As one of the co-founders of Major League Fishing, Texas angling legend Gary Klein has been dreaming of this day for years.
A chance to win a world bass fishing championship on a level playing field against the very best anglers in the world.
And now, in the years that have followed after MLF began in humble fashion on Texas’ Lake Amistad in November 2011, the chance to do just that is finally at hand.
That’s because the 2017 Major League Fishing General Tire World Championship event is now underway on the bass rich East Texas waters near Nacogdoches, a worthy place for a group of top-flight anglers to try and carve out their place in the history of the sport.
For Klein to be that angler this week, he’ll fall back on his Hall of Fame career experiences that have produced two B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles, eight B.A.S.S. wins, 79 “Top 10” finishes, and more than $2.1 million in career earnings.
But with all of that experience under his belt, Klein wryly smiled and admitted that he’s got some work to do after the first day of his Round One experience turned into an effort where everything didn’t go quite as he had planned.
“Well, there’s no doubt that I’ve got to catch them,” said Klein, who along with Boyd Duckett, came up with the MLF format, something that has revolutionized bass fishing in the years that have followed the inaugural Lake Amistad event.
“You know, I’m not out of this thing yet, but today has got to be a move up day for me,” he added. “I’ve got to figure something out and put something on the board because at the end of the day, we make our cut and the Top 3 anglers move on and the bottom three are done. And I don’t want to be in the bottom three.”
To move up – and to move on to the Sudden Death semifinal round later this week – is something that would mean the world to Klein, who just narrowly missed winning the 2014 MLF Challenge Cup on Lake Ray Roberts when a last second bass in the eight-pound range came unbuttoned at the boat.
How vital was that fish? Klein ended up falling to eventual Challenge Cup winner Kelly Jordon by a total of 5-pounds, 12-ounces.
Obviously, that one hurt and Klein would like some redemption this week. And he’d love to get that redemption by staging a dramatic comeback and threatening Greg Hackney’s big 30-pound lead after Day One action on Lake Nacogdoches.
Can anyone – even the legendary Gary Klein – realistically do that?
“Yeah, this is Texas, we’re on a good body of water, and we’ll see what happens,” smiled Klein. “On the first day, I saw a lot of fish moving up, today is going to be a whole different day.”
With a twinkle in his eye, Klein admitted that catching Hackney would be tough, but he was sure going to try.
“There are still two more positions that are open and within distance of reaching,” said the Weatherford, Texas resident and bass fishing legend. “All I’ve got to do today is to put my head down and go out and maximize my chances.
“And whatever happens, happens,” he added. “I want to at least leave here knowing that I had an opportunity (to move on).
“I lost three solid fish in that third period on the first day of competition that really cost me. I should be sitting in second place right now.”
With Lake Nacogdoches’ potential to produce big bass up to the 10-pound mark and beyond, Klein isn’t conceding anything just yet.
“I had two big ones that I lost the other day,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how big they were, but one of the ones that I stuck, it felt like it was one of those six, seven or eight-pounders. It was a big boil back up in the shallows and she pulled off.
“If I can catch one of those fish (early on) today, that right there can help make up some of the difference on just one cast.”
Despite the weather change that have occurred since this group of MLF pros last got out on the water the other day, Klein is confident that the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard that he helped to invent with Duckett will sing early and often.
“It could be even better today than it was the other day,” smiled Klein. “Yeah, it’s post frontal conditions, but still, it didn’t get as cold last night as they had said it was going to. And I think that obviously, as the day goes on (and it warms up), the fish are going to position themselves and start biting.”
Will Klein try and avoid the trap of relying on the history of the other day rather than listen to what the fish are telling him today?
“Oh absolutely,” said Klein. “The personality of these fish, it’s changing (from day to day) as they focus on the spawn. I think maybe some more fish have moved up and the day is going to get better (later on) like it normally does at this time of the year.”
If it sounds like a lot of mental juggling out there on the water, that’s right, even for one of the best to ever play the game.
“There’s an awful lot going on in your head,” grinned Klein. “Not only do I have to go out and figure things out (today), but I’ve got to go out and get on them quick. And catch them first, second and third period (too). My goal this first period is to get back into the Top 3.”
And then Klein will see what happens the rest of the way, hopefully as he pulls off an amazing come-from-behind victory that shocks Greg Hackney and the rest of today’s MLF field.
But it won’t shock Gary Klein, one of the sport’s truest gentlemen, a fierce competitor who never gives up, and an angler who is among the very best to ever cast a line.
In other words, he might be down, but Gary Klein certainly isn’t out.
He isn’t betting against himself and neither should you.