Classic Contender: Meet “Old Bob” Downey

The St. Croix pro offers insight into the 2023 Bassmaster Elite season, builds his own rod, and dives into the brawl that will be this month’s Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River

The biggest stage in competitive fishing will be in Knoxville, Tennessee, March 24-26, when the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic Presented by Toyota hits the Tennessee River. St Croix Pro “Old Bob” Downey of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota is among 55 elite anglers vying for the biggest title and pay in competitive bass fishing.

Bob Downey is in his fourth season fishing the Elites. He finished the 2022 season with an AOY rank of 23. So far this season, he has placed 54he at Lake Okeechobee and 12 at Lake Seminole, earning 144 AOY points putting him at 24he place.

“I wasn’t thrilled with 54he in Florida, but I’ll take 54th out of 85 any day,” says Downey, who was much happier with his 12he-Place of completion in Georgia. “I’m just trying to stay consistent,” she says. “I had a bad tournament last year, but everything else was decent. That is what is needed to do the Classical. For me, there is no secret formula. I am no better than the best local anglers in whatever water we fish,” she says. “I work very hard, but so does everyone else. I guess one thing I try to do is keep a cool demeanor on all race days. That means taking the punches and keeping a level head. Do that and most of the time you will find something that works. But that can’t happen if you’re totally offline.”

Downey says he’s looking forward to this year’s events at Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River and Lake St. Clair. “Being from Minnesota, those are obviously the places that best suit my style of fishing,” he says. “I really like to fish in Lake Champlain.”

Looking ahead to this month’s Classic in Knoxville, Downey says the weather is definitely the wild card. “We could have spawning fish or a solid pre-spawning pattern. Every spring is different. I think a lot of guys will focus entirely on largemouths, but I will focus on both largemouths and smallmouths. There are ways to target those bigger little ones. Gussy (Jeff Gustafson) won with them there last year. I think we have four days of practice, so we’ll see what happens when the time comes.”

Downey says whoever wins in Tennessee will need help. “Everyone wants to go and win a Clásico, but that is difficult to express. You need to work as hard as you can, but you’re fishing against the best in the world. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”

Rod-wise, Downey says he’s been fishing the new St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass rods almost exclusively. “They did an amazing job with the new updates to this series,” he says. “I think he is the best of all. They are crisp and balanced in the hand and the guide trains and ergonomics are perfect.” Downey says his favorite rod from the series is the LBTS73MXF.

Follow Bob Downey at the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic Presented by Toyota with up-to-date coverage on