All competitive bass anglers aim for the Classic each year, but it was different for Auten. He was driven by a special urgency because Classic XXXIV is set for his home lake, Lake Wylie, July 30-Aug. 1.
In the end, Auten came up agonizingly short.
In the CITGO Bassmaster Tour standings, he finished 42nd. When all the crossovers from anglers who qualified from the Tour and Bassmaster Elite 50 series were settled, he was just four positions away from qualification.
If that weren’t bad enough, Auten finished 11th in the Bassmaster Elite 50 series. The top 10 finishers were awarded tickets to the Classic.
“It’s been on my nerves all year,” said Auten, who finished just four points behind 10th-place angler Dustin Wilks in the Elite 50 standings. “Then this last tournament on the last day when I had done all I could do, it was like a big relief – it felt like a big pressure was taken off because I knew I couldn’t do anything but sit back and wait.
“It’s been a lot of pressure. For some reason, I felt like that last tournament was going to get me and it did.”
Did the yearlong pressure of knowing that bass fishing’s world championship was destined for his home lake prove to be too much?
“Not really,” the two-time Classic qualifier said. “I wanted to make it no matter what. I don‘t know that I would have a great big advantage there. But I’d still liked to have tried.”
Auten was asked about fellow Lake Wylie, S.C., resident Jason Quinn’s chances of winning the Classic with Auten out of the way.
“He knows the lake real well, especially deep,” Auten replied. “He’s going to be able to catch them pretty easily, but he’s still got to whip those boys that fish shallow. They’re going to catch some big fish. I think it will probably be won shallow, actually.”
HOUSTON HONORED. Two-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Jimmy Houston was recently honored in his native Oklahoma. Houston was named the Jim Thorpe Man of the Year at the Jim Thorpe Association’s All-Sports Awards Banquet. It is the first year for the event.
The Thorpe Awards recognize people who have made achievements in lifetime sports, such as golf, tennis and cycling.
Houston, 59, has enjoyed a long and sterling BASS career. Since entering his first tournament in 1968, he has competed in 229 events, cashed a check 111 times, won two tournaments and qualified for 15 Classics. Houston’s show, Jimmy Houston Outdoors, airs on ESPN2.
“This sport has been so good to me that I’ve always dedicated the last 25 or 30 years, trying to give back to the sport,” Houston told the Daily Oklahoman. “It is a sport that you really can’t give back more than it gives to you.”
DID YOU KNOW? California pro Skeet Reese bought his first bass boat before he even owned a car or truck to tow it.
PRO BIRTHDAYS. California’s Skeet Reese will be 35 on June 30. Texan Alton Jones turns 41 on July 1. BASS record-holder Dean Rojas will be 33 on July 3. New Jersey pro Pete Gluszek will blow out 37 candles on July 5, while Kansan Brent Chapman becomes 33 one day later.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Veteran Texas pro David Wharton says “I have a degree in education and would have been a high school teacher. That would have followed in the footsteps of my dad and mom, who were teachers.”
THEY SAID IT. “You get older and, believe it or not, you forget a lot of things about fishing that you thought you never would. I know five years ago I could probably tell you on any lake I went to where I’d caught the fish. I can’t do that anymore. I know about where, but being as precise and clearly remembering, I think, makes a big difference. I think it’s just age. I can’t remember when my wife told me we were going to do something next week and I get in trouble for it. ” Former Classic champion and Angler of the Year David Fritts, now 47.