2023 Bassmaster Classic Winner- Jeff Gustafson

Two weeks before Jeff Gustafson aka Gussy, won the 2023 Bassmaster Classic he sat down with us and talked about the upcoming tournament. Gussy gives us some key insights and shows how excited he was to go down to Knoxville and fish the Tennessee River. We also dive into Gussy’s background and how he got into fishing in the first place.


Hey what’s going on everyone this is Eric Stewart from Fishing Fanatics and today I have an awesome
guest Gussie Gussie in his three seasons in the Elite series he won a lead he bagged 11 top 20
finishes including a win at the 2021 Best Mastery Elite on the Tennessee River. Jeff has also
established Outdoor Rider and has been featured in a bunch of Outdoor magazines. So how you doing Gussie?
Oh, pretty good. Just we know we’ve had a couple events already to start the new season and
just at home here for a couple of weeks and geared up for the for the classic coming up.
It’s actually at the Tennessee River. So had some success there in the past and excited to
get back to that place. Obviously it’s a special spot for me and hopefully we can
rekindle some kind of magic here in a couple weeks out on the body of water.
Absolutely, man. Well, let’s just jump right in the back in 2021, man, when you ended up winning it.
What are you carrying over from that win to kind of this season coming up here soon on the Tennessee
River? Are you trying to do kind of similar things or looking for something completely different?
Well, so I’ve been doing this for like 10 years. So fish the FLW tour for six seasons and then,
this is my fifth season on the Elite Series. So like one thing that I’ve learned is the
Southern reservoirs are never the same. Like when you from one year or two years to the next,
like water levels change, we’re going to be there a month later than we were when I won that event.
So it’s going to be different. And then obviously like with all the coverage now,
there was no details really left out of what I was doing there. So I mean,
I’m sure the spot’s been fished hard and I caught them all in one area.
But you know that it exists and I had all small molds there which they didn’t expect.
A small mule has to be 18 inches to keep on that body water so it makes they got to be pretty big.
But I know that it exists. There’s lots of fish there and some of the techniques that
that we use a lot back here at home work at that place.
So I’m gonna go there and really try to push
catching these smallmals somehow, some way.
It could be shallower, it could be, you know, deep again,
but that’s gonna be my sort of main focus.
Like if I gotta go there and beat the bank with these guys,
I’m probably not gonna beat them, you know?
I gotta, you gotta kinda like,
sometimes you gotta just fish, however, the best way
is to fish at each of these bodies of water.
But if you can like sort of try and fish the way that you’re most comfortable and feel like you have the most, you know, opportunity for success, that’s what you got to do.
And while I was looking in your background a little bit, I saw something on your bass message right up that said, your specialty is electronics.
So that also were kind of brand of fishing where you’re not necessarily in a bank and you’re maybe drop shunning for a couple of these small mouth.
But what about electronics?
Do you think works really well with your fishing?
Is it because you’re all sure and you’re kind of throwing
those deeper jig style baits or what about electronics?
Do you really like?

  • So obviously like where I live,
    I live in a place called Lake of the Woods.
    So one of the best multi-species fisheries in the world.
    And I’ve grown up dieting for walleye and pike
    and musky, lake trout, crappie.
    We do a lot of, I’ve been ice fishing
    blast three or four days.
    So just a lot of, you know, a lot of time over the years
    using GPS and using sonar and just, you know,
    fishing offshore.
    And that’s, you know, I just feel comfortable doing that.
    So if I can, if I can do that, you know,
    maybe feel like I have an advantage.
    And I, I’m probably saying that I used to feel
    like I had an advantage more anymore.
    I mean, these guys are all so good now.
    everyone that I fish against on the Elite series is, you know, they’re the best. So,
    it’s, it’s, they all, they all can do it. And, and the, they, so in our nails, gotten so
    much, so good with, you know, I had the guys at Hennessey Outdoors in Tennessee helped to
    rig my electronics on my boat this year and everything’s just working awesome. It was,
    It was a real treat to kind of get to do that.
    And nobody’s missing anything
    at those fish are down there.
  • Yeah, I’ve been looking into the live scope myself
    from Garmin and a couple other ones
    like these for Lawrence and Hummingbird.
    And I gotta tell you, I’m completely blown away
    about what they can do.
    I mean, I’m used to just kind of like a side imaging scan
    when just rolling down the river.
    But when you could just sit in a spot
    kind of look around what’s underneath you. It’s really is a weapon.
    Yeah, it is. And like, do you need that stuff to catch fish? No,
    but if you want to like fish tournaments and, you know, just, if you have the
    means and you can, it’s, I mean, it’s so fun to use and it’s like, I couldn’t
    every single day that I fish, no matter whether I’m in Canada or Florida or
    in between, I’ll catch a fish at some point during the day. And I’ll, you know,
    I just think to myself, like I would not have caught that thing if I didn’t have this.
    Like it might just be that you see a stump or a plump of grass or a boulder, you know,
    when you shine out away from the bank and you can cast your bait over there and you’re hooked up.
    So, and then sometimes you just see the fish too, but it’s good or bad. I mean, I’ve grown up,
    like old school fishing. I mean, I used to have a paper map in my hand and you’d have to line up
    the point off the green boat house and the eagles nest over there. It’s changed a lot with GPS
    and all the technology that we have now. But at the same time, it is fun and it makes
    finding and catching fish a lot easier than it used to be.
    Absolutely. I think it’s good to have that old style where you’re just at a lake and you have
    to look at the bank and the structure of the bank to see where you think fish are going to be,
    kind of like that think like a fish mentality. But then when you add in those electronics,
    it’s like, Oh, that, oh, shit, here we go. We got a whole new game plan. But that’s awesome.
    And one thing I always like asking professionals to when they come on the podcast is, you know,
    you’ve been an experienced pro for about nine years now. And one of the things I always like
    seeing is like, what’s your story from kind of, you know, fishing up maybe with your parents
    or fishing up with your friends kind of growing up, maybe you fish collegently and then kind of
    how you got started in professional bass fishing today. Just take me through that story a little bit.
    Yeah, so kind of unorthodox way that I did it. From a young age, I loved fishing. All I wanted
    to do, we have a big hometown tournament here at Lake of the Woods in Kenara, where I live called
    the Kenara Bass International. And it’s a big community event. It used to be a two-day tournament
    It lasted 20 years or so.
    It’s been a three day tournament.
    But my parents, they had a kids tournament off the dock.
    Like, well, the big one was going on.
    So I did that when I was seven, eight, nine years old.
    And then for my Christmas present, when I was 10 years old,
    my parents got my dad and I an entry fee
    into the tournament the following summer.
    So that was sort of my, you know, I was young.
    My dad fished, but didn’t bass fish.
    Like fish for walleyes and trout,
    just more like fish that you eat.
    And we did it.
    And the first year, I mean, our goal
    is to just catch ab-ass so we could walk across the stage
    and weigh in.
    And then after a few years, we really enjoyed it
    and loved it and fished some other smaller tournaments
    over the summer.
    And after a few years, we started to get competitive.
    And ever since then, that’s just been my life’s
    kind of revolved around fishing all these tournaments.
    And then in my late 20s, I was guiding a lot,
    you know, hunt deer hunting, fishing, ice fishing,
    anything, just staying busy, trying to avoid
    having to get a real job.
    And I went to university, kind of on the,
    I always tell people on the Keep Mummy Happy program,
    ’cause I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
    And looking back now, I wish I would have taken
    like some business or marketing stuff,
    But I just kept fishing a lot and then had a friend from Minnesota that kind of had the
    means to help me out and paid some entry fees for me.
    And I just kind of jumped right into the, well, FLW used to have these FLW tour opens.
    So they were a four tournament series and the main tour was a six tournament series.
    So in 2012, I fished the tour opens and actually qualified for the full FLW tour.
    to do in that the next year. And that’s kind of where I’m at. I’ve actually never fished
    a Toyota series or an open or a BFL. I mean, I just went straight to the top level. And
    I mean, I’ve had a lot of hardships along the way and got my butt whip many times and learned
    things the hard way. But I kind of did good enough to just keep after it and keep at it.
    And now over the last few years doing it, I’ve been to a lot of the lakes now. There’s
    always a couple new ones every year, but you just get my consistency is better. You just
    get see a lot of these situations that may be tricked you the first couple times and
    then you maybe like, okay, the water’s coming up. I got to go near the bank. But you know,
    like title places or flooding and that, I mean, that used to just be a nightmare for
    me. And it’s still like not, I’m going to have a, you know, it’s a win if I can make
    a cut day three cut or something on one of those types of places. But yeah, you just kind
    of keep learning as you go. And if you can survive the first few years, like trying to
    make it at the pro level, then you’re probably good. You’re probably going to be okay. But
    I’ve seen a lot of good anglers that I probably were more skilled than I am. Just didn’t catch
    a few breaks along the way those first couple of years. And then all of a sudden it’s pretty
    It’s easy to dig a big hole.
    It’s very expensive to do it, but if you, you know, I love it, so it is what it is.
    So what’s the biggest lesson you learned?
    Either a life lesson or like a fishing technique lesson throughout the years?
    I mean, you got to have fun.
    I mean, if you’re not having fun, like I’ve seen some of these guys that I was, you know,
    good friends with that just like they go for it, throw it all on the visa and then a couple
    tournaments go by and you have a catch a little bit of bad luck all of a sudden you’re 10 grand
    in the hole and it’s like I got a cash check next week to pay my truck payment or my house
    payment and then the pressure just gets heavy and you’re not having fun and then it’s very hard to
    to like come out of that.
    And so just, you know, I’ve stayed with a lot of good friends
    and my wife travels with me most of the time now
    and that’s awesome.
    It makes the life a lot easier for us.
    And, but have fun and then just fish a lot.
    I mean, there’s, I get asked, you know,
    about this all the time, like,
    how do you make it and everything?
    And, you know, it’s hard to get sponsorship now
    within the fishing industry.
    I mean, all the companies’ budgets are hammered.
    There’s a lot of competition.
    So you gotta catch fish, whether you wanna be a tournament
    angler or a guide catching fish is important.
    And a lot of the other stuff will follow the sponsorship
    and media opportunities.
    Once you’re, you know, you kind of prove yourself
    a little bit.
    So that’s what I tell people, fish as much as you can.
    And just not only on like your home lake
    where you know you can go catch fish.
    I hardly ever go out when I’m at home or wherever and just fish places where I know
    I can catch fish.
    Like, I don’t care about that.
    I want to go like, for me, it’s way more about figuring out what they’re doing and figuring
    out new ways to catch them and that sort of thing.
    But just fish as much as you can and try to fish in as many different situations as you
    can and that’s how you’re going to get better.
    I’ll tell you what, I could see, you know, being 10 grand in a hole after a couple tournaments,
    how you would start to panic a little bit. That would be your wake up call.
    Yeah, it’s a fun sucker. I can tell you that. I just, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a ruthless sport,
    you know, like that, because when, you know, these go good, it’s like the, the highs are really high,
    but then when you, you know, you break down or, or you just don’t catch fish, I mean, it’s, you
    You only get three days to pre-fish for some of these things and they’re big bodies of
    I mean, we were to set Lake Seminole and I’ve never been there before and like standing
    timber everywhere, hard lake to get around on.
    And you can only, I mean, three days goes by so fast.
    It’s hard to cover a lot of water.
    And you know, I kind of had a tough practice there and ended up with a 55th place.
    So I, you know, middle of the field, which it hurts not making the top 50 when you’re
    that close, like it was only ounces, but at the same time, that could have been a lot
    worse to end up catching a limit both days and things when it ended up, you know, alright.
    So, you know, sometimes if it’s, if you haven’t figured anything out, just surviving some
    of those tough ones is a win too.
    Definitely, definitely.
    So let’s switch gears a little bit here.
    As I know you’re an outdoor writer, you write a lot for different magazines and you get
    featured in a lot of them.
    you’re going to get into that passion a little bit? Yeah, so again, just going back to like I got
    done university I think in 2005 and I spent a couple months working for a contractor friend of mine
    and I was just doing all the no good jobs like carrying shingles and drywall and just was grunting
    you know and I just I knew that I there was some opportunity with all the fishing activities I was
    I was doing, I was getting some sponsors by that point.
    And I just had finished university,
    so I felt like I knew how to write a little bit.
    And I just started doing stuff for more as a way
    to just promote stuff that I was doing for my sponsors.
    Like, I’m sure I wasn’t really getting paid that well
    at the start.
    But I reached out to a lot of the different magazines.
    And then as the web stuff’s growing,
    there’s been more opportunity there.
    I’ve done a weekly newspaper column since 2007
    for a couple of newspapers up here.
    Like it’s a long time, you know?
    I think probably over a thousand newspaper columns.
    I don’t know how many it’s been, but yeah,
    I do a lot of that.
    And it, you know, obviously like there’s way more views
    and stuff on video and social media.
    And I do a little bit of that stuff too,
    but there’s definitely still an audience
    for like hard copy magazines and newspapers.
    And so as long as that stuff’s still around,
    I’ll probably still do it.
    But yeah, it was just another way to try and keep
    some flow going and avoid, again, having to get a real job.
  • No, I love it.
    I love it.
    Especially when it’s writing about fishing, too.
    I mean, I’ll read stuff about fishing
    all the time with different tactics, or even
    about how someone did on a specific tournament,
    even if they might not have come in first.
    But just like what they were thinking about before during
    and then after they did the tournament,
    It’s pretty cool to like, read about or even listen to about like a podcast setting for
    And, you know, it’s, you got to try and do it to where it’s not just like advertorial
    Like you, you know, you try and promote is, you know, a little bit as subtle as you can,
    like tell people if it’s good information, then it’s, you know, that’s fine and try and
    get good photos to go with it.
    But, you know, the days of just like writing, I have to use this such and such crankbait
    on this such and such lot, you know, like no one wants to read that kind of stuff really.
    So it’s, it’s yeah, try and teach people, tell a story, um, and that sort of thing.
    I love it.
    I love it.
    Alright, so let’s wrap it up here.
    I was like asking everyone, what’s your, um, PB smallmouth in largemouth?
    Uh, big small, almost 7.60.
    That one came from, uh, Sturgeon Bay on Lake Michigan.
    Um, probably around 10 years ago now.
    I mean, it was a, it was a while ago.
    I fish there for years and years, the big sturgeon bay open in May and anymore.
    I miss it a lot now.
    I’m going to miss it again this year, just tough with our elite schedule.
    But that was that.
    And then big largemouth, I actually caught in an FLW tour event at Pickwick Lake.
    And it was in 2014, so almost 10 years ago as well, but it was a 10-pound, 12-ounce largemouth.
    caught it on a football jig and just, you know, it was my lucky day. I was leading the event after day one and
    You know ended up having a pretty good tournament, but I didn’t I didn’t keep up the
    25-pound average that I had go on the first day. That’s a pretty good start though. I mean
    Yeah, when you get your biggest one in a tournament, I mean that’s always good last year. I had my biggest fish of the year
    I think I
    I caught in a in the lake fork event as well and want a big little big fish bonus. So yeah,
    every so often that that works out and you know when it does it’s a good thing.
    I love it. I love it. All right, Gussie, let’s tell everyone all the listeners where people can
    find you and kind of follow along long and your success on your social medias and all those
    different platforms. All right. Yeah. No, I’m on Instagram and Facebook, Gussie outdoors.
    Jeff Gustafson on Facebook and you know got a YouTube channel I do a little bit of stuff on
    there but yeah and then just follow along the Elite series at Bassmaster.com and yeah I mean
    if anyone has any questions I’m pretty easy to find and he can if you send me a message I’ll
    get back to you so thanks for thanks for having me. Yeah absolutely Gus we will have to do it
    something down in the road to get you on season three. So keep up the good work. I appreciate it.
    Thanks for watching.
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