Bassmaster Classic Day 1: Gustafson Propels to the Lead


After taking the win in 2021, Jeff Gustafson jumps into the day one lead at the 2023 Bassmaster Classic. With conditions similar to 2021, Gustafson was able to exploit a deep water smallmouth bite to catch 18 pounds, 8 ounces.

Leaning on Humminbird MEGA Live technology to make precise casts to suspended smallmouth, Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson takes the lead at the Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River. In 2021, Gussy took his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory with a technique from the north called moping. Moping refers to fishing a vertical presentation below the boat and utilizing electronics to catch bass suspended in the water column. 

Gustafson Takes the Lead

2023 Bassmaster Classic
Gustafson shows off two smallmouth bass at the weigh-in at Thompson-Boling Arena; (photo/Justin Brouillard)

His technique requires constant attention to his Humminbird Apex unit, where he can watch his bait fall and play a cat-and-mouse game with smallmouths below. Gussy noted keeping the bait 2 to 3 feet above the fish will trigger their attention to his bait. As he does through the ice back home on Lake of the Woods, Gussy is essentially ice fishing on open water and can catch better than average-sized smallmouths.

Gustafson Bassmaster Classic Creek Spot
Gustafson fishes the same creek channel where he earned his Elite Series victory in 2021; (photo/Craig Lamb-B.A.S.S.)

Although the event is a month later and water conditions are different than in 2021, Gussy was able to locate several schools of suspended smallmouth in the same creek. Returning this morning, he was seen on Bassmaster Live misjudging the size of a smallmouth and losing the fish beside the boat. Rather than lose his cool, he was able to wrangle his limit of Tennessee smallmouth bass in short order using his famed technique.

Lester Gets the Job Done at the Classic on Day 1

Brandon Lester: Bassmaster Classic 2023
Fayetteville, Tenn., angler Brandon Lester wrangles a largemouth bass on day one of the Bassmaster Classic; (photo/Kyle Jessi/B.A.S.S.)

With 17 pounds, 7 ounces, Tennessee native Brandon Lester sits in second place going into day two. Targeting largemouth bass, Lester is chock full of Tennessee River knowledge overall despite a little history of fishing in Knoxville. He has been picked as one of the favorites this week and seems to jive with springtime river fishing conditions. 

Brandon Lester
Brandon Lester shows off his kicker largemouth bass on day one at the Bassmaster Classic; (photo/Justin Brouillard)

Lester fished a variety of spots and struggled early in the day to get anything going. As the temperatures rise throughout the day, the fish position around high-percentage areas and become easier to target. He landed nine keeper bass on the day, including an upgrade early in the afternoon to anchor his bag.

2023 Bassmaster Classic: Day 1 Wrapup

Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is a feat in itself, but winning is life-altering. The 3-day event held in the spring of each year is the most recognized in professional bass fishing. One angler will hold the Bassmaster Classic Champion title until the following season.

Projecting who will do well at any given event is nothing more than an excitement-building activity that can be affected by several uncontrollable factors. Weather alone can make or break an angler’s ability to perform at the highest level, and those who adapt to ever-changing water will succeed. 

Both Gustafson and Lester feel right at home in the 2023 Bassmaster Classic. After one day of fishing, they cracked the code on the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville. With 2 more days of fishing to go, it is anyone’s ballgame, as weather conditions will continue to throw curveballs at the competitors.

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