Bassmaster Classic: Local favorite Jason Christie off to quick start on freezing first day
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 7:12 AM
Watch videos and view slideshows: Watch a timelapse video of the launch. See a slideshow from the first day, and much more.
Follow along during the event: See unofficial estimates throughout Saturday
Tour the lake: Using Google Earth, World outdoors writer Kelly Bostian gives you a tour of Grand Lake.
Anatomy of a bass boat: We have an interactive map detailing the equipment on a bass boat.
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog
Jason Christie hoped for a good start. He got it at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - and then some.
A good start; that is such a colossal understatement for a supposed "rookie" in his first Bassmaster Classic.
He is five years a touring FLW Tour pro (that other bass tournament circuit) who found his way into the field by winning a tournament last summer in Michigan - only his second BASS tournament. He's a Cherokee Indian sponsored by Cherokee Nation Business, presenting sponsor of a tournament on the lake named Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. He's a local boy, and national favorite of the pundits, who is fishing his home lake on the sport's grandest stage in front of a worldwide audience - dozens of them looking directly over his shoulder.
On sub-freezing Grand Lake on Friday, Jason Christie launched with temperatures in the 20s and wind-chill in the teens to land two fish within the first hour of competition. He had a remarkable 38 spectator boats on his tail on a frosty crisp sunrise, and that grew to 65 by midday, which wasn't much warmer. He weighed his full five-fish limit in front of a larger-than-usual first-day crowd I'd estimate at about 6,000 in the BOK Center.
"It blew my expectations out of the water to say the least," Christie said of his first taste of the Classic.
At sunrise, Christie passed under Sailboat bridge and promptly left his camera boat behind. BASS Nation volunteer Sterling Bougher of Mannford had his boat maxed-out, but the frosty white rooster tail behind Christie's boat grew ever smaller, until finally he lost sight of him. Bougher had a boat a foot longer and an engine with 25 less horsepower than Christie, he explained.
Upon arrival on his first fishing site the question was asked, "Has he got any yet?"
"Two, he's got a four- and a three-pounder," said cameraman James Massey of JM Associates. That was the "good start" Christie was looking for. He should have been seething with adrenaline.
But Christie, as he later put it, was "calm as a cat." He felt good. You could see it in him. "Hey are there any Indians out there?" he yelled to the spectator boats with a "hey!" and "I am!" in response.
The enormity of the situation passed him by. This guy was just out fishing, having a good time with a few thousand of his closest friends looking on.
Fishing mostly main lake features where Horse Creek meets the body of Grand Lake - you wouldn't recognize it as a "creek" off the lake unless you spotted yourself on a map - he had one rod and one lure in his hands most of the day. He wore Smithwick-labeled outerwear and tossed a blue-backed, orange-bellied Smithwick Rogue jerkbait exclusively until 12:30 p.m.
He lost his cool for only one second, at a point that would crush the spirit of most. He had a 4 1/2-pound fish at the boat, reached to grab it and in the last moment it twitched its head and the single hook in its lip popped out.
"She was coming toward me so she actually slid over my hand all the way," he said.
He could have traded the 4 1/2-pounder for a 2-pounder and increased his weight by 2 1/2 pounds. It was a heartbreaker. In anger he slapped the surface of water. "I do have a tip," he later said. "Don't slap the water when it's 22 degrees."
His reaction was to shed layers of clothing because he felt he was a little slow and hindered by all that insulation. Already he was fishing bare-handed on a day when one of the big problems was ice clogging his reel and rod guides.
A final fish that put Christie's bag at his sixth-place 18 pounds, 12 ounces surprised him. "I think, yeah, yeah that's, that is a fish!" he said as he commenced the battle.
Christie smiled broadly and handed out pieces of his uncle's beef jerky, which he had shared just before catching the fish. This, from a guy who says he doesn't follow superstitions. He was excited, yet laughing at his own good fortune.
"Hey I thought I was hung-up, that shows how good I am at catchin' 'em," he said with a chuckle.
Just a guy out there having fun, fishing for a $500,000 check and fishing's grandest prize, off to one extraordinarily good start.
Original Print Headline: Local favorite off to quick start on freezing first day
Kelly Bostian 918-581-8357
Park Hill angler Jason Christie gives a fat bass a love pat before dropping it in his live well during Day One competition Friday. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
Spectators follow Jason Christie on Friday. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World
Jason Christie celebrates a catch with cameraman James Massey on Friday. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World