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Grigsby looking for more "Providence" in '03
By Steve Bowman
Great Outdoor Games staff

Shaw Grigsby doesn't mince words when it comes to describing his fishing performance during 2002.

Grigsby is recognized as one of the all-time great anglers, a shoe-in for Hall of Fame status, a perennial top finisher. You could go on and on.

That is until you get to 2002.

It sucked.
Shaw Grigsby, on his performance during the 2002 fishing season.
The angler who has spent most of the past decade flirting with capturing the title of Angler of the Year and winning a total of eight BASSMASTER events, wasn't on the map of distinction for most of 2002. He languished through the year, finishing in 90th place, the first time ever he's fallen out of the top 50 angler standings in BASS.

So when Grigsby looks at that part of his fishing career, the clear definition he comes up with is "It sucked."

Grigsby, though, believes 2002 may actually include his finest hour. Long after the BASSMASTER Tour had ended the Gainesville, Florida, pro pulled off an amazing run for a Gold Medal at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games.

Grigsby refers to that win as "Providence."

It was a win that not only turned things around, but also in a providential way may have set the tone for the upcoming BASSMASTER Tour that begins Jan. 9 on the Harris Chain of Lakes.

"When you are having a bad year like I was having, it's real easy to start questioning your abilities," Grigsby said during a recent taping of the BASSMASTER Television show. "You start wondering if you've still got it or whether or not you've lost something.

"When things start going bad there are times when you really can't put your finger on what's happening. It's a helpless feeling."

The turnaround

Few top anglers have ever escaped going to that place in their careers. Like a batter in the Major Leagues, slumps happen. But when those athletes bust out of that slump they often do it in a big way.

That was the case for Grigsby. In an unusual twist of events that can only be described as providence Grigsby came out of his slump slugging.

The events started in, of all places, the FLW Tour, where Grigsby doesn't compete. In that circuit, Kevin VanDam had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the Angler of the Year standings. But in the final tournament of the year, Jay Yelas edged past him to win the title.

Yelas' win assured him a berth in the Great Outdoor Games as that circuits' point leader. But a scheduling conflict forced him to decline the invitation. With Yelas out, that forced Great Outdoor Games organizers to go to the BASS money list for their next invitation.

With almost all of the leaders on that list already in the event, Grigsby was next up. And despite having the worst year of his career, he wasn't about to miss the opportunity.

Grigsby accepted. With a burgeoning schedule of shoot dates for his television show "One Last Cast," Grigsby could only get in a day and a half of pre-practice before the Great Outdoor Games' official start.

When you are having a bad year like I was having, it's real easy to start questioning your abilities.
That practice included a day fishing as far away from the take-off as possible and working his way back. As luck would have it, he found a small creek full of big smallmouth bass, big enough that he felt like he could make a run for the gold medal.

But as bad luck would have it, when the anglers returned for the Great Outdoor Games organizers informed the anglers that that particular creek would be placed off limits.

"I was deflated," Grigsby said. "I was thinking 'what else could happen?'"

Grigsby's constant positive attitude wouldn't hold him down. He went back to Middle Saranac for the one-day official practice, and began fishing the standard patterns that his homework had told him produce fish on the lakes. That tactic was primarily flipping a tube in the shoreline grass.

Like the rest of the anglers in the field, Grigsby began catching keeper smallmouths from those grass beds, but was unable to find anything bigger than two pounds.

Trying to cover as much water as possible in the short day, he was running from spot to spot looking for that perfect shoreline grass bed. On one of those short runs across the lake, providence struck again.

"I was just easing across the lake, headed to a long visible point," he said. "I intended to go there and flip my tube in the grass just like I had been doing."

On that short trip he boated over a short ridge. The image shot up on his graph from 18 feet to 7 feet and then back down. And if he had been admiring the incredible scenery of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains, he would have missed it.

"It just happened real quick, and I thought 'hum, that's interesting'," he said. "But I kept going until this little voice said, 'you'd better go back and fish that.'"

Grigsby turned his boat around, got close to the grass-lined hump, made a cast into the grass and caught a three-pounder. He was obviously excited, but no other bites came in the next 20 minutes.

He left the area feeling like he might have a place to catch a bigger-than-average fish, but nothing more.

Providence strikes again

The next morning, like the rest of the field, he quickly boated a limit of keepers, and began wondering where to improve his weight. The ridge was an obvious choice.

When I look at all the little things that had to happen for me to be there, it's amazing. It was providence. God's hand was on every part of it.
Grigsby, on his gold-medal-winning performance at the 2002 Great Outdoor Games
"When I got to the spot I lowered my trolling motor and began looking for the grass," Grigsby said. "And I just made a cast hoping that I might hit it, while I was looking.

"It didn't take long before I found it so I quickly began reeling in my tube lure to cast to it, when a 2-pounder just nailed it."

That errant cast and aggressive fish quickly told him that the better smallmouth might be deeper and well away from the grass than first believed. Armed with the idea, he quickly boated five keepers in five casts that culled every fish in the boat. With about 11 and half pounds, Grigsby quit fishing, assured that he could make the final day cut of five, and spent the rest of the day anchored on the spot.

The next day he basically stayed there for the duration of the tournament and won the gold.

"When I look at all the little things that had to happen for me to be there, I think it's amazing," Grigsby said. "It was providence. God's hand was on every part of that."

With the gold medal capping his year, the slump a long gone memory, and the 2003 BASSMASTER Tour getting ready to start, Grigsby is more excited about this year than any in memory.

For starters, he's assured of an invitation to the 2003 Great Outdoor Games, and for the first time in years he's completed his shoot schedule for his television show.

"With the way the new BASSMASTER Tour schedule is set, the tournaments are packed in a short span," Grigsby said. "That may seem like a burden, but in reality what it does is allow me to focus on nothing but fishing without any distractions.

"Before, we always had a tournament, then we'd have a few weeks off. During those off times we would get caught up in other things — show appearances, business — anything and everything that could keep us from focusing on fishing."

To put it simply, Grigsby is focused on 2003 and ready to vault from a gold medal platform away from the slump that threatened to tarnish one of the greatest careers in bass fishing.

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