John Klein: No advantage for local anglers at Bassmaster Classic
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, February 25, 2013
2/25/13 at 7:47 AM
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Original Print Headline: No advantage for local anglers at the Bassmaster Classic
Three Oklahomans were on the water the final day of the Bassmaster Classic, but once again an elusive home state advantage did not come into play.
Oklahomans Jason Christie, Edwin Evers and Tommy Biffle, along with Arkansas' Mike McClelland, were hoping for a little home cooking, but it was Mississippi's Cliff Pace who won the Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake on Sunday.
"In fishing there just isn't any advantage to being local," said Biffle, a fishing legend from Wagoner. "Fishing is about who executes and makes the right decisions."
This isn't college basketball, where the home team almost always wins. This is kind of the opposite. The home state guys, who you would think have valuable local lake knowledge, almost never win in their home state.
"You just want to perform," said Evers, of Talala. "There is so much media attention. You've got so many friends and family all here watching."
Pace led from start-to-finish, taking a tie for the lead on the first day to a 7-pound advantage on the second day.
He caught only four fish on Sunday, but that was enough to hold off the best bass anglers on earth, including the three from northeastern Oklahoma and the local favorite from northwest Arkansas.
A local guy has won the Classic just once.
Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., won the 2007 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake near Birmingham, Ala.
Still, considering Oklahoma's long history of championship fishermen, and McClelland's championship history at Grand Lake, there were high hopes that a local favorite might take home the championship trophy.
Many believed one of the trio of Oklahomans, who live within an hour of Grand Lake, could use their local knowledge to grab bass fishing's biggest prize.
Christie, of Park Hill, doesn't fish on the Bassmaster Elite Series where most of the Classic anglers make a living but still was considered among the pre-tournament favorites.
"I just got hooked on history. I got hooked on fishing spots," Christie said.
"This was pretty cool," he added. "You can tell there are a lot of fishing fans in Oklahoma."
Christie had a 12-pound final day for a total of 43 pounds, 5 ounces to claim seventh place, the highest finish by an Oklahoman.
"It was a special week for me," he said.
Christie, a former basketball coach turned professional fisherman from the Tahlequah area, has won a number of fishing tournaments on Grand Lake over the years.
He is considered somewhat of a local legend among those who regularly fish Grand Lake.
Evers has won seven times but never in 11 tries in the Bassmaster Classic.
He caught just one fish on Sunday to finish with 28 pounds 8 ounces to finsih 25th.
"I feel like I let the fans down," said Evers, who had one of the biggest crowds following him each day of the event. "I really wanted to do better for all the fans who came out."
Biffle has earned nearly $2 million in prize money as a pro angler. He's won six times and has had 56 top 10s.
Yet, he's never captured the Classic in 18 tries.
Biffle finished with 29 pounds, 2 ounces in 24th place.
"I knew this would be an awesome Classic," Biffle said. "Grand is an awesome lake so I knew almost anyone could win this.
"Once the conditions changed it really changed the tournament. If conditions had not changed, I think we would have had a slugfest and I would have been in it."
McClelland lives just across the state line from Grand Lake in Bella Visa, Ark. He won a Bassmaster Elite Series event (the Sooner Run) at Grand Lake in 2006.
He often says Grand is his home lake and he was among those who rated as a favorite for this tournament.
He caught five on Sunday weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces to rally to 45 pounds, 5 ounces for the tournament, good for fifth place.
"It definitely was a charge," McClelland said. "It was a great day. I'll look back on Saturday and say what-if because I only caught nine pounds.
"But, it has been a great week. Grand is by far one of the most phenomenal lakes out there. I figured a lot of guys would have a chance to win it because it is such a phenomenal lake."
Jason Christie of Park Hill shows off a fish at the weigh-in Sunday. Christie finished seventh overall to lead Oklahomans. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Edwin Evers reacts to the warm reception at the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Tommy Biffle arrives for weigh-in Sunday at the BOK Center. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World