Mercury pro Jason Christie overcomes “big mistake” to claim Lake Dardanelle
May 19, 2014
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – The last thing that Mercury pro Jason Christie wanted to do was wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares about “the one that got away.”
Christie, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Park Hill, Okla., survived a mishandled 7-plus-pound largemouth early in the tournament, and then overcame one of the most stacked Championship Sunday lineups in recent history to claim his fourth tour-level win in the past two seasons with a come-from-behind victory at the Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark. Christie walked to the scales at Lake Dardanelle State Park with 19 pounds, 2 ounces of largemouth on Sunday to give him a four-day total of 72-3, a scant 4 ounces better than fellow Team Mercury pro Gerald Swindle (71-15) and 8 ounces more than Greg Hackney (71-11).
And he almost lost it all because of one errant boat-flip.
On Day 2, Christie hooked his biggest fish of the week on a jig, but in the heat of the moment, instead of bringing the fish boatside and scooping it from the water with his hands, Christie tried to flip it.
The result: Ooops, doink, splash.
“I was sick to death about that fish,” Christie said. “I got caught up in the moment and made a big, big mistake, trying to flip a fish that big. That could have haunted me for a long time.”
It didn’t, though.
Christie sacked over 20 pounds on Day 3 to climb into the Top 5 and give himself a fighting chance on Championship Sunday. Still, it was an uphill battle against a field that included one Forrest Wood Cup champion (Hackney), a 32-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier (Rick Clunn), three Angler of the Year winners (Swindle, Mike Iaconelli and Skeet Reese), three Bassmaster Classic winners (Reese, Iaconelli, Takahiro Omori and Paul Elias), and the guy who just last week obliterated the world record for weight in a three-day tournament (Toyota Texas Bass Classic champ Keith Combs).
“These guys are going to catch ‘em, no matter what, so every pound counts,” Christie said. “Waiting to weigh in on Sunday, I was nervous. I wanted to win, but I really didn’t think I had enough (weight). I figured one of the guys in front of me – Hackney, Clunn or Combs – would catch what they’d caught all week and that I’d maybe move up a couple of places. Turned out that those guys stumbled a little bit.”
Most noticeably Hackney and Clunn. Both had averaged roughly 18 pounds a day for the first three days, but Sunday proved to be slightly tougher as Hackney weighed in 15-3 and Clunn 15-4. Christie’s 19-2 completed a gradual improvement in weights and a steady progression up the leaderboard that started with Christie in 26th place with 16-7 on Day 1.
Still, the potential for the lost 7-pounder to wreck his tournament was still very much present on Sunday, especially when Swindle weighed in a surprising 20-1.
“When Swindle weighed in, I thought ‘Well, that’s it, I’m done’,” Christie said. “I really didn’t know I had enough to win until (B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer) announced that I had won. To come down here and win this fishing the way I like to fish, and with my family here, is special.”
Christie swam a jig all four days of the tournament, primarily in Illinois Bayou.
“These shallow lakes are pretty hard on both your outboard and trolling motor,” Christie said. “I beat that Mercury 250 and MotorGuide trolling motor up pretty bad all week, through three days of practice and four tournament days. I can tell you right now that I wouldn’t be holding this trophy without that equipment.”
NOTES: Christie has won more tour-level events in the past two seasons than any other angler (he won FLW Tour events on Beaver and Grand lakes and an Elite event on Bull Shoals in 2013) … Christie climbed to 11th in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings and is second in Bassfan’s World Rankings of all anglers on the Elite Series and FLW Tour … the four top finishers in the Dardanelle tournament (Christie, Swindle, Hackney and Clunn) ran Mercury motors.