A competitive nature is required of professionals at the top level of any game, but you can sit and talk with Oklahoman Jason Christie for hours and rarely get a glimpse of his desire to beat you at Old Maid, much less bass fishing. But under his smiling, easy going façade is a driving force that has propelled him from dominating tournament locals on his home lake at Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees to the top of the FLW Tour and on to the biggest tournament in fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.

The Park Hill, OK, family man gave up a career teaching and coaching high school basketball after years of success at the local bass tournament level on Grand, Tenkiller and other nearby lakes to join the FLW Trail and give fishing professionally a shot. It’s meant being away from home a lot, and 2012 was even worse than normal.

“What’s hardest is missing my daughters’ ball games,” Christie said. “You don’t ever get that time back.”

Christie said his family understands, though, that this is Dad’s job. They make certain to make his time at home special, and he says he sits on his hands and (tries to) keep his mouth shut when the girls are playing sports.

Before he started fishing professionally, Christie became well known as the man to beat on Oklahoma waters. Now he’s known as one of the toughest competitors on the FLW Trail, with 10 top ten finishes since 2008 and three appearances in the Forrest Wood Cup. So what’s this FLW guy doing fishing in the Bassmaster Classic?

“The moment I learned that the Classic was going to be on my home lake, I started figuring out a way to qualify,” he said.

It turned out that the only avenue that fit into his mapquest was a long-shot, the B.A.S.S. Northern Opens. Several of the lakes he’d be fishing were totally foreign to him. Of the three, he’d only fished one before. It turns out, though, that he’d qualify on a lake he’d never seen before, to fish the Classic on a lake he knows better than just about anyone else.

The first Northern Open was held on the James River in Virginia, and Christie finished in 15th place. He’d never seen Michigan’s Detroit River or Lake St. Clair, the venue for the second Northern Open, and didn’t have a great practice, but found a area of spotty grass about 200 yards long that held promise. He started and ended on the spot, although by the end of the tournament he’d narrowed it down to the most productive 30 yards. He mined the area for 67 pounds, 4 ounces of smallmouth to win by almost 2 pounds. 

“I was limited to one spot,” Christie said of the St. Clair tournament. “I told myself I was just going to sit on that spot. I wasn’t thinking I could win there – I was thinking I could maybe make a top 20.”

After the first day of the tournament he realized his spot held some big fish and that just maybe there was enough to win. One of the keys, he said, was not having another spot to go to. There were times he fished two hours without a bite, and if he’d had other options he may have left the winning fish.

“I think that when things are meant to be, they’re meant to be,” he said. “It was meant for me to win that tournament and get into the Classic.”

To add an exclamation point to his Open season and flex his home lake muscle, Christie added a Central Open victory on Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake, a body of water he’s fished most of his life. In one year he proved to the world that no matter how familiar the waters, the man can fish.

Even with his impressive pro resume and the success he saw during the 2012 season, he knows the dangers of a single slip up when you’re fishing against the best anglers in the world.

“It happens every year,” he said.  “I have one or two tournaments that cost me Angler of the Year. This year I was leading when I don’t make it to weigh-in because I hit something, then I just flat out had a bad tournament, and all of a sudden I’m out of it. I’ll have lots of real good finishes, and then I have one or two poor ones. I can’t figure it out, but when I do I’ll be happier and compete for Angler of the Year.”

The home lake aspect of the Classic is a double-edged sword. Yes, Christie has a million spots on the lake where he’s caught fish, but then again, he has a million spots to choose from. He said a key to his performance will be not getting “spun-out” on the water.

“I have to fish in the moment,” he said. “I can’t leave a spot too quickly. I can’t fish on history.”