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Cody Bird will never forget his first Bassmaster Classic.The Granbury angler had a strong start Friday, setting up at No. 15 in the 54-man field after Day 1 on Lake Ray Roberts. He then grinded out a full five-fish bag on a rain-delayed Day 2 to raise his positioning to No. 10, making the 25-angler cut to fish in the final round. On Sunday's third and final day he went all in and came up short, finishing at No. 19 to take home $14,000 in professional bass fishing’s foremost event.
“It’s like the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl. And I make it to the fourth quarter and I fumbled,” said Bird, who finished the tournament as the top-ranked angler from Texas. Hank Cherry Jr. repeated as Classic winner Sunday.
“It was my fault. You’ve got no excuses when you’re a professional angler… you’ve got to get them in the boat no matter what.”
Bird caught two keeper bass on Day 3 and lost four others. He figures he would have placed third or fourth in the Classic had he landed the ones he missed. The former bull rider recalls setting the hook on a likely 4-pounder and the whole bush shaking.
“It got around a little bitty twig about the size of a toothpick and got off. It’s hard to come back from that,” Bird said.
Plenty of other anglers in the tournament had similar experiences while flipping the freshly flooded bushes along the banks of Ray Roberts.
“It was like fishing somebody’s front yard, pitching into the hedges,” Bird said.
Despite the disappointment, Bird is grateful for his first Bassmaster Classic experience and is now determined to make another one. The 59-year-old has bagged over a million dollars and fished plenty of championship events over his two-decade pro angling career, including five of Fishing League Worldwide’s (now Major League Fishing) Forrest Wood Cups. The Bassmaster Classic is one of a kind, though.
“I’ve got to get back there somehow,” Bird said.
Bird will attempt to get back to the pinnacle of the sport the same way he got there this past weekend: Winning a Bassmaster Open. Bird won the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open at Neely Henry Lake (Ala.) in October to qualify for the 2021 Classic and is planning on trying again this fall.
Bassmaster has autumn opens scheduled at the St. Lawrence River (N.Y.), Lake Norman (N.C.), Lewis Smith Lake (Ala.) and Grand Lake O' The Cherokees (Okla.).
A trip to the 2022 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, a waterbody on the South Carolina-Georgia border, would be right in Bird’s wheelhouse, he said.
“I do well on Hartwell. It’s one of those lakes that fits me. It’s funny how you’ll go to a lake and you’ll fit the personality of that lake for some reason. And Hartwell is one of them for me, I love that lake. It’s got big spots and largemouth, I’d love to make the Classic up there,” Bird said.
As for Ray Roberts, Bird has a new appreciation for a lake that was always nearby but one he rarely fished.
“I’ll never forget that lake,” Bird said. “I got to know the lake and I know my way around it. It’s just a lot different to me now than before I ever went up there. Kind of an intimate deal.”
He said he would like to see an event on Ray Roberts during the primetime of March. The 2021 Bassmaster Classic was originally slated for March 19-21 but was rescheduled because of COVID-19.
“If we would have fished that lake in March it would have been unbelievable. Unbelievable weights,” said Bird, who finished the Classic with a total weight of 29 pounds, 15 ounces.
Overall, Bird thoroughly enjoyed a Classic that was a homecoming of sorts for family and friends. He said the local support was unreal, from those wearing “Cody Bird Watching Party” shirts at morning takeoff to the roar of the Dickies Arena crowd at weigh-in. It was also a showcase for his sponsors Skeeter/Yamaha, Fun-N-Sun Boats-N-Tackle in Hurst, Power-Pole and Buck-N-Bass rain gear.
“It was such a fun deal for me, close to home. I couldn’t ask for any more than to fish my first Classic in Fort Worth, Texas, 35 miles away from Granbury,” Bird said.
“My mother had never even been to a weigh-in. She went all three days and that was pretty cool.”
For now, Bird will get back to work with Bird Concrete, the construction company he owns and operates. He said during the Classic that the same rains that inundated Ray Roberts put him behind on pouring slabs.
The next tournaments he is eyeing are the Northern Division events with MLF’s Toyota Series, which starts July 15-17 at Lake Champlain in New York.
He will never forget what happened this past weekend, though, nor the fire within to make it happen again.
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