That’s because next year, the Bassmaster Tournament Trail will feature the Bassmaster Opens Southern and Central Divisions, which are feeder systems into the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series and bass fishing’s most major event, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Anglers will visit exceptional fisheries in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana.
The divisions feature three tournaments each with the traditional BASS, 300-point system in place. The top three points finishers from each of the Open Series qualify for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic while the top five pros from each division qualify for the 2008 Elite Series.
“The Bassmaster Opens will provide anglers with a legitimate opportunity to climb the BASS ranks and qualify for the top levels of competition,” said Trip Weldon, BASS tournament director.
The Southern Division launches March 1-3 on Lake Kissimmee in Polk County, Fla., site of three previous BASS tournaments. Both Elite Series anglers Terry Scroggins of Florida and Takahiro Omori of Texas have won here.
On May 3-5, anglers head to Santee Cooper in Manning, S.C., a fishery visited more than a dozen times by BASS. Elite Series angler Preston Clark of Florida broke the BASS record for the four-day heaviest catch when he won the Santee Cooper Showdown presented by Motorguide in March 2006 with 115 pounds, 15 ounces.
Southern Division Open anglers will close the circuit on Oct. 18-20 on Lake Wheeler in Decatur, Ala. An Open event in 2003 produced a winning weight of 32-10 for Elite angler Denny Brauer of Missouri. Home-state Elite angler Timmy Horton placed second with 31-12.
The Central Division kicks off March 15-17 on Lake Texoma in Denison, Texas, marking BASS’ first visit in nine years to the 1979 CITGO Bassmaster Classic waters.
On June 14-16, anglers travel east to the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier City, La. Three current Elite Series anglers – Texans Gary Klein and Omori as well as Louisiana’s Jeff Connella – placed in the top 5 of an Open in 2005. Sean Hoernke of Texas won with 36-2.
The Central Division closes Sept. 27-29 on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas. Amistad hosted the 2006 Elite Series season-opener – won by BUSCH Shootout champion Ish Monroe of California – and the lake will do the same in 2007.
“We have put together a top-notch schedule,” Weldon said. “With a number of accomplished anglers fishing these Opens, we expect some impressive limits brought to the scales.”
Pro angler entry fees are $1,000 per event and co-anglers pay $300 per event. There is a five-fish limit for all anglers and tournament fields are limited to 150 anglers and co-anglers.
The pro champion takes home a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $50,000 and $6,000 cash. The top co-angler receives a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $32,000 and $2,000 cash. The top 30 finishers on each side receive a check.
Full fields will participate in the first two days of competition with the top 30 anglers moving on to fish the final day.
Registration for BASS members begins on Sunday, Dec. 17, but early registration is available for Federation Nation, BASS Insider and Lifetime members as well as certain pre-qualified anglers. Interested participants can sign up on www.Bassmaster.com or call 1-877-BASS-USA.
“I probably would have never gotten myself in position to fish the Elite Series without the Opens format,” said Bassmaster Elite Series champion and 2005 Open Championship winner Mike McClelland. “You have to have that stepping stone up to the top level of competition where anglers can build their credentials. This is the perfect format.”
2007 Bassmaster Opens - Southern Division
March 1-3 Lake Kissimmee Polk County, Fla.
May 3-5 Santee Cooper Manning, S.C.
Oct. 18-20 Lake Wheeler Decatur, Ala.
2007 Bassmaster Opens - Central Division
March 15-17 Lake Texoma Denison, Texas
June 14-16 Red River Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Sept. 27-29 Lake Amistad Del Rio, Texas
Local sponsors of the Bassmaster Opens include the City of Bossier City, City of Shreveport, Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Del Rio Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lake Denison Convention and Visitors Bureau, Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau and the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority. BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208. To join BASS, call 1-877-BASS-USA or visit www.bassmaster.com.