The Classic is special | Bassmaster

The biggest event in bass fishing, the 52nd Bassmaster Classic, is taking place this week in South Carolina at Lake Hartwell. After months of knowing that I would be competing in the event, now that it’s actually here, there are a lot of emotions for me as I get ready to go fishing.

Simply qualifying for the Classic is hard. During each of my three seasons fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series, I’ve bounced around in and out of the cutline to qualify for the Classic. I’ve been fortunate to make it happen each year by the time the season has wrapped up. I probably owe some thanks to the smallmouth venues that we’ve visited.

I’m really excited for this event because I enjoy fishing on Hartwell. It’s a great tournament lake in that we can all fish to our strengths, whether that might be fishing shallow, deep, using finesse tactics or power techniques and find places to catch fish. The last couple of Classics that I have competed in, I was not able put a good game plan together to be competitive. I have high expectations this week because I have some good history on Hartwell, and I feel like I’m in my prime right now. I want to make the most of this opportunity. 

As this Classic approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the people who have helped me out and how I want to win the tournament for them. You just never know how many times you’ll get this opportunity, and I understand how special it is to actually be competing. 

My dad is going to be in South Carolina this week, his first time getting to actually attend an event in person since the 2020 Classic at Guntersville, just before the pandemic changed things for all of us. He took me fishing as a little kid and gave bass fishing a try because I really wanted to do it. Without that, there’s no doubt I would not be on that stage this weekend.

My Grandpa passed away in 2013, but I know he would be proud of me and would be in awe of the spectacle that is about to go on at Lake Hartwell. He was patient with me when I was a haywire little kid, casting lures around carelessly in a small boat.

There are way too many people to mention that have helped me out along the way by supporting my fishing career or just with their friendships on the water and on the road. You know who you are. Also, I can’t help but think of some of the fishing friends that we’ve lost in recent years. I’ll be thinking about them when I’m fishing this weekend.

I would not be on the Classic stage this week without the support that I get from my sponsors. I am very lucky to have a team of amazing sponsors, so I want to do well and show everybody how I use their products to do my job and catch fish. They give me everything I need to be successful, and this week is the best chance that I’ll get all year to repay them. 

My biggest supporter of all is my wife, Shelby, and there is nothing I want more than to do well for her. She makes a lot of sacrifices to travel with me for most of the Elite Series season, and I’m so happy that she does. We have a lot of fun on the road visiting all of the places we get to fish. Hopefully I can give her something to cheer about this week.

I’m going to spend every minute I can on Hartwell this week preparing for the tournament, rain or shine. I’m focused, and I’m ready to do my job. At the same time, I’m going to enjoy all of the activities that will be going on this week around the event, including the kickoff party on Thursday evening that is put on by Shimano at Fluor Field in Greenville.

Bassmaster really gives us the rock star treatment this week, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope everybody out there who enjoys competing in bass tournaments gets to experience the Classic someday.  

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