St. Croix pro offers insights on the 2023 Bassmaster Elite Season, builds his own rod, and dives into the slugfest that will be this month’s Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River
Competitive fishing’s grandest stage will be in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 24-26, when the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota comes to the Tennessee River. St Croix Pro “Old Bob” Downey of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota is among the 55 elite anglers competing for the biggest title and payout in competitive bass fishing.
Bob Downey is in his fourth season fishing the Elites. He finished the 2022 season with an AOY rank of 23. So far this season, he has placed 54th at Lake Okeechobee and 12th at Lake Seminole, earning 144 AOY points placing him in 24th place.
“I wasn’t thrilled with 54th in Florida, but I’ll take 54th over 85th any day,” says Downey, who was a lot happier with his 12th-place finish in Georgia. “I’m just trying to stay consistent,” he says. “I had one bad tournament last year, but everything else was decent. That’s what it takes to make the Classic. For me, there’s no secret formula. I’m no better than the best local anglers on any water we fish,” he says. “I work really hard but so does everyone else. I guess one thing I do try to do is keep a calm demeanor throughout every day of competition. That means rolling with the punches and keeping a calm head. Do that and more times than not you’ll find something that works. But that can’t happen if you are totally spun out.”
Downey says he’s looking forward to this year’s events at Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake St. Clair the most. “Being from Minnesota, those are obviously the venues that set up the best for my style of fishing,” he says. “I really like fishing at Lake Champlain.”
Looking ahead to this month’s Classic in Knoxville, Downey says the weather is definitely the wild card. “We could have spawning fish or a solid pre-spawn pattern. Every spring is different. I think a lot of guys are going to be totally focused on largemouth, but I’m going to target both largemouth and smallmouth. There are ways to target those bigger smallies. Gussy (Jeff Gustafson) actually won with them there last year. I think we’ve got four days of practice, so we’ll see what’s happening when the time comes.”
Downey says whoever wins in Tennessee will need some help. “Everybody wants to go and win a Classic, but that’s hard to manifest. You need to work as hard as you can, but you’re fishing against the best in the world. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”
Rod-wise, Downey says he has been fishing St. Croix’s new Legend Tournament Bass rods almost exclusively. “They did an incredible job with the new upgrades to this series,” he says. “I think it’s their best ever. They are crisp and balanced in the hand and the guide trains and ergonomics are perfect.” Downey says his favorite rod in the series is the LBTS73MXF.
Follow Bob Downey at the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota with up-to-the-minute coverage at bassmaster.com.