CHRISTIE’S CUP COMEBACK
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos courtesy of FLW Outdoors Communications
Park Hill, OK – At the midway point of the 2012 FLW Tour Major season, it appeared to be smooth sailing for Oklahoma’s Jason Christie who recording three consecutive top 25 finishes that included a 25th place finish on Lake Hartwell, 8th place finish on Table Rock, and 21st place finish on Beaver Lake.
Christie was leading the FLW Tour Angler Of the Year points race, and it seemed inevitable that the fifth year pro was headed towards another top five finish in the point standings after recording a career high 4th place finish in the final FLW Tour Major standings in 2011.
Add to that the fact that within the past year Christie had notched an FLW Tour Major victory, PAA All-Star Series win, four top 20 finishes in FLW Tour competition, and a top 10 finish in the Forrest Wood Cup, and few would argue that Christie was casting with confidence.
Then an anomaly happened. Christie, who hadn’t finished in the triple digits in FLW Tour Major competition since a 102nd place finish on Guntersville in June of 2010, posted a 125th place finish on the Potomac River in mid May. A blip on the radar for sure, but the warning signals started sounding less than a month later when he finished 128th at Kentucky Lake and in the span of two tournaments went from leading the Angler Of the Year point standings to fighting for a berth in the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Georgia’s Lake Lanier.
It was the first time that Christie had recorded back-to-back finishes lower than 100th place since his rookie season on the FLW Tour in 2008.
At the season finale on Lake Champlain, a herculean effort was needed just to have a chance at qualifying for his fourth consecutive Cup, and even then, there were no guarantees. “I was pretty aggravated after Kentucky Lake because I really put myself in position to be the first angler in professional bass fishing to lead the Angler Of the Year standings halfway through the season and not even make the championship,” he said.
Christie finished in 11th place on Champlain, regaining his form just in the nick of time. With a total of 888 points, he finished in 39th place in the AOY standings and edged out another perennial Cup qualifier, Mark Rose, by a single point for the final spot in the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup. “I knew that I’d not only have to catch them at Champlain, but I’d also have to get a little lucky to get into the Cup as well,” said Christie.
Making the Forrest Wood Cup each year is something that Christie, like all FLW Tour competitors, takes very seriously. “The more you fish, the more you take for granted fishing in the championship,” he admitted. “I want to make the Forrest Wood Cup every single year, and long story short, I pride myself on making the Cup. You can’t win a half-million dollars unless you’re there, and it’s not a good feeling when you’re watching it or reading about it on the couch.”
Looking back, Christie said that his two sub-par finishes on the Potomac River and Kentucky Lake were a combination of poor decision making and bad luck, but he learned from both.
“At the Potomac, I found an area where I thought I could win, so I stayed in there both days,” he explained. “The wind ended up trashing the area. I’ve heard people say a million times that fishing isn’t about catching fish, it’s about the decisions that you make on the water. I mentally hit a concrete wall when we went to the Potomac River, and I got tunnel vision and didn’t stay open minded.”
While he may have hit a mental roadblock on the Potomac, he hit something else on the first day of competition at Kentucky Lake that cost him his entire day’s catch. “I was heading in on the first day patting myself on the back for having a good sack and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in the middle of the lake with no lower unit. It was just a bone-headed decision on my part,” he lamented.
“Early that morning, I ran to Paris and worked back down way too fast,” continued Christie. “When I checked the clock, I had an hour-and-a-half left in the day. I usually fish in Lake Barkley, and I’d found one school that was about 20 miles from where I was.
“I made the run and culled everything in 30 minutes to have around 18 pounds. When I left the upper end of Barkley, I had two decisions to make. One option was to run the river channel, get back the weigh-in in plenty of time, and go to the scales with around 18 pounds. The other option was to take the shortcut across the flat on Barkley, gain another 15 minutes of fishing time, and possibly cull up to 20 or 21 pounds.
“I chose the second option and ended up hitting something on the flat and lost my lower unit. I was in the last flight and it was like a ghost town on Barkley – not even a ski boat came past and I missed the weigh-in and zeroed for the day.”
Change in Mindset
Christie credited his success over the past several seasons on the FLW Tour, in part to a change in his mindset and how he approaches multiple day tournaments.
“A couple of years ago, FLW changed the format for a year to where the entire field fished three days before cutting to the top anglers on the final day. At the time, I hated it because my mindset was that if I wasn’t catching them, I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to go through the heartache and aggravation for another day,” he explained.
A brief conversation with legendary angler, Larry Nixon, changed his approach.
“I mentioned that to Larry Nixon, and he looked at me and said, ‘You’ve got to be crazy to think that way,’” remembered Christie. “He explained that the good fishermen will always come out at the end and get better each day. I’d never really looked at it that way until he said it. If you look at the really good fishermen – the Andy Morgan’s and the David Dudley’s and JT Kenney’s – a lot of times they’ll survive the first day and then really bust them on the second day. It’s not about winning on the first day; it’s about surviving and staying around so you have a chance to fish on the final day.”
With the exception of Table Rock Lake, Christie’s day two and day three weights during the 2012 season were always higher than his weight on the first day of the tournament.
With yet another Cup qualification in his back pocket, Christie, who ran the Diet Mountain Dew boat in 2011 and now has Rayovac Batteries as his title sponsor, said that being selected as the angler to represent a company is an enormous confidence boost.
“My first three years on tour, I pretty much paid for everything and was fortunate enough to do well enough to stay out there,” he said. “In 2011, Mountain Dew came on as a sponsor and that gave me some support that they believed in me and wanted me to promote them. After I signed with them, I think that I won two tournaments in the next month.
“I really needed somebody to show that they believed in me, because I’m one of the worst at believing in myself. I’ve always been a ‘glass is half empty’ type of guy,” Christie explained.
“Mountain Dew got out of fishing this year, which was simply a business decision, but some of my other sponsors that I got with have really helped me,” Two sponsors in particular, Power-Pole and Lowrance, have completely changed the way that Christie fishes.
“This is not a sales pitch, but Power-Pole has made me a completely different fisherman,” he stated. “I went from running the banks at 100 miles-per-hour, to really slowing down and milking a key area. Whenever I put those poles down, I honestly believe that I can catch every single fish that’s in the area.”
He also dedicated more time to studying and learning to locate winning fish with his electronics. “Now, if I don’t see the fish on my graph, I rarely make a cast. I’ve spent more hours idling this year than ever before. When I go fun fishing on Lake Tenkiller (in Oklahoma), I’ll put the boat in at first light and I may not make a cast until 10:00 because I haven’t found the mother lode.”
Spinning on Lanier
When the Forrest Wood Cup was held on Lake Lanier in 2010, Christie reached two milestones, one slightly more important than the other. It was his first top 10 finish in Cup competition, but it was also the first time in his life that he brought a bass to the weigh-in scales that he caught using a spinning rod.
Now, with the Cup less than a month away on the same Georgia fishery, he has a little bit more experience with the technique.
“I’m serious, it was the first time that I’d ever weighed-in a bass caught on a spinning rod,” said Christie with a chuckle. “When I made the 2010 championship, I literally went to Falcon Rods and asked them for some spinning rods and then went and got some spinning reels. I’d used them crappie fishing before, but I didn’t have a clue."
After getting the new equipment, Christie spent the better part of two weeks drop-shotting and finesse fishing on Lake Tenkiller in an attempt to gain a comfort level with spinning tackle. “That’s exactly how I ended up catching them in the tournament,” he said. “After the first day, one of the camera guys wanted to know where I was going to be fishing. I joked with him and told him that all he had to do was drive down the lake and look for a guy fishing with a spinning rod turned upside down and reeling backwards.”