HOME SWEET HOME: Oklahoma natives Palmer, Christie reflect on 'home' Bassmaster Classic

Mar. 22—Park Hill, Oklahoma, native Jason Christie hasn't returned to Grand Lake O' Cherokees since he placed runner-up in the Bassmaster Classic to Edwin Evers in 2016, despite fishing "thousands of hours" there.

Many observers speculate that since the loss, Christie has been looking for redemption. On Media Day, Christie put that rumor to rest, saying his 2022 triumph in the "Super Bowl of fishing" more than makes up for it.

With a key win on his resume, Christie can return to a lake on which he grew up fishing, with a lot less pressure on his shoulders.

"I've seen the redemption quotes and all that. The last time we were here for two and a half days, I thought I was going to win the event," Christie said. "Edwin beat me; I didn't make a mistake to lose it. I don't really worry about that one much. I've spent some nights in my own bed, and it's nice to run around on a lake I grew up fishing. Win, lose or draw, it's a good event."

Christie lives just over an hour away from Grand Lake and has been able to stay at home, for once. Even though he isn't putting pressure on himself to win the event, he admitted it would be nice to take top honors in front of his family and friends.

"My girls weren't at the '22 Classic when I won. If this happens, it would be great to have everyone here," Christie said on the possibility of winning in front of everyone. "We are still three days away; a lot has to go down in three days to do this. I am sitting here worried about catching them tomorrow and not the second or last day."

Christie's wife Shana echoed the former champions sentiment ahead of the first day launch.

"It is great, we travel all around the counrty so having one home is nice," Shana said. "His parents, best friends, aunts and uncles are able to come. It's a quick drive home too which is nice."

Christie is very familiar with the lake, but he still isn't sure of what will be the winning pattern, come tournament time. The warmer water temperatures lately have made the bass act differently than in Grand Lake Classics in '16 and '13.

Every angler had three practice days over the weekend, and another official round on Wednesday, but conditions are changing rapidly. According to a number of anglers, last Sunday's Grand Lake won't be the same as this Sunday's Grand Lake.

"I am going to have 10 rods on the deck tomorrow; it's a gut feeling for me. The way I look at it, the first day is the first practice round for me," Christie said.

Along with his second-place finish, Christie also has a seventh place in the '13 Classic — his first. With cold weather in '13 and extremely muddy conditions in '16, Christie thinks there was a home lake advantage. With fair conditions, the '22 champion doesn't think that will necessarily be the case this year.

Christie knows the fishery well, and he also likes the topography of Grand Lake.

"I spent thousands of hours on it, growing up, and it suits my style," Christie said. "The highland reservoir-type fisheries I've always done well. Something about those lakes, there is something I understand about it."

Palmer's big break

The other Oklahoma native, Luke Palmer, isn't as familiar with Grand Lake as Christie, but the Coalgate native has spent some time on these waters.

This season marks Palmer's fifth Classic, but it marks one big change. Last season, Palmer won his first Bassmaster Elite Series event at Santee Cooper. That success opened doors for Palmer.

Since becoming a full-time professional angler in 2020, Palmer had also been working full-time at his dad's hardware store. But as of Jan. 1, the store has been sold. Don't worry, though; he still stops in from time to time. The sale allowed him to retire his parents and focus on fishing for the first time.

"It was brutal, but that is what it took for me to fish. My sponsors stepped up big-time this year, and having that win helped," Palmer said. "I would go straight from the tournament, straight home; I felt bad if I wasn't working. Getting that freedom to not go into the store every day is great, but you still miss that paycheck."

Along with the practical means of winning the tournament, the triumph also lit a fire under Palmer and gave him a new view of the sport.

"It's more of a confidence thing, you know; I have to make it here, and I'm fishing all the time now. I quit fishing to just make the Classic and make a check. I want to win now," Palmer said.

Even though Palmer's family is still 3-1/2 hours away from Grand Lake, some of them will still have the chance to watch him compete and weigh in for the first time.

"It means a lot to me. Everything has been a ways away from us," Palmer said. "It's hard for the family to travel with work and everything. Getting to be close to home, everyone is going to get here, and I am really looking forward to it."

Christie, Palmer and the rest of the 54 anglers will launch at 7:15 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with weigh-ins starting at 5 p.m. at the BOK Center.

Friday weights were not recorded at the time of publication.

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