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A new champion

What I thought might happen on Day 3 of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK's Sporting Goods didn’t, but what did happen was pretty extraordinary.

I wasn’t able to make up the ground I needed to win back-to-back Classics. It turns out I was right about what it would take to win, but I just couldn’t get there. I’d love to have a do-over. The fish I had been catching so fast on the first two days, weren’t taking the bait as well in the final round, and I struggled. I only caught two keepers and fell well short of my goal for the day.

Jordan Lee, on the other hand, had a career day with 27 pounds, 4 ounces to come from 15th place and win. In a lot of ways it was like my final round in last year’s Classic, so I felt like I understood what he was going through. We all know that Jordan is an extraordinary talent, but I don’t think anyone saw that coming, especially after his tough Day 1, when he had just 8 pounds.

As the defending champion, I got to hand the Classic trophy off to Jordan and watch him celebrate with his parents and brother, Matt. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Winning the Bassmaster Classic changes your career, and for such a talented angler to win at such a young age (25) is very impressive.

Jordan has a busy year ahead of him, and I expect that he’ll make the most of it. If I had any advice for him, having just gone through the same experience, I would tell him to make the most of every opportunity. Use those opportunities not just to benefit yourself, but also the sport.

As the Classic champion and especially because he’s young and came out of the college program, Jordan is going to influence a lot of young and new anglers — many of whom want to follow in his footsteps. I think there’s a lot of responsibility in that role, and I believe he’s up to the task.

Attend the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic

OUTDOOR EXPO PRESENTED BY DICK'S SPORTING GOODS
The Bassmaster Classic Expo will take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas from March 24-26.

B.A.S.S.’s largest expo ever
See the latest, greatest equipment and gear
Get up close and personal with all the big-name pros including Rick Clunn, Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker
Prizes, giveaways and deals on merchandise
Military Appreciation Day - Friday, March 24 (Bring your military I.D. for discounts and official Bassmaster hat.)
Daily Admission: Free

Location
George R. Brown Convention Center
1001 Avenida de las Americas
Houston, Texas 77010

The Classic is almost here

The 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods is almost here, and I can hardly wait.

During the practice period, I’ve grown to love Lake Conroe. It seems like anything can happen on any cast. You could come up empty or you could catch a giant. I haven’t caught any of those giants in practice, but I’ve seen enough to know they live here, and you can’t argue with what lives in a lake.

The extended forecast for the Classic looks interesting. Friday and Saturday are calling for thunderstorms and wind. Sunday should be clear and windy. There will also be a new moon on Monday, so that could bring in another wave of spawners. Right now, the water temperature is 65 to 70 degrees. Just how all of this will influence the fishing is the $300,000 question — the prize for the winner.

With so much happening with the weather and moon phase, I really think this is going to be a thinking angler’s tournament. I’ll be surprised if it’s won in a single area or on just one or two baits. To win, an angler is going to have to roll with the punches and make better adjustments than the rest of the field. To a degree, that’s always true, but this year even more so.

Dick Faurot And Edwin Evers

Dick Faurot and Edwin Evers head out to Grand Lake. Fishing's Super Bowl gets started Friday just outside of Houston.

LIVE ready for Classic coverage

Fifty-two of the world’s best bass anglers will head to Houston next week to compete for more than $1 million in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, and fans will be able to follow the action as it happens.

Classic LIVE will be broadcasting in real time from the B.A.S.S. booth at the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in the George R. Brown Convention Center.

“What an incredible venue we have this year being set up in the heart of Houston, Texas, and watching the action unfold live on a lake that some anglers are saying might produce multiple 10-pound-plus bass,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2.

Cameras will be streaming live coverage of the Classic leaders on Lake Conroe back to the expo production facility, where hosts will break down the action for fans tuning in through Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN. Hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona, and Davy Hite along with Dave Mercer and on-the-water reporter Robbie Floyd, will provide analysis and live updates.

This year, special guest Brian Robison of the Minnesota Vikings will also be onsite for the Classic LIVE show to provide some local insight. Robison played for the University of Texas and calls Lake Conroe his home lake.

Classic fish care in Houston

B.A.S.S. provides the absolute best fish care possible at every event it holds, from the Costa Bassmaster High School Series all the way up to the Bassmaster Elite Series.

But at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods March 24-26, the measures will be even more extreme with the anglers and their catch facing a 43-mile commute from Lake Conroe back to Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The stadium is the home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros – and since the Astros have a home game scheduled just three days after the Classic, anglers and fish alike must remember to keep off the grass at the Minute Maid Park. But B.A.S.S. officials insist that won't keep the organization from continuing its excellent record of fish survival at Classic venues, which typically is 97 to 100 percent, according to National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland.

"We certainly expect to achieve the same level of success at Lake Conroe," Gilliland said. “Every Classic – every situation – is different. But getting those fish safely back to Lake Conroe is our top priority.”

The fish care measures will begin with the 52 anglers competing at 21,000-acre Conroe. Since most of them make their livings catching fish – and none of them wants to incur the 4-ounce penalty charged for weighing a dead fish – they’ll take extreme measures to keep the fish healthy while they’re in their livewells.

"Our anglers are very conscientious when it comes to keeping their fish alive," Gilliland said. "Dead fish mean penalties and, in the most important bass tournament in the world, they don't want any deductions."

A year as Classic champ

I want to start by telling you that I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last column. The new Elite season and preparing for the upcoming GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods have taken up a tremendous amount of time. Now that the Classic’s just a week away, preparation becomes even more important, but so does this column.

I hope to write several columns over the next couple of weeks and even a few during the Classic on Lake Conroe. My mind never stops churning as I get ready for it. I’m feeling good about my preparation and I’m super optimistic about my chances. The Classic is an easy tournament to get “up” for, and I want to make the most of my time and energy between now and Day 1.

This seems like the perfect time to tell you that I have thoroughly enjoyed being your Bassmaster Classic champion. Thank you all for making the experience so great! Yes, the money was nice and it’s created some business opportunities for me, but the very best thing about it has been the chance to meet so many of you.

As an Elite Series pro, I had a certain level of recognition on the road and at events. That increased exponentially after winning the Classic, and it’s very humbling. I’ve done my best to take the time to speak with everyone I could and to say “yes” to as many requests as possible. It’s been a great and very humbling experience.

I was especially rewarded by my efforts with Wounded Warriors in Action, taking these heroes fishing and raising money and awareness for a great cause. These veterans have become my friends, and I hope to work with them and support them for a long time to come.

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