Canadian pro holds on for historic Bassmaster Classic victory

Jeff Gustafson won the 2023 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, TN. (Photo courtesy B.A.S.S./James Overstreet)

Canadian pro Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson’s bass refused to play fair on the final day of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota on the Tennessee River.

But fortunately for him, the bulk of his work was already done.

Despite catching only two smallmouth bass that weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces on Championship Sunday and falling three fish short of the 15 he’d been counting down toward all week, Gustafson held on to win the most treasured title in professional fishing with a three-day total of 42-7.

As the first Canadian Classic champion ever, he takes home the Ray Scott Trophy and a $300,000 first-place check.

“I had an hour ride back to check-in, and it was horrible,” said Gustafson, who now holds two-straight wire-to-wire victories on this fishery. “I thought I’d blown it for sure. I thought there was no way I’d even be in the mix.

“When I got back and looked at BassTrakk, I still wasn’t sure. I knew I didn’t have much more than what mine said and the guys behind me both had limits that might have been heavier than what they had entered.”

As it turned out, Gustafson received hard charges from both Maryland pro Bryan Schmitt and Alabama pro Scott Canterbury, but neither could quite pull it off. Schmitt caught a five-bass limit that weighed 11-1 and finished less than 2 pounds shy of a win at 40-14, while Canterbury caught one of the biggest limits of the day at 12-1 and finished just over 2 pounds back at 40-1.

The magnitude of being the first Canadian to win a Classic trophy was still dawning on Gustafson 30 minutes after the trophy was placed in his hands.

“It’s insane,” he said. “I’m kind of speechless. I wish I could have spoken a little better up there on stage. There are a lot of good anglers up there, a lot of people who love bass fishing in Canada.

“So, this is for everybody up there.”

Greg Hackney of Gonzales came in 10th with 12 fish for a total of 30-14. Tyler Rivet of Raceland landed in the 21st spot with 12 fish weighing 24-04.

Greg Hackney (Photo courtesy B.A.S.S./James Overstreet)
Tyler Rivet (Photo courtesy B.A.S.S./James Overstreet)

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