A Grand performance PART 1
Gary Mortenson, FLW press release
GROVE, Okla. – Simply put, Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., owned Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees this week. After leading the fifth FLW Tour event of the 2013 season for the first three days, Christie turned on the afterburners on day four, landing the biggest stringer of the day at 19 pounds, 13 ounces en route to a rather comfortable 5-pound, 5-ounce margin of victory. As a result of Christie’s four-day catch of 78 pounds, 1 ounce, the Oklahoma native took home the top prize of $125,000.
To say that Christie is on a roll would be an understatement to be sure. In the last four FLW Tour events, he’s won two (Beaver Lake in April and Grand Lake today) and placed fourth in another (Lewis Smith Lake in March). Throw in a come-from-behind win at the BASSmaster Elite Series event at Bull Shoals this past April and it suddenly appears as if Christie is unstoppable.
But while Christie has tasted victory before, winning on his home turf seemed to provide him with a great sense of satisfaction – if not a little bit of relief – as he was able to perform at the highest of levels in front of his friends, family and hometown crowd.
“This is the biggest crowd I’ve seen all year,” said Christie. “A lot of these people are my friends and I’ve fished against a lot of them over the years as well. This lake taught me how to fish. It’s just a special place for me. I had a great week. And the way I was catching them today, it brought back memories. It was definitely a special week.”
Christie, who is part Native American, also took some time to pay tribute to his heritage.
“People keep calling this Grand Lake,” Christie continued. “But it’s really Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. I’m part Cherokee and I’d like to thank Cherokee nation as well.”
Although it appeared that Christie cruised to a comfortable victory by relying on his wily knowledge of his home lake, the Oklahoma pro assured everyone that it was not necessarily as easy as it seemed from the outside looking in.
“It was a pretty stressful day for me,” said Christie. “Today started off like a train wreck. I didn’t get my first bite until 8:30 a.m. and it came unpinned on a tree and I lost it. From that point on, it was pretty slow and steady all day. It actually took all day to catch what I caught.”
Once again, Christie said he relied heavily on his prime fishing location, a series of points around an island dominated with willow trees located in the Elk River.
“I went to that Elk River area because it was the area I had most confidence in,” he said. “It was basically a willow-covered island and I fished 100-yard (sections) of points on either side of the island. The key was the current. When that current gets rolling around that island, there are some big fish there. During the first three days I moved around some, but today I pretty much stayed in my main area trying to catch all I could catch.”
Although Christie had argued that the conditions this week – muddy, flooded water – leveled the playing field, he did admit that having extensive knowledge of the lake allowed him the confidence to hole up in certain areas and let the bites come to him.
“As far as the local advantage, I’m not sure,” he said. “But knowing the lake like I do (allowed me) to sit down and not move around. I’d guess that about 90 percent of my fish were caught with my (Power-Poles) down. And you need confidence to do that.”
The Oklahoma pro said that he targeted bass all week with a combination of three baits while relying on three distinct patterns. His bait selection included a Yum Wooly Bug, a Booyah Pad Crasher frog and a creature bait.
“I used (them all) on the first two days but on day three I really laid off the Wooly Bug and just flipped the creature bait. And I did that today as well.”
In many respects, Christie said that the tournament almost represented a time capsule of his childhood. He got to see many friends and fellow competitors from days of old as well as revisit the lake he once called home.
“While most people were out there probably telling stories about their wife and kids, I was telling my co-anglers stories about watching the willow trees grow up,” Christie joked. “I’d point over at a bush or willow tree and say, ‘I remember when it was only that big.’”
If there was any doubt before, there is no longer an argument that Christie now ranks of one of the best anglers in the nation – Cherokee or otherwise.
“My goal this year was to have two or three top-10 finishes,” he said. “So to win three events (in less than four months), you can’t even describe it. It was just a very special week for me.”
Thrift surprises himself
Heading into Sunday’s finals, Chevy team pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., was sitting in sixth place and in need of a huge stringer to make a serious run at the title. Well, he didn’t quite pull it off. But his final-day catch of 19 pounds, 11 ounces was good enough to vault him all the way into second place – a valiant effort to say the least.
“It was an awesome tournament,” said Thrift. “My goal was just to move up the standings. So I’m feeling pretty good right now. I never thought I’d finish in second.”
However, according to Thrift, his run up the standings was far from easy.
“I feel like I made 100,000 casts each day fishing a crankbait as fast as I could. It really wore me out,” said Thrift, who relied on a square-bill crankbait to catch every fish but one this tournament. “The first two or three hours today were really frustrating. I lost a 3-pounder and then another broke my line, but it turned around pretty quickly. It wound up being a pretty good day overall. I caught 25 or 30 keepers and I was fortunate to get two big bites. The problem was that I probably needed three big bites or a little more.”
Thrift, who was visiting Grand Lake for the first time, said the tournament started slowly for him. But by Friday, he finally started to figure out the lake.
“I really had a tough time in practice,” he said. “”But I finally found one area and things finally clicked for me half way through the second day of the tournament.”
According to Thrift, he stayed relatively shallow and targeted largemouth bass holding to rocky structure to land the majority of his catch.
“I was targeting rocks in the 3- to 6-foot range. It was pretty much a (decent sized) area, but it had about seven or eight sweet spots to it,” he said. “I was mostly cranking offshore stuff. But the key was definitely to make contact with that structure. It also seemed like the fish were staying around those rock piles before heading out to their summer (locations).”
In the end, Thrift’s total four-day catch of 72 pounds, 12 ounces was good enough to land a check for a little over $34,000. It also gave him his second, second-place FLW Tour finish in a row.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep it going.”
CONTINUED IN PART 2