Jason Christie had his hand within a couple of feet of the potential tournamentwinning bass Sunday — an estimated 5-pounder that came unhooked just out of reach. That fish might have given him enough weight to win the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Lay Lake. Instead, he finished third, 2 pounds, 3 ounces behind winner Will Davis Jr.
It wasn’t the first fish that came unhooked for Christie this week. But that’s always going to happen when you’re fishing in thick lily pads.
“That’s the thing,” said the 49-year-old pro from Dry Creek, Okla. “I can gripe about losing some fish this week, but I caught a 9-pounder.”
Indeed, he did. The 9-4 largemouth Christie caught Saturday is the biggest bass caught through five Elite
Series events. If it holds up, as it is likely to do considering the other four tournaments on the Elite Series this year, Christie will win $10,000 for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Year. Before Lay Lake, it was generally acknowledged that Brandon Cobb had that award sewn up with his 8-12 at Lake Okeechobee.
Catching that bass at Lay Lake, which was fishing extremely tough in mostly postspawn mode, was the biggest surprise of all. The secondbiggest fish caught in the tournament was a 6-4 by Cliff Prince on Day 2.
The biggest surprise of all, at least to Christie, was that the fish weighed 9-4. It went into his BassTrakk unofficial weight as a 7-pounder. “When I put her in the box, we put down 7 pounds, but I thought she might be close to 8. It wasn’t until I got back and started looking at her (that) I realized how big she was.”
Most of Christie’s fish this week came on a Booyah Pad Crasher topwater frog. When he spotted the big one Saturday afternoon, he’d just lost a 4-pounder and landed a 3-pounder.
“I kind of turned the boat, and I looked,” he said. “If I had been at any other angle, I wouldn’t have been able to see her. She was out there about 10 yards by some pads.”
Christie made two casts with the frog and got no reaction. He then cast a Yum Dinger weighted with a piece of a nail weight into a hole in the lily pads and started shaking it.
“She ate it and then all hell broke loose,” he said. “She came out of the pads. I got her around the boat, and she turns and runs back into the pads. She did a circle and came back out. I got to the front of the boat to grab her. She hit another gear and took off to the back of the boat.
“When I finally got my hands on her, I was like, ‘Oh, my. This is a big one.’ But I didn’t think it was 9 pounds.”
Christie said he’d caught bigger bass in tournaments before, including a 9-4 and a 10-4 on the same day. But it’s his biggest in an Elite Series tournament.
How is that fish worth $35,000? Look at it this way: first, it has to hold up as the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Year, which is worth $10,000. Secondly, Christie wouldn’t have made the Top 10 without that fish. He was 17th on Day 2. Christie finished third, which pays $30,000 — instead of 11-50th, which pays $10,000 — netting $20,000. The largemouth also took Phoenix Boats Big Bass of Day 3 ($1,000), Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament ($2,000) and it was key in the 23-pound bag he weighed Saturday, which earned $2,000 as the VMC Monster Bag of the Tournament.
Yeah, that was a big one.