Fishing Evolved: Justin Lucas Gears up for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic
With a successful 2015 season behind him, we asked Berkley pro Justin Lucas to share his thoughts on last season's achievements and for his outlook on 2016.
Bass fans worldwide are eagerly awaiting the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. Set for March 4-6 on Oklahoma’s legendary Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, the event pits some of the planet’s top tournament anglers against one another in an epic battle for more than $1 million in winnings.
After logging a stellar 2015 season on the Bassmaster Elite trail and finishing an impressive second place in the Angler of the Year points race, Berkley pro Justin Lucas claimed a coveted golden ticket to the Super Bowl of bass fishing.
To give fans an idea what it’s like preparing for Classic competition, we caught up with Lucas as he’s busy gearing up while counting down the days to the day one takeoff.
Q: Let’s start by taking a look at your road to the Classic. How do you feel looking back on the 2015 season?
A: I lost a few fish that at the time I thought might hurt me, but overall they really didn’t matter. There’s no way I can be disappointed about the season. I only missed cashing a check in one event, won my first pro tournament and qualified for the Classic.
Q: What do you consider the high point of 2015?
A: Without question it’s winning the Bassmaster Elite on the Sacramento River. This was my first pro win, but more importantly it’s where I grew up, and having all of my friends and family there cheering me on was incredible. Most of them have never been able to attend one of the Elites due to the distance from home, so this was really special for all of us.
Q: Is there anything you’d change about 2015?
A: While I’m very satisfied with how the season went overall, if I could take one thing back it would be the St. Lawrence River Elite. I didn’t practice well, didn’t have a productive tournament and placed out of the money in 61st. It was the first time since May of 2014 that I didn’t cash a check, so that kind of stung.
Q: You’re noted as a perennial threat on a variety of waters. What do you feel is the biggest reason for your consistency?
A: Although I didn’t realize it at the time, growing up in northern California was a huge benefit because it forced me to fish all kinds of situations, from the Delta to natural lakes like Clear Lake and deep, clear reservoirs.
Q: What are your goals for 2016?
A: Of course winning the Classic would be incredible. But my number one goal is having another consistent Elite season and qualifying for the 2017 Classic. I don’t ever want to miss one of those. My second top goal is winning a tournament. And, while it was really cool winning at home, it would also be neat to win one on a body of water that’s new to me.
Q: What are your thoughts about Grand Lake as you prepare for this year’s Classic?
A: I’ve fished the lake during a tournament once before and really like it. I think it sets up really well for an event like this because it’s really big and bass could be from one end to the other, so it should definitely spread out the field.
Q: What do you think it will take to win the event?
A: There are some really big bass in Grand Lake and 20-pound baskets are always possible. Overall I think 18 pounds a day will probably win it, and for this reason I don’t plan to fish for small bass. Instead of going out looking to catch a limit of keepers before targeting kickers, I’m going to focus on getting the five right bites every day.
Q: Grand Lake has an abundance of docks and pilings, along with rocky banks and plenty of creeks, channel swings, narrows and other bass-attracting cover and structure. What do you expect will be top patterns during the Classic?
A: In early March the bass will be in pre-spawn mode, most likely staging in three to 10 feet of water. Through extensive research I’ve identified areas that should hold the biggest bass, but I’m not ready to share those just yet.
Q: What can you tell us about your go-to presentations?
A: I know it’s going to be early and the water will still be pretty cold, but I’m fired up about throwing Berkley’s new lineup of crankbaits. Since I’m on the pro staff I got a chance to fish them the second half of last season and already consider them confidence baits. But they’re just hitting the market in force right now, so a lot of anglers haven’t thrown them yet and most of the bass haven’t seen one before. My other top presentations will no doubt include a shaky head with a Havoc Bottom Hopper, jig, and possibly some swimbaits.
Q: What advice do you have for fellow bass anglers gearing up for 2016?
A: Whether you’re prepping for the Classic, a local club tournament or just a fun fishing trip, organizing your tackle is critical to catching the most fish possible. I devote a lot of time to doing inventory and restocking everything I’ll need for the year ahead. That being said, don’t get too carried away with trying to throw every kind of lure, bait and presentation out there on every trip. Keep it simple. Stock up on your confidence baits, work a few new presentations into the mix, and most importantly, have fun with it.