Bassmaster Classic week in Oklahoma

For many of us who enjoy competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic is the dream event because it is the biggest stage in the sport. Going into its 54th edition, it is the Superbowl event in bass fishing and it’s taking place this week at Grand Lake in Oklahoma.

The Classic takes place at a different venue each year and is an annual festival for those who follow and enjoy bass fishing. It is the biggest tournament of the year with a $300,000 first place prize, there is a big expo that takes place in conjunction with the tournament that most of the fishing industry attends and it just brings together thousands of people who love the sport.

Last year, in Knoxville, Tennessee, it was estimated that over 160,000 people attended the event. The crowds were huge for the morning take-offs and the weigh-ins and the expo was well attended.

It was a special event for me because I mixed some good luck with the way that I like to fish and managed to win the tournament, which will certainly go down as the highlight of my fishing career. It was a life-changing event for me, as it is for all of those who win it. Some financial pressure is relieved for sure but it just opened to door to a lot of good things happening, from better sponsorship opportunities, more media opportunities and the title of Bassmaster Classic champion.

I still have moments nearly every day where I just think to myself, I can’t believe that actually happened. It’s not that I didn’t think I could win or anything like that, but it’s an iconic tournament that I’ve followed since I was a little kid and you don’t expect that winning it would ever happen.

Starting on Friday, I get my chance to defend the title on a completely different body of water than we fished last year. It will be very hard to repeat but there are only 55 anglers competing and somebody has to win. I’m going to give it my best shot and try to give myself a chance at the end of the three-day tournament.

Through the first few days of practice, I don’t think I’ve found the winning spot yet but I have caught a few nice fish and I’m looking forward to the tournament starting. It’s springtime in the south and the conditions are changing rapidly. Part of the challenge for this event – because we practice for three days then have a few days off before the tournament – is trying to read where the fish are going to be when the event starts. The bass down here are getting close to wanting to spawn so they are moving shallower and trying to intersect them as they head in that direction will be important.

It will be a fun week and I’m excited that quite a few friends and family from home will be attending the tournament this year. As I mentioned earlier, it’s like a big bass fishing festival and it’s quite a spectacle, witnessing everything that goes on. It’s hard to qualify for the tournament so I don’t take it for granted how often I’ll get to do it moving forward so I want to make sure I enjoy every moment this week, while still keeping my focus on the tournament.

I’m going to give it my best shot to bring another one of those beautiful trophies back to Canada.

Jeff Gustafson will try to defend his Bassmaster Classic title this week in Oklahoma.