We will update the progress of John Crews in the Bassmaster Elite Series Lake Okeechobee tournament in this article daily.
Update: As of 11:15 a.m. John Crews is in 14th place with a five-fish bag weighing in at 11 pounds, 15 ounces.
SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — The Bassmaster Elite Tournament Series season starts Thursday, February 16 at Lake Okeechobee, Florida. John Crews of Salem hopes to duplicate the same success he had in the opener a year ago.
Crews won last year’s opening tournament at St. John’s River, Florida. While he was competitive the rest of the tournament season, it was his only first-place finish on the trail last year. He is looking forward to the start of the 2023 campaign.
“When the Elite season starts, I get very excited,” said Crews. “One, I get to go fishing, and two, I get another shot at one of these trophies, right here.”
Crews gestured to the championship trophy he won last year during a visit to the garage area where he was gearing up for the trip to Florida. Crews is the president of Salem-based Missile Baits.
Before Crews even wet a line in this year’s opener, he had plenty of work to do.
“The boat, the tackle, the truck, we’re talking a minimum of 50 to 60 hours just to get ready to go to the first tournament,” Crews said.
The trip hauling his boat and gear down to Okeechobee takes about 13 hours. Crews like his chances on the lake because he has fished it before. However, he says there are still challenges.
“It’s a place I’ve got some history, but Lake Okeechobee is always changing, said Crews. “It has been there a long time, it’s a big natural lake, but the water fluctuates, the grass moves, so it’s one of those places that you think you know how to fish it until you get there and realize it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
As for strategy this season, Crews says he will get back to the tackle and techniques that he knows and has confidence in. Confident anglers catch fish, and there are two baits Crews will rely on.
“The first two are basically what I won the St. John’s River, a drop-shot and a chatter bait” Crews said gesturing to tackle on the deck of his boat. “Those two baits are going to be at the top of my list; those two baits are never going to leave my deck throughout this season.”
Crews also say the Missile Mini Flip Jig and the Missile D-Bomb will also be in his regular arsenal.
While a lot of brain power goes into developing a strategy in tournaments, Crews says there is a physical aspect, too.
“Bass fishing is an endurance sport,” Crews said.
He says tendonitis is a big concern and has even forced other anglers off of the tournament circuit.
“I do a lot of conditioning during the offseason, especially of my forearms,” said Crews. “I have a whole exercise routine I do on a daily basis.”
Despite the stress and physical rigors, Crews says tournament fishing is what he loves.
“I get excited every year for the start of the season,” said Crews emphatically. “There’s just something special about that very first tournament of the year. Everybody is on a level playing field. You’ve put all this preparation, all these hours and hours of work that have gone into getting you ready for that very first tournament, making that first cast, getting that first bite.”