After a dominating event in 2021 which saw Humminbird and Minn Kota pro Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson secure his first Bassmaster Elite Series win, a return to the Tennessee River out of Knoxville, Tennessee was all the more rewarding for the Kenora, Ontario native. Through three days of intense competition and changing conditions, Gustafson saw light at the end of the tunnel on his Humminbird MEGA Live™ imaging and became the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic champion.
“To come back to the place where I was able to win an Elite Series event fishing how I like, and do virtually the same thing during the Bassmaster Classic, it feels awesome,” said Gustafson. “I fished how I was comfortable and I just jive with this body of water.”
Gussy started the event off strong with a limit weighing 18-pounds, 8-ounces on day one, following that up with a day two bag weighing 17-pounds, 3-ounces, and his final day effort going 42-pounds, 7-ounces to become the second ever international Bassmaster Classic champion – the first ever champion from Canada.
To find his fish, Gussy scanned through the Tennessee river using a deadly combination of Humminbird LakeMaster® mapping with Humminbird MEGA Side and Down Imaging® to locate areas where schools of smallmouth bass were suspended over deeper water. Once located, he targeted individual groups the same way he did in 2021, and picked off each bass using MEGA Live to seal the deal.
“When I won the Elite event here a couple years ago, I relied heavily on MEGA 360 Imaging and Humminbird 2D Sonar,” added Gustafson. ”Adding MEGA Live this week, I could still pick out rocks and other hard bottom areas on 360, but I could be much more efficient with my bait presentation and quickly learn how the fish were behaving – getting them to bite in real time.”
Dating back to his victory in 2021 to today, Gussy has now led seven straight days of Bassmaster events on the Tennessee River. Locating and presenting his bait to suspended smallmouth bass on creek channels; similar to how he fishes back home in Canada. Gussy caught his tournament-winning weight by keeping his bait just above the fish – which he was able to do accurately and clearly with Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging. Once he had his fish hooked, he was able to use Spot-Lock® on his Minn Kota Ultrex™ to keep his boat positioned on high-percentage areas allowing him to stay on top of the schools of fish he was targeting.
“Those first couple days, it looked easier than it was to get those suspended fish to bite,” he added. “Between catching short fish and the fish not committing to the bait, it was tough to catch five bass a day. It got tougher and tougher each day, and you could see how the pressure affected them on the final day.”
Day three proved tough for the championship Sunday field of anglers as Gussy’s fish became pressured and the legal sized smallmouth bass were harder to come by. One keeper smallmouth bass early in the morning got his day started but it wasn’t until after the mid-way point when he finally landed his second keeper. He knew that with MEGA Live Imaging on his Humminbird APEX™ unit, simply catching five keeper smallmouth bass would give him a chance to take the title.
While the last day was not what Gussy would have wanted, the two fish he brought back to the scales were just enough to secure his dream coming true: winning the Bassmaster Classic.
“This is unbelievable. I truly cannot describe what this means to me and to the folks that have supported me on my journey to get here,” said Gustafson. “It was a hard way to win this event; but we won, and we’re bringing this trophy up to Canada for the first time ever and that’s super special to be able to say. I have a lot of respect for the anglers I compete against, the anglers that came before me and the meaning behind winning the first Ray Scott Bassmaster Classic Trophy is indescribable.”
“This weekend was truly incredible and it could not have happened to a better person. You won’t find a single person in the industry that doesn’t love Gussy, and we couldn’t have more pride in him being on our team,” said Field Promotions Manager, Tim Price. “His character is one we model our team after and this win is much deserved. We’re excited to celebrate Gussy and his family in this win, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for him and his career.”
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About Johnson Outdoors
JOHNSON OUTDOORS FISHING is comprised of the Humminbird®, Minn Kota® and Cannon® brands. Humminbird is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fish finders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Minn Kota is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Cannon is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories.
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JOHNSON OUTDOORS is a leading global outdoor recreation company that inspires more people to experience the awe of the great outdoors with innovative, top-quality products. The company designs, manufactures and markets a portfolio of winning, consumer-preferred brands across four categories: Watercraft, Fishing, Diving and Camping.
Visit Johnson Outdoors at www.johnsonoutdoors.com