MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 14, 2014

Bassmaster Classic almost here

By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

— If memory serves me correctly, the last time I heard the words Oklahoma, Alabama, and sports used in the same sentence,  something good came of it — if you're a Sooner fan.

Legendary Lake Guntersville near Birmingham, Ala., will be the site of the 44th annual Bassmaster Classic Feb. 21-23. Oklahoma will be well-represented with three quality, versatile anglers. Wagoner's Tommy Biffle, ranked 25th in the world by Bassfan, will be fishing his 19th classic, Edwin Evers of Talala, ranked fourth in the world by Bassfan, will be fishing his 13th, and Park Hill's Jason Christie, ranked number 1 in the world by Bassfan, will be fishing his second Classic.

Over the course of their careers the anglers have combined to win a little over $5 million, which sounds like a lot for catching a fish but, trust me when I say that they have earned every penny.

Looking ahead to the tourney, Biffle told me that during the last practice day before the “off limits” was declared,  a local relayed that they had a five-fish limit somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 pounds and it was really kind of slow.

“The fish will be in a late wintertime pattern so it will take a day or two of practice to hopefully dial in on the type fish to put yourself in contention for a win,” he said.

The Classic title is one of the few things Biffle hasn't accomplished over his stellar career. Having twice finished second in 18 appearances, it makes the veteran angler hunger even more for the Classic crown.

Making his 13th Classic, Evers was leading the coveted BASS Angler of the Year standings only to watch it slip away in the last tournament of the year, I asked him what if anything would he change if he had it to do over again.

“Plain and simple, I was just too stubborn. Instead of making a 30-mile run to my backup area, I stayed on a spot where they should have been.” said Evers. “It was definitely a humbling experience.

“But Guntersville and the Classic have me fired up and I'm going to target and key on strictly big fish. Something along the line of jerkbaits, jigs, or creature baits in conjunction with my electronics ,I feel will play a huge role. Winning the Classic is something I've dreamed of since I was a kid .It would be awesome. I just thank the good Lord every day that I can make a living at a sport I truly enjoy.”

 I understand that Evers is one of the best at using his electronics.

 Making just his second Classic appearance, former basketball coach and teacher Christie had three major tour wins in 2013. That has put him in high demand for interviews.

“I'm going into the tournament with the mindset of fishing for first place. It's going to be a 100 percent wintertime pattern and you have to be able to pull off those three to four pound fish because they will not win the tournament,” said Christie.

“You're going to have focus strictly on big fish and you might only get five, six , or seven bites. Then you must execute to get them in the boat, which is a lot easier said than done,” he said.

“It's going to take 30 pounds a day to be in the hunt and that might not even do it. In prior tournaments, I've finished all over the place at Guntersville  but we've never fished it this time of year.”

Christie had surgery on his left elbow in the off-season and says it feels great. The wins in 2013 helped boost his career. It's an exciting time living the dream  and helping design baits for lure manufacturers, putting on seminars, and promoting sponsors all of which  keep him busy.

His family is the most important thing in his life. His two young daughters are at Woodall School and are into sports  and his oldest daughter goes to Fort Gibson and plays sports as well.

“The thing that motivates me is the fact that I want the Classic trophy, the FLW Cup, or both. That's what drives you,” said Christie.

We are well-represented in Alabama, I believe.

John Kilgore's outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at 918-348-9431 or at jkilgoreoutdoors@yahoo.com.