Will Stay In The West

Wife’s Ailment To Keep Gutierrez From Returning To Elites

Greg Gutierrez has only competed in a couple of buddy tournaments since leaving the Bassmaster Elite Series last May.

When Greg Gutierrez dropped off the Bassmaster Elite Series after six events last year due to his wife’s illness and impending surgery, it was with the hope that he’d be back in 2009. That won’t happen, however.

Bobbie Gutierrez, who underwent a successful operation last spring to remove two tumors from one of her lungs, is still dealing with the heart issue that caused the original symptoms from which her ailments were diagnosed. That will keep her husband close to home during the upcoming year.

“There are way too many things happening with Bobbie, and I can’t leave to go back to the Elites,” said the Californian, who also holds down a full-time job as a fire captain. “There’s an ongoing medical problem and the resolution for it hasn’t been found.

“(The Elite Series) is 11 tournaments where I’m gone for 2 weeks at a time. I’m opting to stay more local and regional.”

A Quick Decision

Gutierrez said he’d spoken with BASS officials about a medical exemption that would have allowed him to return to the Elite Series next year, but hadn’t been informed of the organization’s decision. He then received a phone call a few days after the first entry-fee deadline had passed this fall, notifying him that he’d missed the initial payment and asking him whether he wanted back in.

“At that point in time, it took maybe 15 or 20 seconds before I told them I’m out,” he said. “My biggest hurdle is not being able to reasonably predict the future.

“Bobbie and I kicked around a lot of scenarios as to what to do. None of them looked good, but the one we came up with was better than the alternatives.”

He’ll fish the four Western FLW Series events, which will take him no farther than a 12- or 13-hour drive from his home in Red Bluff. He’ll also enter three tournaments at WON Bass’ highly competitive top level.

“I definitely wanted to go to WON Bass because of my relationship with Nitro and Mercury. I think there’s a market there for a good, affordable performance boat.”

The sponsorship issue is another dilemma for him due to the fact that his schedule could require frequent alterations.

“It’s hard for me to make a lot of plans and it’s hard to sell my brand because I never know if my brand’s going to be available to sell. There are a lot of great companies out there and I’d like to be able to go to them and say, ‘Okay, I can give you this and this and this and here’s how I’ll go about it.’

“But the reality is that I can’t promise that.”

Renewing Old Ties

The FLW Series and WON Bass circuits will be reunion tours of sorts for Gutierrez. He’ll be back competing against the likes of Gary Dobyns (the West’s all-time leading money winner), Jimmy Reese (brother of Skeet) and Steve Klein (brother of Gary), along will all the young guns who’ve emerged from the Series and Strens over the last few years. The younger Klein is also a firefighter and helped him get his start in the sport.

He hopes to fare well in the Angler of the Year (AOY) races, of course, but he’ll also be prepared to take some chances if he sees an opportunity for victory.

“I’ve always been a points fisherman and I’ve always strived for consistency, and I’ll continue in that mindset,” he said. “But I also want to incorporate a little more risk-taking and go for a win – if I find myself in the right situation, I won’t be afraid to push all-in.

“It’s a little bit different philosophy than I’m used to, but a win would help us a lot in the (financial) situation we’re in.”

He’d like to compete at the tour level again at some point, but right now he has no way of predicting whether that’ll happen. He’s done very little fishing since last spring and will be happy – for the coming year, anyway – just to get back into the competitive grind.

“I’m absolutely going to enjoy that. I’m going to look at everything in the positive light – if I’m fishing, then I’m going to consider myself lucky to be fishing, and I want to have fun and enjoy it.

“I know how to compete, and I know how to look for fish and put patterns together. And I plan to have fun doing it.”

Notable

> The only competitive fishing Gutierrez has done since last spring were a couple of buddy tournaments at Lake Shasta this fall that he entered with friends. “I was very relaxed and it was a good time,” he said.

> He has some catching up to do on the hottest baits and techniques for his home region. “Things have definitely changed out here, fishing-wise,” he said. “There’ll be somewhat of a learning curve.”