Cella finds Harris chilly, but promising; Ledoux takes on the Elite Series; Classic honeymooners;
January 18, 2012
Editor's note: B.A.S.S. is now accepting applications for working media credentials for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. Working media can click here to apply.
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B.A.S.S. Reporter's Notebook: Cella finds Harris chilly, but promising; Ledoux takes on the Elite Series; Classic honeymooners; and New deals and direct marketing
Cella finds Harris chilly, but promising: At 16, Kent Cella of Shreveport, La., is one of the youngest anglers ever to compete in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. But it didn't take experience to know that the Harris Chain of Lakes wasn't producing on Monday, the first official practice day for the first event of the 2012 Bassmaster season, a Southern Open.
"It's pretty tough out here," he said from the water. "But the next couple days, it's supposed to warm up, and there's a really good chance sight fishing will come into play in the tournament. I expect to see some big sacks."
Low water temps and wind busted Cella's practice day.
"I've spent a lot of time running in and out of dead water," he said. "The water needs to warm up. Still, I'm excited about the rest of the week."
Out of Tavares, Fla., the tournament will begin Thursday, Jan. 19, and run through Saturday, Jan. 21. Pros are competing for prizes and a ticket to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Under Bassmaster rules initiated in 2011, the winner of an event earns a Classic entry as long as he or she completes the season.
Anglers in pro and co-angler divisions will weigh their catches Thursday and Friday starting at 3 p.m. ET at Tavares' Wooten Park. The final Top 12 weigh-in on Saturday will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET at the Orlando location of Bass Pro Shops on International Drive. All weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Cella wants to be among the pros on that Saturday stage. That would mean he earned a significant number of points toward a Bassmaster Elite Series qualification. At the end of the season, the Top 5 in points are invited to move up.
Cella started in the Opens just last season. He stepped it up for 2012 by entering not only the Southern Open, but also the Central Open. He's also set to compete in Louisiana Federation events beginning at the end of March. He's still in high school, and entering a university with a good bass-fishing team is his tentative plan after he graduates this spring, but an Elite qualification might put that off.
"If I can make the Elite Series this year, I'd definitely do it," he said. "I also want to go to college. I'll just see how it goes."
A Classic qualification is another goal. He can easily attend this year's Classic, set for his hometown of Shreveport-Bossier City, Feb. 24-26 on the Red River. But he isn't content with being a spectator when big-time bass competition is happening.
"I want to be the youngest angler to qualify for the Elite Series - and the Classic," Cella said.
Rookie Ledoux takes on the Elite Series: There are at least two reasons Kevin Ledoux of Choctaw, Okla., would like nothing better than to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic through his first year as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro.
No. 1: He's an Oklahoma native, and the 2013 Classic will be on Grand Lake out of Tulsa, Okla.
No. 2: Grand Lake is where he got his start in bass competitions, and it's his favorite fishery.
While he'd love a chance at a Grand Lake Classic, he is not expecting to get it. Landing a Classic entry is "a lofty goal" for an Elite rookie, he said.
"It's on my radar, but my goals for the first year are to survive, figure out how everything works, get into competing on just three days of practice," he said.
Right now he's immersed in the details of turning Elite: dogging sponsorship leads, sorting out travel logistics, lining up accessories for his new boat - a Bass Cat Cougar with a Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS - and pinning down the wrap design.
Ledoux, 32, has been working for this day for years. Fishing since he was a kid in his hometown of Konawa, Okla., he did not enter tournaments until 2004 (also when he first fished Grand Lake). By 2005, he was hooked on competing.
"At that point, I made it a goal to qualify for the Elite Series," he said.
He got into the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open circuit in 2008, entering as a pro. Electing to compete on the pro side his first year out was probably a mistake, he said.
"Those guys are good. If you can fish as a co-angler for a few years, you can learn a lot, and I probably should have gone that way," he said.
But he felt he had to play catch-up. In an era marked by pros reaching Elite status in their 20s, or even in their teens, Ledoux, who will be 33 when the Elite season begins in March, said he feels he started competing late in life.
Not that he hasn't been busy. He's married (no kids), and has a job as an electrician working on high-voltage industrial motors. The work is dangerous. Before he begins a job, he has to suit up in protective gear, including his hands. Try handling tricky equipment while wearing two layers of gloves.
"It's extremely hard," he said. "You need to take your time and pay attention to what you're doing, but I love the work."
So far, the same goes for his fishing job. For the 2012 season, he elected to compete in the three Central Opens as well as in the eight Elite regular-season events. All the Elite stops are unknowns to him, and he hasn't been able to scout any of the fisheries.
"It's all going to be new to me this year," he said. "It's a risk, but my family supports my decision to get into the Elite Series. Everyone in my family let me know that if it was my dream, then I should chase it."
Classic honeymooners: Young and in love.
That pretty much describes Taylor James, 23, and Matthew Fitzhugh, 25, of Jackson, Miss., who will marry on Feb. 18. It's been a six-year courtship, and they're crazy about each other.
They're also crazy about competitive bass fishing. They're such big fans, they scheduled their wedding day on the weekend before the 2012 Bassmaster Classic so they could spend their honeymoon week at the world championship of fishing in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
No one should assume this is a case of the bride giving into the groom's wishes. James is looking forward to the trip as much as her husband-to-be is.
She's become a pro at fielding the comments of friends and relatives.
"Dear, wouldn't you really rather go to a beach, somewhere tropical, for your honeymoon?"
That's close to what her mother said, according to James.
The couple has attended the past three Classic events, and they don't want to miss one. Last year, they became engaged on Valentine's Day and went to New Orleans to celebrate - at the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.
"We decided we loved it so much, we would plan our wedding around the Bassmaster Classic. We are into the outdoors, we love to hunt and fish, and we like to fish together - and we love going to the Classic together," she said.
They'll turn out each day for the Bassmaster Classic Launch sponsored by Red River Waterway Commission. They'll then spend time at the Shreveport Convention Center, combing through the new fishing and boating goodies at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods. They'll top off each day with the weigh-in at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City.
"The weigh-in is my favorite thing," said the bride-to-be, a dental hygienist for a pediatric dentist (her fiancé is employed by a shipping service). "I love seeing the boats enter the arena, and the noise and fun of being in the crowd. It's suspenseful watching to see who will weigh the biggest bags."
One thing they'll be sure to do this year: enter any and all contests to win a bass boat so they can upgrade their aluminum johnboat. But meanwhile they are relying on a friend to provide their chosen transport from the wedding reception: a big bass boat. They'll sit in the boat seats and wave to their guests while their friend drives the vehicle.
Just like a Classic pro entering the weigh-in arena.
New deals: Among the recent sponsorship announcements by Bassmaster Elite Series pros:
* Bobby Lane signs with Sebile
* Jamie Horton signs with Gone Fishing Polarized Optics
* Bradley Roy renews with Rugged Shark
Direct marketing: This week, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ott DeFoe is creating his first video journals on Facebook (also on his own website, www.odfishing.net). He's chronicling his tournament experiences on the Harris Chain of Lakes in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, the first tournament of the Bassmaster season. Another Elite pro, David Walker, did the same to give fans a first-hand look at his trip to China and Japan this month. Those are just two examples; scores of other Elite pros are posting status updates and photos daily.
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Source: bassmaster.com (2012-01-19)
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