FIGHTIN’ IN THE 40’S
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
Moore, OK – It’s a precarious position to be in. For the majority of the Elite Series pros sitting just outside the 2013 Bassmaster Classic cut between 38th and 50th in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings, the 2012 season has been a series of streaks, near misses, close calls, and comebacks.
That being said, there’s still hope. Hope to turn an average season into a season that culminates with an invitation to fish in the Grand Lake Classic. The only thing left to do is turn in a steel nerved performance in the upcoming final Elite Series regular season tournament of the year on New York’s Oneida Lake and earn enough TTAOY points to sneak inside the Classic cut.
Oklahoma’s Terry Butcher (40th in TTAOY standings), Georgia’s J Todd Tucker (41st in the TTAOY standings), and South Carolina’s Jason Quinn (44th in the TTAOY standings) are all anglers who where on dry ground when the 2012 Red River Classic kicked off last February.
Butcher, Tucker, and Quinn each has work to do next week on Oneida to earn a Classic berth, and each has a unique reason as to why qualifying for the 2013 Classic would hold special meaning.
Terry Butcher – 40th in the TTAOY Standings (380 points)
“I’ve been to Oneida three times before for Elite Series tournaments, and I’ve caught fish several different ways each time that I’ve been there. I’ve also had a combination of largemouth and smallmouth each time, and I really don’t expect this year to be any different.
“In 2009, I needed a Top 10 in the last tournament of the year on Oneida to make my first Classic, and I finished in 10th and barely squeaked in. I’m really hoping that things will work out the same way this year for me up there.
“I’ve had three Top 25 finishes on Oneida, so I have a lot of confidence there. I know that I won’t be really dialed in to just one specific technique – it will take a combination of things
“I got off to a terrible start this year, and the rest of the year has been a rollercoaster. It’s the way that my whole career has gone – it’s just been up and down. I’ve already forgotten about my horrible finish on Lake Michigan. I was scared of that tournament all year, and after practice I thought that I could maintain a little bit and be alright but it didn’t work out.
“I would sure love to make this Classic because it’s basically in my hometown. When you go to the Classic as a spectator, everyone wants to know why you’re not fishing in the tournament. I really don’t want to go through that, that’s for sure. I’m not an ace on Grand Lake by any means, but I do know the place and I have some history there.”
J Todd Tucker – 41st in the TTAOY Standings (379 points)
“We’ve had a long time to prepare for this tournament, so I’ve really tried to physically stay in good shape. I’ve been doing a lot of exercising because I want to go into Oneida feeling good because it’s the most important tournament of the year for me.
“After cashing a check in the first five tournaments this year, I really struggled in the last two. I wasn’t fishing my strengths and I felt out of the zone, but I think that I learned from my mistakes. The break was actually good for me because I was able to regroup and refocus.
“I know what to expect at Oneida, and I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing my tackle. I know that I need a Top 25 finish, and I’m not going to over pack the boat because I’m going to catch them the way that I feel comfortable catching them and not get spun out like I did at Green Bay.
"Oneida fishes to my strengths, so I need to concentrate on what I do best. It’s a grass lake, and that’s what I grew up fishing. Sometimes it’s easy to get a little sidetracked when you go to a lake in another part of the country.
“I’m not shooting for a top 25; I’m shooting for the win because that means that you’re in the Classic. If you finish in the top 25, you’re going to be around the fish that are capable of winning the tournament. The person who wins is the person who doesn’t have any bad breaks and everything goes right. The difference between winning and having a top 25 finish just comes down to bad breaks most of the time.
“This is my fourth season fishing the Elite Series and I need to make my first Classic. I’d love to fish my first Classic in Oklahoma because that’s where I was born and raised. To be able to go back and fish there with all my family in the crowd would be an awesome experience.”
Jason Quinn – 44th in the TTAOY Standings (367 points)
“I’ve put more in to preparing for this tournament than probably any other tournament that I’ve ever fished.
“That part of New York had a very mild winter, so when I went up there to practice before the off-limits, the smallmouth had a little bit more weight to them than then normally do. I’d say that they averaged a quarter pound heavier because they have fed all year long.
“That being said, if you look at the past tournament results, largemouth always come into play on Oneida. When I was practicing up there, I probably spent about 90% of my time fishing for largemouth.
“When we fished Oneida in 2009, everyone said that I didn’t have a shot at making the Classic, but I finished in 7th place and barely made it. That gives me a lot of confidence because I know that I’ve done it before on that lake.
“With the Angler Of the Year points structured the way that they are, you know exactly what you have to do because there are no bonus points awarded. Realistically, I think that I’ll make the Classic with a Top 25 finish, but I don’t want to be sitting there waiting on the last day to see if I made it.
“Last season, I went into the third day of the final tournament of the year on Wheeler Lake thinking that I’d wrapped up a Classic spot. I had a decent day, but I missed the Classic. It really wasn’t that crushing because the Classic was on the Red River, and river systems play out differently and don’t suit my style.
“It’s a different story this year with the Classic on a lake. I’ve done well before on Grand and I really like the way that it fishes that time of the year.”