One of Buddy Gross’s biggest sponsors is Fish Lake Chickamauga.
The Chattanooga resident has long considered the world-famous largemouth factory his home waters.
So, when Gross makes a bold statement about the upcoming Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, the world should perk up and take notice.
“There are going to be some giants brought to the scales,” said Gross, who has two Elite Series victories to his credit. “They’re gonna be big, fat and healthy — and if a few people can find several of those kind of fish, you could see another event like we just had at Santee Cooper, Century Belts included.”
Competition days will be April 7-10, with takeoffs each day at 7 a.m. ET from Dayton Boat Dock and daily weigh-ins at 3 p.m. at Point Park/Dayton Boat Dock. A full field of 94 pros will fish the first two days, with the field being cut to 47 for Semifinal Saturday and to 10 for Championship Sunday as the anglers compete for a $100,000 first-place prize.
Gross said a recent one-day local event was won on Chickamauga with a five-bass limit that weighed more than 37 pounds, including a 12 1/2-pound largemouth kicker.
“Think about that,” he said. “That means they had four other fish that weighed 25 pounds by themselves. That’s the kind of potential this lake has.”
Gross said he expects the water level to be falling on the 36,240-acre Tennessee River fishery — and that could help because it will force fish into smaller and smaller areas each day. That’s the good news.
The bad news is they could be in transition between prespawn and spawning areas — and that could make them harder to find in bunches. He said that could play into the hands of someone who specializes in reading forward-facing electronics.
“Fishing has changed so much the last two years, and the forward-facing sonar gives us the ability to find those roamer fish that are the really big ones,” he said. “That’s what’s going to play. The competitors I’m scared of are the ones who can go out there with a single bait and find those single giants swimming around.”
Gross said jerkbaits — a common choice for forward-facing sonar experts — will likely factor in heavily, along with lipless crankbaits and bladed jigs. More than anything, though, he said flexibility will likely be a part of the winning angler’s game plan.
As a historic producer of giant largemouth, Chickamauga is a destination site for avid bass anglers from across the United States. The lake gets major fishing traffic — and because of that, there are few bass in its waters that haven’t seen traditional presentations over and over again.
“The lake gets pressured a lot, and a lot of these guys who drive 18 hours to Chickamauga to catch a giant, they’re not gonna slow down,” he said. “You can’t fault anyone for that. You just have to get in there and work with everybody.
“Somebody with an open mind will be the one to watch for in our field. Somebody who figures out something a little different that hasn’t gotten beat up is going to be the key.”
While he believes another Century Belt performance — a four-day limit of 100 pounds or more — is possible, Gross believes it will take a little less than that to win.
“Unless somebody really, really finds that magic spot, 100 pounds is going to be tough,” he said. “It can happen; I think a man could catch four days of 30 pounds pretty easy, but it will take the absolute perfect storm. I’m still going to go with mid- to upper 80s for my prediction as a winning weight.”
Heading into the fourth stop on the 2022 Elite Series schedule, Florida pro John Cox leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 285 points. He is followed by Tennessee pro David Mullins (265), Arkansas pro Stetson Blaylock (257), Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk (254) and Georgia pro Drew Cook (248).
During B.A.S.S.’s three most recent trips to Chickamauga, Cox earned two victories — in the 2017 Bassmaster Southern Open and the 2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open. Texas pro Lee Livesay won the other event, a 2020 Elite Series tournament that was moved to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat leads the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 232 points, followed by Alabama pro Joseph Webster (183), Pennsylvania pro Jonathan Kelley (167), Japanese pro Masayuki Matsushita (150) and Missouri pro Cody Huff (131).
Full coverage from all four days of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake will be available on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders on Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10 beginning at 8 a.m. ET.
The tournament is being hosted by the Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council.
2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2022 Bassmaster EliteSeries Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC
2022 Bassmaster Conservation Partners:AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.