THE LATEST NEWS
A song from county music star, Josh Turner might be among the last things you’d expect Quantum angler Matt Lee to be thinking about minutes from backing down the boat ramp during his first Bassmaster Classic as an Elite Series pro.
But a hit single Turner had in 2008 was fittingly top-of-mind for the 29-year-old pro from Lake Guntersville, Alabama.
“I finally thought of the Josh Turner song I was trying to remember to tell you when we talked about his music during Wednesday’s final practice day … it’s called, ‘Everything Is Fine,’” Lee told me with a big grin in Day 1’s predawn darkness as his Tundra pulled closer to the Classic launch ramp.
Turner penned the lyrics to “Everything Is Fine” himself, and much like his biggest hit of all time “Long Black Train” neither song’s lyrics shy from Turner’s spirituality.
Nor does Matt Lee.
“It’s Day 1 of the Bassmaster Classic and I feel so blessed to be surrounded with the best family, the best fiancé, the best friends. I’m telling you, man, I couldn’t pick a better group of people to surround me,” Lee said, seconds after both his mom and dad hurried across the wet boat ramp to give him a kiss as he sat behind the console of his Ranger.
“Heck, I’ve even got a great dog,” says Lee with a laugh in reference to his German Shepherd “Miles” as I jokingly pluck a number of apparent dog hairs hanging from his Carhartt beanie while he fires up his outboard.
The oldest of the Lee Brothers is certainly in a great place on the heels of five very impressive Top 12 finishes last season. But after a stellar Carhartt Bassmaster College Series career, that included qualifying for the 2013 Classic as a college champ, his freshman and sophomore years as a full time pro were checkered with highs and lows.
“My first couple years on the Elites were a struggle, but the thing is, I never doubted that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, and that He wanted me to fish for a living and touch people with my faith through bass fishing,” says Lee. “And now that things are better, I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be too.”
“Like I told Jesse Wiggins yesterday, if you’re going to have one bad tournament a year – the Classic is probably the best one, because there’s no Toyota Angler of the Year points on the line, and winning is really all that matters here. So if you’re only going to have one great tournament each year – obviously, this is also the one!” reasons Lee. “And there’s no greater example of ‘when it’s meant to be it’ll be’ than me, and the good fortunes of my career.”
But why a Josh Turner song on Day 1 of bass fishing’s biggest event?
“Country music is kind of like bass fishing – so many people relate to it, and Josh Turner just has a real calming voice,” says Lee. “That song talks a lot about being grateful, and if you’re living in my shoes and you’re still acting sour for some reason, then something is bad wrong.”
At age 29, Lee’s faith-based perspective is perfect. Nothing is bad wrong at all.
In fact, everything is fine. Including a few stray dog hairs, good luck kisses from loved ones, and the lyrics that play in his head.
“Everything is fine, fine, fine. Through the sunshine and the rain. I got a peace of mind. You know I can’t complain. I make it a point to thank the Lord, when I got Him on the line. I’m feeling good, and everything is fine.” – Josh Turner
Download the all new Bass 365 app to keep up with all the behind the scenes action at Lake Hartwell this week! Special angler interviews as well as live video from the Expo floor.
Keep up with all the Live on the water action on Bassmaster.com
WILSONVILLE, OR (March 15, 2018) – March 16 through 18 marks the three days of the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. No doubt, this tournament of tournaments is the pinnacle of all fishing competitions. This past year, 52 of the nation’s best bass anglers qualified for the prestigious event, and they’ve converged on Greenville, South Carolina to ply Lake Hartwell’s 56,000-plus acres in hopes of landing the heaviest limit of largemouth bass.
Raymarine pro John Crews
Four of those 52 – Bobby Lane, Cliff Pace, Brandon Lester and John Crews – not only proudly sport the Raymarine logo on their jerseys, but also have their boats rigged with the ultimate in multifunction navigation display technology bow to dash: Raymarine’s newest Axiom Pro 12. This year’s derby — the third Classic to take place on this huge expanse of water in the past decade — is the ultimate game of hide-and-seek. Bass hide and anglers seek, so on an expansive and complex lake like Hartwell, having the best fish-finding, navigation and situational awareness technologies onboard could easily be the key to winning the top purse.
Overall, Hartwell is 10 feet higher and 25 degrees warmer than it has been during past Classics here, which has the bass spread out in many different pre-spawn locations. All four Raymarine pros feel strongly that the instantaneous data delivered by their Axiom Pro displays will give them a clear advantage over the field.
Cliff Pace image courtesy of BASS
“Axiom Pro’s screen clarity and excellent high-speed sonar performance helped me win the Bassmaster Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain in Florida just last month, says Lane. “It’s going to be the same on Hartwell. It’s all about eliminating unproductive water here.”
At Kissimmee, Lane was able to locate the hydrilla fish were using at boat speeds up to 65 mph. “Here, I’ll be able to motor past docks and see which ones have brush piles near them and which ones don’t… I’ll even be able to see just how many fish are around them,” he says. “And it’s not just the speed of the Axiom Pro that makes all the difference, they’re user friendly, too. With just a couple swipes of the touchscreen or a twist of the dial, I can quickly change views and bring up the screens that will show me where to cast next,” he continues. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be the angler I am today without Raymarine’s technology.”
Axiom Pro’s built-in RealVision 3D sonar makes it easy to visualize the positions of fish relative to the boat. Simply touch and drag your finger to view the scene from any angle, instantly.
John Crews agrees, but points to Axiom Pro’s CHIRP DownVision and CHIRP SideVision as his most important features for success on Hartwell. “The last two Classics were won here with fish taken from deep water, and even though it’s warmer this time around, the weather still may have fish staged deep,” says Crews. “I can use Axiom Pro’s CHIRP DownVision to pick out just how many quality fish may be in a brush pile, as well as its ultra-clear CHIRP SideVision to quickly dissect the bottom composition, find the low-growing grass beds and know immediately within just one pass if there’s a fish on it or not.”
Crews is also bullish on Axiom Pro’s RealVision 3D feature, which provides the unique ability to see what’s below, behind, and to the sides of the boat, all at once and in three-dimensions. “RealVision 3D is an amazing tool for decoding how the standing timber is laid out,” he says. “It’s a pretty slick way to see what lies below, and could be a game changer here on Hartwell.”
CHIRP SideVision provides super-detailed images of fish, bait, timber and much more, at distances up to 600-feet!
Cliff Pace expects Hartwell’s bass to be in pre-spawn mode, yet very close to moving shallow to spawn. “I believe there’s going to be good fish caught both deep and right up to shore. And of course, my Axiom Pros will be key in finding all these fish,” he says. “The lake’s full of blue back herring and threadfin shad, and with CHIRP DownVision, I’ll be able to locate those pods of baitfish and see just how many bass are right there with them.”
Pace is also in agreement with Bobby Lane’s assessment of the importance of dockside brush piles. “The very next warm spell a lot of fish are going to move shallow and it’ll be CHIRP SideVision that helps me eliminate water by showing me docks with brush piles next to them and those without. And the weather forecast shows that this migration could be taking place right during the tournament. The winning Classic angler will have to be very versatile this time around.”
With the impending warming trend and stabilization predicted, Brandon Lester also agrees this Classic could be won either fishing deep or shallow… perhaps even both during the same day.
Meet Stephen Browning in the Raymarine booth
“I trust my Axiom Pro’s CHIRP SideVision so much that I won’t even make a cast to shallow structure that looks like it should be holding fish unless I actually see them on the screen,” says Lester. “And in deep water, DownVision will be the crucial link to finding pre-spawn bass that are gorging on baitfish as the blueback herring move around so much you could be fishing water void of predator fish if you weren’t able to see what was happening below; it’s so sensitive you can even tell if the pod of baitfish is worth following as you can literally depict the bass from the forage.”
Deep, shallow and everywhere in-between, with an array of techniques from football jigs and jigging spoons to flippin’, skipping jigs and chucking spinnerbaits… These are the predictions of the Raymarine four converging on the Classic. And it’s the array of forecasted fish locations that suggest their Axiom Pros will be the crucial link to catching success on Hartwell this weekend.
Fans are invited to stop by the Raymarine booth 3224 during the 2018 Bassmaster Classic Expo at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, South Carolina all three days to see the remarkable technology of Axiom Pro firsthand. Also, Saturday, March 17, from noon to 1 p.m., Raymarine pro Stephen Browning—who just took top honors at the 2018 Bassmaster Central Open on Mississippi’s Ross Barnett Reservoir—and the rest of the Raymarine team will be on hand to share his story how Raymarine Axiom Pro multifunction navigation displays helped him to the win.
Team Toyota’s Gerald Swindle is very aware that the Fish Head Spin lure has a legendary reputation on Lake Hartwell, but don’t count on him throwing it. Instead he’ll dance with the girls that got him to his impressive 17th Bassmaster Classic, and he feels good about it.
“I suck at throwing the Fish Head Spin, because any lure you gotta fish slower than I was at second grade math in 30 feet of water, is not a lure I need to be competing with during the biggest tournament in the world,” says Swindle.
“An NFL team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl, and then change their whole offense the night before the game, and I’m not going to either,” illustrates the 2-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
Swindle’s also decided he’s not going into the lawn care business anytime soon either – mostly because he hates raking leaves – especially with his crankbait.
“The water levels rose very slowly here at Hartwell, so instead of flushing last fall’s leaves out, the bottom is just littered with them, and that’ll make a man cuss when every cast comes back with leaves on his hooks. So I’m throwing a Rapala DT 6 that runs 6-feet deep into 10 and 12 feet of water,” reasons Swindle.
That approach seems to be in direct conflict with crankbaiting basics that preach the importance of making bottom contact with your lure. But Swindle says Hartwell is different.
“I’ve been fishing Hartwell since long before I was a full time pro, and the strong presence of blueback herring here in recent years has changed the ballgame. Instead of bass looking on the bottom for crawfish, they’re always looking upward for schools of blueback herring near the surface. So winding that DT 6 through the middle of the water column makes perfect sense here,” he says.
Swindle will crank with 12-pound Sunline, tied to a 6.1:1 Quantum Smoke S3 reel, and a medium light 7’ 0” Quantum Smoke rod. “I don’t want a medium action rod, I want a medium light, because I want the rod to be super forgiving when they eat the crankbait,” he explains.
The vibrating blade bait or Chatterbait will also be a strong part of his Classic lineup. Mostly because he can fish it fast and cover water.
“I’m not on a school of fish where I can catch five keepers in a 30 yard stretch. So I need to cover three miles of shoreline that’s covered in dogfennel vegetation, and there’s not many lures that I can cover water faster with than a Chatterbait,” says Swindle.
Swindle’s hardware for Chatterbaits includes 16-pound line, the affordable 7’ 2” G Force rod he designed for Quantum, and a Smoke S3 6.1:1 reel that’s slow enough to help him keep the lure down in the water column just a bit.
There’s a huge number of fans who would love to see Swindle win his first Classic – and if he does, you can bet he’ll be running the same “offense” that’s led to a highly decorated career thus far.
Some people spend their entire life chasing perfection. With the new Team Lew’s Pro-Ti SLP, they just might have caught it.
The 2018 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell is hosting the top 52 anglers in the world. The buzz on the water is what areas will produce, what baits will be key and which angler will be able to put it all together for the $300,000 pay day and the lifelong title of Bassmaster Classic Champion. At the Bassmaster Classic Expo however, the buzz revolves around one thing – the new Team Lew’s Pro- Ti SLP baitcast reel.
Combining a one-piece aluminum frame and aluminum side plates with Titanium composition, this reel is the lightest, toughest reel ever produced by the legendary Lew’s brand to date. Hard aluminum alloy Speed Gears that have been cut on the finest Hamai CNC gear hobbing machine provide precision gear mesh that maximizes smoothness and durability. A premium 11 bearing system with double-shielded Stainless Steel ball bearings and a Zero Reverse one-way clutch bearing add to the smoothness and durability of this reel.
Not only is the new Pro-Ti SLP light and tough, but it’s also extremely user friendly to make the angler’s day on the water a success. The proprietary brake shoe geometry of the externally adjustable 6-pin, 27-position QuietCast Adjustable Centrifugal Braking System (ACB) means a quieter and smoother braking system. The exclusive and patented Speed Dial® line indicator means no more forgetting what type of line is spooled on each reel, and the patented Speed Keeper® hook keeper provides a convenient place to keep baits at the ready when not in use.
Lew’s will be unveiling the new Team Lew’s Pro-Ti SLP in Lew’s booth #3212 at the 2018 Bassmater Classic Expo at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, SC. Stop by the booth each day of the event for prizes, giveaway and to get a sneak peek at this new reel which will be available everywhere in Fall 2018.
The new Team Lew’s Pro-Ti SLP is offered in both left and right-handed models with a 7.5:1 gear ratio and will sell at an MSRP of $349.99.
About Lew’s Fishing
Lew’s Fishing is a Springfield, MO based leading manufacturer and supplier of fishing rods, reels and accessories. The company’s customers include leading mass merchant and sporting goods retailers and distributors. Operating as a subsidiary of Lew’s Holdings Corporation, sister outdoor brands include Strike King and Hunters Specialties. For further information about Lew’s Fishing, please visit their website at www.lews.com.