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Victory in Tennessee: Gustafson Sweeps 2023 Bassmaster Classic

With more than a 5-pound lead going into the final day at the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ontario angler Jeff Gustafson caught a 3-day total of 42 pounds, 7 ounces and became the first Canadian angler to win the Bassmaster Classic.

2023 Bassmaster Classic WinnerJeff Gustafson wins 2023 Bassmaster Classic; (photo/Justin Brouillard)
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The last day of the 2023 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville came down to the final minutes as Jeff Gustafson was the last to weigh in after a stressful day on Lake Tellico. Hosted by the City of Knoxville, the Tennessee River played host to 55 anglers competing for the $300,000 first-place payout. The Canadian angler led wire-to-wire to take home the Classic crown and bring the coveted trophy back to Ontario. 

Jeff Gustafson Wins the 2023 Bassmaster Classic

Jeff Gustafson Bassmater Classic
Gustafson enters Thompson-Boling Arena on Day 3 of the Bassmaster Classic; (photo/Justin Brouillard)

A tougher final day wrecked the confidence of Gustafson, netting two smallmouth bass. Luckily, Gussy’s 6 pounds, 12 ounces was enough to secure the victory. He began the event with 18 pounds, 8 ounces, and added another 17 pounds, 3 ounces on Day 2. His 3-day total of 42 pounds, 7 ounces was enough to edge out second-place finisher Bryan Schmitt by 1 pound, 9 ounces.

Beginning the day catching a 3-pound class smallmouth, his next bite wasn’t until after the midway point. Overall fishing pressure on the water, combined with a warming trend, made it tough on the leader. Gussy continued to rely on his Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging to precisely work fish suspended within the river channel. As the event progressed, he got fewer bites overall, but his lead was padded enough to get it done.

“Today was tough,” Gustafson said after the event ended. “I think the overall pressure and the water warming scattered the bass and they were super boat shy for me today. I dropped down to over 100 bass today with only two keeper bites to show for it. I have the utmost respect for everyone in the field and I am thankful to have come out on top.” 

Gustafson becomes the first Canadian angler to win the Bassmaster Classic and just one of two international anglers to claim the title. 

Schmitt Secures Second on the Water

Bryan Schmitt relied on a finesse approach to catch his fish this week; (photo/B.A.S.S.)

Maryland angler Bryan Schmitt is no stranger to victory. He put himself in contention this week on the famed Tennessee River. His weights dropped each day from 16 pounds, 1 ounce on Day 1, to 13 pounds, 12 ounces on Day 2, and the final round limit of 11 pounds, 1 ounce.

Schmitt was one of several anglers at the top that neglected smallmouth in favor of shallow largemouth. He focused his efforts on a finesse-style approach and targeted areas where the bass were staging to and from the spawning areas. 

His method clearly paid off with a second-place win in the 2023 Classic.

Canterbury Takes Home Third

Bassmaster Classic Scott Canterbury
Scott Canterbury focused on shallow cover to finish in third place this week; (photo/B.A.S.S.)

Alabama angler Scott Canterbury was one of the best this week at unlocking the shallow game. He credits his key areas from the tournament to the presence of baitfish activity. Throughout his pre-classic training, he looked for hard targets and areas with brush that would hold bait and bass as the water warmed. Once the event started, he rotated through covering water with a spinnerbait and swim jig.

Canterbury improved from 12 pounds, 13 ounces on Day 1 to 15 pounds, 3 ounces on Day 2, and the second biggest bag of the final day moved him into the third-place spot.

That’s a Wrap on the 2023 Classic

As the 2023 Bassmaster Classic comes to a close, the city of Knoxville celebrates its newest champion, Jeff Gustafson. Canada was well represented this year, and Jeff was the one angler who set himself up to overtake the parade of “Brandons” and take the trophy back home across the border.

There’s a long list of competitors that also had great performances — be sure to check out the rest of the final weigh-ins.

The next Elite Series event is April 20-23, 2023, at Lake Murray, S.C.

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