2017 Bassmaster Classic assignment results in awesome fishing photography
The Bassmaster Classic is the Superbowl of fishing, featuring the top 50 or so bass fishermen in the world competing for the top prize of $300,000 and inclusion in top echelon of the fishing world. It’s a big deal. A huge deal. So it was exciting when I was asked to join the team covering the 2017 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe an hour north of Houston.
Jordan Lee, a 25-year-old who earned a berth at the event through the Carhartt College Series, won the event. Lee moved from a first-day ranking of 37th to jump to the top of the final-day leaderboard, sealing the largest comeback in Bassmaster Classic history.
For three day, I prowled Lake Conroe, jumping from one competitor to another as they searched for hefty bass. Pros like four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam, Greg Hackney, Skeet Reese, Cliff Crochet, former Bassmaster Classic winner Micheal Iaconelli and defending Classic champ Edwin Evers were among the anglers who made the final-day Top 25 cut.
The final day of competition started with Brent Ehler on top, followed closely by Evers. My daily assignment began with Evers, who the day before landed 20 pounds of largemouth bass in the first 20 minutes of fishing. The Oklahoma Bassmaster Elite Series pro had been taking advantage of the shad spawn to pluck big bass from the seawalls on the south end of the lake. But after more than two hours and several move it became obvious that bite had shut down: Evers only had one keeper in the boat.
It was time to move on to fan favorite Iaconelli, who was working a number of spots just across the lake. However, his bite wasn’t happening, either. Less than an hour later, he headed way up north to what locals dub “The Jungle,” an area of flooded bushes where many of the anglers fished throughout the tournament. This was the same area Brent Ehrler, who led the first two days of competition, was fishing.
After consultation with my Bassmaster handler and review of the first half of the day’s action — which was decidedly slower than the previous two days — it was decided I needed to track down Lee because the underdog angler had made a big move in the leaderboard. By the time I reached him, the BassTrakk system estimated Lee was in third place. The young angler was fishing a horrifically rough patch of water, slowly dragging plastics across hard bottom. And he was stuck there, with outboard troubles preventing him from moving.
The action was slow. He didn’t set the hook in more than an hour, so I moved on to other anglers in the area.
Of course, after I left, Lee landed two 5-pounders.
My days didn’t end when the anglers headed to the landing: Veteran photographer Seigo Saito and I hurried from the lake to the weigh-in location at Houston’s Minute Maid Park to set up for the weigh-ins. Saito shot close-in shots from the foot of the weigh-in platform, while my task involved capturing long-lens images.
It was a grueling three days of work, beginning at 4 a.m. and stretching until 10 or 11 p.m. But it also was a lot of fun, and I’m hoping to be pulled in for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic.
See a selection of my images below: