A big week in Bassmaster bass fishing

The bass fishing community will be looking in on Ray Roberts Lake in Texas this week as the 51st Bassmaster Classic tournament is set to kick off on Friday. This is the Superbowl event in our sport, with 54 anglers fishing who have qualified from the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series season as well as winners of the 2020 Bassmaster Opens, the college national champion and a few anglers from the B.A.S.S. Nation level, which are club events held across the country.  

Luckily, I qualified for the tournament from my performance during the 2020 season so I’m in Texas this week participating in the event. The $300,000 first place prize is obviously significant but the title that goes along with it is a life changer for anybody who wants to make a living in the fishing industry. It’s the biggest tournament of the year.  

I have been in Texas for a few days already, prefishing on Ray Roberts and my early findings have not been great. Typically, this is a March event but it was moved to June due to covid precautions earlier in the year.

Initially I was excited about the change in dates because usually once we’re into June in the south, a lot of the bass move offshore, to deeper water, where I like to fish for them. Texas has seen an unusual amount of rain over the past month so we showed up here with water levels four or five feet higher than normal.

Jeff Gustafson competed in his first Bassmaster Classic in 2020. He’ll get his second shot at this weekend in Texas. -Submitted photo

All of the trees and bushes that surround the lake are flooded providing vast habitat for bass to hide so there just doesn’t seem to be as many fish offshore like there typically would. I think that somebody will find the a school of fish somewhere and make a run at winning the tournament but I haven’t been able to put it together yet.  

Like several of the venues that we’ve fished this year, we are dealing with tough conditions that seem to have the fish all mixed up. During our three practice days over the weekend I spent hours and hours idling around the lake looking for deeper schools of fish with my electronics but was not able to find anything good. I did some fishing in shallower water and I’ve caught a few fish but not of the size needed to compete in the event. This lake is known for not having the best numbers of bass in it but it kicks out some really big fish every year so it will be important to stay focused because any cast could produce a giant game changing bite.  

We have one more day of practice on Wednesday before the event starts on Friday and runs through Sunday. I am going to spend some time looking at the map to try and identify some areas to check out as well as try a few different techniques that I haven’t looked at yet. Somebody is going to figure out how to catch some big fish in this lake so I just have to keep an open mind and keep looking around. When I won the tournament that I did earlier in the year I found the winning spot in the last few hours of practice so you just never know.  

If the fishing part doesn’t work out this week it is still an honor to be able to compete in the event and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it this week. We kind of get the rock star treatment with the weigh-ins taking place in an arena with fancy lights and loud music, Bassmaster puts us up in a nice hotel for the week and we all earn a good paycheck just for qualifying for the tournament. Even though it is the biggest tournament of the year there is a little bit less stress than the regular season Elite Series events because there are no points on the line and we’re getting paid whether we catch fish or not.  

The tough fishing in a lot of these southern reservoirs really puts into perspective how good we have it around home in Sunset Country with our beautiful lakes and great fishing. I can’t wait to get out in the boat back at home to catch a bunch of fish and make myself feel good again! It’s fun to travel to all of these different water bodies to fish but there really is no place like home.