“Instantly, I felt more pressure, a lot of expectations for me to qualify for this Classic,” explains the Yamaha Pro, “especially since I had come so close to winning the 2016 Classic on Grand. By holding the biggest bass tournament in the world on Grand Lake, it suddenly was not a ‘normal’ Classic anymore.
“I thought about the Classic every day while I was competing, and it changed the way I fished. For the first time in my life I fished conservatively, just trying to finish high enough to earn the points that would qualify me. Throughout my career, I have taken chances and fished to win, but not last season.” That style of fishing almost backfired. After finishing 81st in the final Elite tournament of the season, Christie wound up 37th in the standings, just six points ahead of the final Elite qualifier Cole Sands.
“Over the years, I have probably fished 75 or 80 tournaments on Grand, but I had not been on the lake for the past seven years,” continues the 2022 Classic champ, “so in December just before it went off-limits, I spent several days there, fishing and looking at the lake again.
“The Classic field this year is extremely talented, and I don’t really have any advantages, even with my experience. The weather will play an important role that week, but it should be a good time for everyone to catch a lot of fish and have a chance to catch some big fish, too.”
While this will be Christie’s tenth Classic appearance, it will be just the second Classic for fellow Yamaha Pro Carl Jocumsen, an Australia native who lived near Grand for three years and also knows the lake well.
“We’ll be there at prime time,” he notes enthusiastically. “Potentially, if the weather is stable, I believe it could take more than 60 pounds to win. That will make it fun for the fishermen as well as the fans.”
Because he does know Grand, the popular pro is glad he has already experienced a previous Classic to learn how to deal with all the distractions that often de-rail rookie contenders. Last year, about 50 friends and family members came from Australia to cheer for him, but this year only his mother and sister will make the trip.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for American bass fishing fans to understand how foreigners view a singular event like the Classic,” notes Jocumsen, “but this is what I have worked my whole life for, and it’s been a long road. Looking back, however, I would not have done anything different.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be in the Classic again, and I’m planning to improve on last year’s finish.”
Yamaha Pro Bryan New understands Jocumsen’s excitement at qualifying for his second Classic, and he also understands the challenges of making the Classic field. After three consecutive years of Classic appearances, he narrowly missed qualifying for this year’s event.
“At first, I was devastated,” he admits. “It was heart-breaking, and it really bothered me for a couple of days, but then I recognized all the things from this past season I had to be thankful for. At my first Classic at Lake Ray Roberts in 2021, I fell in the parking lot the first day and broke my hand, so I could barely compete.
“The next year at Lake Hartwell, I had a top 10 finish behind Jason Christie, and last year on the Tennessee River, I finished 19th.
“Believe it or not, I even have some history at Grand Lake, too. Back in 2012 or 2013, I fished an FLW® tournament as a co-angler, and my pro the first day was Jason Christie, who won the tournament. He put on a flipping clinic for me that day and I’ve never forgotten it.
“I’ll be in Tulsa representing Yamaha and my different sponsors and interacting with the fans as much as I can. If it’s a flipping tournament, you can bet I won’t be betting against Jason.”
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