A new champion in Oklahoma

It was a long week of fishing and all of the extra activities that go along with the Bassmaster Classic but when it was all said and done, Justin Hamner of Alabama was the one hoisting the trophy in front of a packed house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 33-year-old angler took the lead on day one and never relinquished it through three days of competition, on his way to winning the $300,000 first place prize.

After going through the experience of winning this tournament last year, it was fun to watch one of my peers go through the same experience and witness all of the emotions that come with winning this event. For anyone who enjoys competitive bass fishing, it is a dream to win this tournament.

I don’t know Justin Hamner all that well but it was really great to see how much winning the tournament meant to him and his family. He is in his fourth season on the Bassmaster Elite Series and has found a lot of success in his young career. His life will change from this win, with a lot of good opportunities now surely headed his way.

As hard as I tried to go back-to-back last week, it just wasn’t meant to be for me, as I finished 31st in the 56-angler field. Throughout the practice and the tournament, it just felt like I could never get settled down in a really good area. I could catch a couple of nice fish each day but I could never put together a limit of five of them. Each day of the tournament I had a couple of big bass but had to mix in some small fish under two pounds to fill my limits.

Jeff Gustafson congratulates Justin Hamner on winning the 2024 Bassmaster Classic.

The Elite Series season resumes in a couple of weeks down in Florida with back-to-back events at the Harris Chain and St. John’s River so now the goal turns to getting back to the Classic next year in Texas. Through the first couple of tournaments, I’m sitting inside the cut line so I just need to maintain some consistency throughout the rest of the season. Hopefully we’ll really hit on a tournament or two and try to make a run at getting a win.

The competition continues to get tougher every year so for me it’s all about continuing to work on my game and get better. I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks down south, fishing as much as I can and trying to get better fishing on some of these southern reservoirs and utilizing the electronics I have on my boat. We never stop learning in this sport and there is not better way to get better than spending more time on the water.

I feel lucky that I get to do what I do and an aspect of that which I enjoy is getting to visit all of the different places that we do to go fishing. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this job so I’m trying to enjoy and take in as much as I can in all of our travels. I just know I want to be fishing in the Bassmaster Classic next year and that will drive me throughout the rest of the season.