Jeff Kriet was not beating himself up Monday about what might have been.
The Ardmore angler finished second in the Bassmaster Classic despite having a slim lead going into Sunday’s final round.
But that lead was only two ounces ahead of Kevin VanDam, the Tiger Woods of professional bass fishing minus the marital infidelity.
If bass fishing were just luck as some who don’t know anything about the sport suggest, then Kevin VanDam would have to be the luckiest guy on the planet.
He’s now won three Bassmaster Classics crowns, 17 career tournament wins and has been the Angler of Year on the Bassmaster Tour five times. Nobody is that lucky.
“If I am going to lose, I would just as soon lose to him,” Kriet said. “I got beat by the best fisherman in the world.”
Kriet believes he fished about as “perfectly” as he could have in the tournament, sticking to the same 100-yard stretch of grass in Beeswax Creek all three days with a lipless crankbait.
“I believe I caught dang near every bass there was there,” he said.
Kriet, 40, didn’t lose a fish except for a big one he snagged in the back on Friday. In the end, however, that fish wouldn’t have mattered.
The water rising Sunday on Alabama’s Lay Lake helped VanDam and hurt Kriet.
“He (VanDam) caught two or three that he snagged,” Kriet said. “He was pretty fortunate to put those fish in the boat.
“When the water got high, he was just able to catch them better. There was nothing I could have done.”
While Kriet is not second-guessing himself, he admits he is “fed up” at losing again to VanDam, who is one of his best friends on the tour.
Kriet also led VanDam by seven ounces in the 2007 Sooner Run at Grand Lake heading into the final day of fishing. Like Sunday, VanDam overtook Kriet on the final day and won the Sooner Run. Kriet finished second.
This time, however, finishing runner-up to VanDam cost Kriet almost $500,000 and the title of world champion.
VanDam earned $500,000 with the victory. Kriet received $45,000 for second.
“He’s gotten into my pocketbook pretty hard,” Kriet said.
“I know he’s the bet fisherman out there. I don’t why he is because he doesn’t want it any more than I do or work at it any more than I do.
“The fact that he has had more success than me, it eats at me.”
Kriet has become one of the most consistent anglers on the Bassmaster Tour. He’s qualified for six Bassmaster Classics, but still lacks that signature win on the tour.
He is frustrated with finishing with second, a position he’s been in four times now. But he’s confident his day will come.
“I will win the Classic,” Kriet said. “That’s just something I’ve told myself I would do since I was 10-years-old. I don’t know when but I will win it.”