husband.
Family support is a big deal, Christie said. His wife has brought things to him in the past that he's forgotten, including one time he managed to get out the door without some of his fishing poles.
"Now whenever I say I feel like I'm forgetting something she'll say, 'You've got your fishing poles, right?' " he said.
One regret Christie carries into his pro angling career since leaving his job as Tenkiller School basketball coach five years ago is the sacrifice of time with his kids.
"I'm not there to coach my own kids at school," he said. "I think every coach, dad, wants to do that. ... but we do have some coaching sessions right out here in the driveway."
As he prepared to hit the road for the first of the two national showcase tournaments, Christie had no delusions about his odds for victory in both venues.
"But you've got to get fired up for the chance to win," he said. "The chances are 1-in-45 that I win, and I think that anybody will take those odds to win $500,000."
As for the Classic in February, he said familiarity gives him an edge, but that isn't everything.
"The thing about Grand is it just has so many fish," he said. "You can catch them from one end to the other, and in that I'm not going to have any advantage ... and if there's one thing that I've learned in this sport is the guys I fish against, it doesn't take them long to figure out a lake."
Forrest Wood Cup
$500,000 top prize
Aug. 9-12 Lake Lanier
$500,000 top prize
Feb. 22-24, 2013 Grand LakeTulsa/Grove
Anglers who have won both
George Cochran||1987, '96||2005|
Original Print Headline: One big fishing trip
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