By BassFan Staff
Jason Christie has had an incredibly successful career so far as a professional angler. Prior to Sunday, he’d won five tournaments at the Elite Series or FLW Tour level, a few at the triple-A level and countless other single-day derbies, including seven BFL events.
Recently, though, he’s felt like something has been holding him back from adding more trophies to his mantle. His last victory came at the 2014 Lake Dardanelle Elite Series and since then, he’s recorded four runner-up finishes in major tournaments, ranging from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Fork in 2015 to the 2016 Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake near his home in Oklahoma. His latest close call came at Toledo Bend earlier this season.
Finishing 2nd isn’t all bad – it typically comes with a sizable paycheck and a pile of valuable points – but it was starting to wear on Christie.
His drought ended Sunday afternoon under a sunny, blue sky just outside Detroit, Mich., where he reminded everyone (even himself, maybe) why he’s considered one of the strongest closers in the sport. Christie cracked a final day-best 22-00 to erase a 3-plus pound deficit and win the Lake St. Clair Elite Series with a four-day total of 88-08.
It was a momentous victory for Christie, who caught at least 21-01 each day. He now trails Brandon Palaniuk by 15 points in the Angler of the Year standings entering the AOY Championship in Minnesota next month. His latest win makes him the only angler with three victories on both the Elite Series and FLW Tour. His victory today also pushed his career B.A.S.S. earnings up to nearly $940,000. If (and it seems to be more a matter of when) he hits the $1 million mark, he’ll join Larry Nixon and George Cochran as the only anglers to earn $1 million from both B.A.S.S. and FLW.
“I came out and won a couple Elite events when I started in ’14 and it just seemed like there was second place, second place, second place in the Classic,” Christie said. “You start talking to yourself, wondering if you’re ever going to win again. I can’t say how important this is. It gets me back, hopefully, on a streak and we can carry it over into the important tournament at Mille Lacs. This is a great feeling.”
Brock Mosley pumped out a 20-00 limit – he and Christie were the only anglers to crack 20 pounds each day – and finished 2nd with 86-05, his second runner-up finish of the northern swing.
Mark Daniels Jr. moved up a spot to 3rd, the best showing of his rookie season, after catching 19-06 to close with 85-07.
Jordan Lee, the leader after day 3 when he blasted a tournament-high 25-09, managed only three keepers today for 12-06 and slipped to 4th with 82-03. Matt Lee, Jordan’s older brother, capped his week with an 18-06 stringer that gave him 81-14 and the first top-5 finish of his Elite Series career.
Here's a look at how the Top 12 finished up:
1. Jason Christie: 88-08
2. Brock Mosley: 86-05
3. Mark Daniels, Jr.: 85-07
4. Jordan Lee: 82-03
5. Matt Lee: 81-14
6. Jamie Hartman: 81-07
7. Gerald Spohrer: 80-01
8. Bobby Lane: 78-06
9. Takahiro Omori: 75-11
10. Paul Mueller: 75-07
11. Bradley Roy: 74-05
12. Micah Frazier: 69-00
Four years ago, when the Elite Series visited St. Clair, the condition of the fishery was such that many anglers scattered to Lake Erie, Lake Huron or the rivers that connected St. Clair to both Great Lakes. Two years ago, St. Clair showed signs of being on the rebound. This past week, however, it was unmatched in terms of big fish and big bags of fish.
The quantity of fish caught was off from previous years, but anglers who got a couple of bites in a certain area were able to remain there and build off of them as many of the fish were caught with reaction baits or finesse techniques using bigger than average baits.
Today featured an east wind and some pointed to that as a reason why the weights seemed to be off.
When the scene shifts to Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota in a few weeks, the chase for AOY will center around Palaniuk, Christie and Jacob Wheeler as they’re the only three with a mathematical shot to win the title (provided they all catch a legal bass during competition). Wheeler is 3rd in the standings, 33 points behind Palaniuk entering the 50-man event.
The top 3 currently are as follows:
1. Brandon Palaniuk: 811
2. Jason Christie: 796
3. Jacob Wheeler: 778
Christie fished off by himself all tournament and did most of his damage with a tube on a 3/4-oz. jighead.
Christie Caught Off Guard
> Day 4: 5, 22-00 (20, 88-08)
Christie says this win is special because it’s his first in three years and it came on a day when he didn’t like his chances to mount a comeback.
“I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance,” he said. “I thought I had 21 maybe, which meant Jordan only needed 17 1/2. I thought there was no way. And then there were all the big bags Mark and Brock had been catching. I was truly caught off guard by it all. Every one is different, but this one is special.
“The thing you hear the most from a lot of guys is, ‘You don’t have that many opportunities to win,’ and you don’t, so you have to make hay when it’s there.”
He lost a fish in the 5-pound range today that he figured could’ve helped him gain a pound.
“When I lost it, I could feel some air come out of the balloon,” he said. “It jumped off right behind my engine, but when I threw my tube back in the water I caught a 4 that culled a 3 3/4, so I lost one and gained one there. I don’t care if I win by an ounce or 5 pounds, it’s a W and fishing against this group, anytime you get a win, you take it and run.”
Christie spent the entirety of his tournament in Canadian waters, narrowing his areas down as the tournament progressed. What started as roughly a 2-mile by 2-mile swatch became a few areas the size of basketball courts by today.
He threw a crankbait some, employed a dropshot when a fish showed itself on his electronics, but most of his weight was caught snapping a 4-inch YUM tube (green-pumpkin) out of the 6- to 12-inch tall grass and eliciting reaction strikes from smallmouth feasting on crayfish.
Along with the bass he caught, he also reeled in a few walleye and countless drum that would act as an indicator for him as he would see other fish follow the drum to the surface on his electronics. He’d quickly unhook the drum and fire his tube back out toward the followers and more often than not, he’d catch a bass on that cast.
“A lot of people would have left because of the drum, but these smallmouth are opportunistic feeders,” he said. “But they can also get down there and get stagnant. I’d catch a drum and have smallmouth follow one in. If I knew it was a drum I’d look at my (Garmin) Panoptix and see the other fish following. I figured they were bass because drum don’t usually follow drum.”
Brock Mosley made up 42 places in the Angler of the Year standings over the past three tournaments.
2nd: Mosley Disappointed, But Happy
> Day 4: 5, 20-00 (20, 86-05)
As good as it feels to rack up another 2nd-place finish, Mosley said this one stings a little bit in comparison to when he was runner-up to Kevin VanDam at the St. Lawrence River.
“This one is a little different,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed because I was a little closer to winning this one. Overall, it was a successful week. I qualified for the AOY and got a good payday so I can’t complain with 2nd, especially with these guys. They’re the best in the world.”
His day started with a bit of good fortune as his first keeper came off the hook right as he was reaching to land it. Luckily, he was quick enough to corral the fish and sweep it into his boat before it swam away.
After that, though, he couldn’t connect with the bigger fish that had highlighted the previous days for him. He relied mainly on a dropshot with a NetBait Contour Worm in 16 to 17 feet of water around grass edges and clearings in the grass.
“I felt like I could catch another 20 (pounds) today, but I didn’t run into a couple 5-pound kickers to boost my weight,” he said. “That’s what I lacked today and Saturday.”
He stayed on St. Clair the whole day and had to adjust to the east wind, but finally got dialed in on the right drift around 9 a.m. and caught four of his weigh-in fish in pretty close proximity to each other.
“They didn’t bite very good today and the weights showed that,” he added.
Mosley said there’s nothing he’d have done differently thoughout the event.
“I made perfect decisions,” he said. “I went to the (Detroit) River on Saturday and did what I had to do. I lost one between 4 and 5 pounds, but overall, I made the right decisions.”
3rd: Bite Was Slower For Daniels
> Day 4: 5, 19-06 (20, 85-07)
With Lee stumbling today, Daniels was a little bummed he didn’t get a few better bites because he felt like he was around the fish to capture his first Elite Series win.
“I was on the fish to win this,” he said. “I just came up short of bites when it was all said and done. There are still tons of fish in the area. They just didn’t bite as good today.”
He attributed that to the hazy skies compared with clear and bright conditions of the previous two days.
“It seems like guys crushed them when it was bright and sunnier and we have some haziness today,” he added. “It seemed to be a tougher day overall. I didn’t catch as many fish. I had two come off that I never saw, but they looked the right kind on the graph.”
He used a crankbait as a search bait and to attract reaction bites, and also followed up with a Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ on a dropshot.
Mark Daniels Jr. had no complaints after the best finish of his rookie year.
4th: Big Bites Eluded J. Lee
> Day 4: 3, 12-06 (18, 82-03)
Based on the limited number of bites he’d been getting, Jordan Lee figured he was due for a day like today. Through three days, he’d been fortunate to tangle with some giant smallmouth, but today those types of fish just weren’t interested.
“It’s what I was afraid of,” he said. “I’m not being negative, but I knew it was possible. It just didn’t happen. That’s pretty much it. It was slow and guys around me caught them and had more bites than I did. I may have fished too fast. I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong. I wouldn’t have done anything different.
“I knew going into today, I was going to do the exact same thing. I made up my mind that I’d do this and this and this. I fished the same places and felt like if I could catch five doing what I was doing, I could win. Two more fish and I’d have won.”
He targeted the same areas he’d been fishing and had a slow start. He did have an opportunity to finish his limit in the closing minutes of the day. He had one fish pull off right before he caught his third keeper – a 3 1/2-pounder. Then on his final cast, he hooked one and while he was playing it back to the boat, his line contacted his electronic unit and the line broke.
“I had to hurry with it because I was going to be late,” he said. “I was probably going too fast and my line hit my graph and broke. I had some chances, but I’m not making excuses. It was crazy that I had a chance even after I the tough day I had.
“It was a brutal tough day. My level of disappointment is not way up there. I just didn’t get enough bites.”
5th: M. Lee Stoked For Mille Lacs
> Day 4: 5, 18-06 (20, 81-14)
Matt Lee had no complaints about his day or tournament. He achieved his goal of making another top-12 cut (his fourth of the season) and he all but secured his berth in next year’s Classic by moving into 21st in points.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I lost a fish every day, but I never lost one today. I never had a big bite. It wasn’t meant to be. I have no regrets. Finishing this season strong when I had to, it feels good.
“It was an awesome week to go out on a good note and I can’t wait to go to Mille Lacs.”
He spent his whole tournament on the Canadian side of St. Clair, away from everybody and he teed off on fish that were keying on perch that were occupying the voids in the grass.
> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 9 limits, 1 four, 1 three, 1 two.
> There were 50 stringers over 20 pounds caught this week.
1. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 20, 88-08 -- 110 -- $101,000
Day 1: 5, 21-12 -- Day 2: 5, 21-01 -- Day 3: 5, 23-11 -- Day 4: 5, 22-00
2. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 20, 86-05 -- 109 -- $25,500
Day 1: 5, 20-05 -- Day 2: 5, 25-08 -- Day 3: 5, 20-08 -- Day 4: 5, 20-00
3. Mark Daniels Jr. -- Tuskegee, AL -- 20, 85-07 -- 108 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 21-11 -- Day 2: 5, 20-05 -- Day 3: 5, 24-01 -- Day 4: 5, 19-06
4. Jordan Lee -- Grant, AL -- 18, 82-03 -- 107 -- $16,500
Day 1: 5, 19-09 -- Day 2: 5, 24-11 -- Day 3: 5, 25-09 -- Day 4: 3, 12-06
5. Matt Lee -- Guntersville, AL -- 20, 81-14 -- 106 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 21-13 -- Day 2: 5, 23-03 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08 -- Day 4: 5, 18-06
6. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 20, 81-07 -- 105 -- $13,500
Day 1: 5, 19-11 -- Day 2: 5, 22-09 -- Day 3: 5, 18-14 -- Day 4: 5, 20-05
7. Gerald Spohrer -- Gonzales, LA -- 20, 80-01 -- 104 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 15-13 -- Day 2: 5, 22-15 -- Day 3: 5, 22-10 -- Day 4: 5, 18-11
8. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 20, 78-06 -- 103 -- $12,500
Day 1: 5, 19-00 -- Day 2: 5, 20-12 -- Day 3: 5, 20-13 -- Day 4: 5, 17-13
9. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 20, 75-11 -- 102 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 19-06 -- Day 2: 5, 22-12 -- Day 3: 5, 19-13 -- Day 4: 5, 13-12
10. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 19, 75-07 -- 101 -- $11,500
Day 1: 5, 15-01 -- Day 2: 5, 23-11 -- Day 3: 5, 22-07 -- Day 4: 4, 14-04
11. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 20, 74-05 -- 100 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 23-03 -- Day 2: 5, 21-09 -- Day 3: 5, 15-09 -- Day 4: 5, 14-00
12. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 17, 69-00 -- 99 -- $10,500
Day 1: 5, 20-06 -- Day 2: 5, 21-04 -- Day 3: 5, 19-04 -- Day 4: 2, 8-02