Surviving Florida and earning cash

The second of back to back Bassmaster Elite Series events took place this past weekend at the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida. It was a fun week at my favourite lake in Florida but it was another mediocre finish to start the season. Fortunately I landed on the right side of the cut line last week, finishing in 47th place so I earned some money.  

The entire 94 angler field fishes the first couple of days before the field is cut to 47 for day three. I squeaked into the day three cut in 44th place but a small limit on day three dropped me to 47th. It’s not a great start to the year but anytime we get to fish on day three, it’s a win. From a points standpoint, neither tournament was a bomb so it could have been worse but I’m just outside the 2023 Bassmaster Classic cutline. Obviously, there is still plenty of fishing left with seven events remaining but I definitely don’t want to have to dig myself out of a hole later in the season.  

My three day practice for this tournament was not great but I did catch a few big fish including a pair in the seven pound range so I was optimistic heading into the event that I would be able to do well. The way it worked out, these big fish kind of locked me into an area that was maybe not the best. Usually in these tournaments down here, to do well, you have to include a fish or two over five pounds each day to stay in the mix. It’s rare to get solid limits of nice ones in the three and four pound range, like we do in Northwest Ontario.  

Jeff Gustafson holds up a pair of bass he brought to the scales this past weekend at the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida.

As is always the case in Florida, there were some giant fish brought to the scales over the weekend. The big fish of the tournament was an eleven pound monster that Florida angler John Cox caught on day three. I got the see the fish up close and for anybody who enjoys bass fishing, it was an amazing sight to see! Double digit bass are rare so whenever you get to see one, it’s pretty special.  

The tournament was a grinder for me in that nothing really came very easy. My mornings were tough every day and on each of the first two days I caught my biggest fish in the final minutes of fishing. On the second day I caught my biggest fish with three minutes of fishing time left before I had to run in and then I squeaked into the day three cut by ounces. I always fish right until the last minute and usually those last minute catches never happen but every once in a while, when they do, it’s a sweet feeling! 
Georgia angler Buddy Gross ended up winning the tournament with a four day total of 77 pounds, 11 ounces. It’s his second win in the past three seasons. He is a great guy who has built a pretty solid career, winning a tournament almost every year.  

We’ve had a good past few weeks down in Florida and we’re on the road now for South Carolina where we have the Bassmaster Classic coming up in a week and a half. It’s our championship event that I qualified for from last year’s Elite Series season. My goal every year is to make this tournament, which is a life-changing event for whoever wins each year. This event will take place at Lake Hartwell, a body of water that I have some good history on so I’m excited to get on the water out there later this week and start hunting around. Look for a report on how my practice is going in next week’s column.