The final 10 berths were reserved for the top 10 anglers in the Bassmaster Elite 50 series season point standings. Because seven of those 10 anglers had already qualified through the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer, an additional seven anglers slipped in from the Tour's season points list.
All of those anglers are understandably ecstatic to have a shot at the $200,000 world championship title, but possibly none more than Texas pro Ben Matsubu. Matsubu, ranked 38th at the end of the Tour season, was the last angler to qualify for bass fishing's top tournament. Because he qualified for the Elite 50s, he had two shots at making the Classic - either by finishing in the top 10, or by benefiting from another pro's double qualification.
Matsubu, a first-time Classic qualifier, said the tension was almost unbearable.
"It's been like that all year," Matsubu said. "I'm really excited and I can sleep a little easier now. This being on the bubble is for the birds, but that's all over now and it's just about the excitement.
"I don't know how others block it out, but I couldn't. My fishing was off and my focus was off. The whole Elite 50 series, there were two things on my mind. Would I make the Classic and could I stay in the Busch Shootout. It seemed like week after week, folks kept saying, 'Man, you still have a shot, they're down to 34th, they're down to 35th,' but now it's all over and I'm in. That's awesome."
Another angler who can finally rest easy is North Carolina pro Jason Quinn. Quinn, who lives near Lake Wylie, was close to the bubble and watched the final event intently to find out if he would be able to participate on his home water during the July 30-Aug. 1 world championship.
"I'm really excited," said Quinn, who will be competing in his third consecutive Classic. "I watched the weigh-in every night on the Web site and was figuring it up every night. After the second night, I figured it all out and I thought there was no way possible that I wasn't going to make it."
Although his berth was by no means guaranteed, Quinn took pains to abide by the tournament rules for Classic anglers, which include a long off-limits period prior to the official practice. All 53 anglers who will be fishing the Classic are set to begin practice for the tournament June 28-July 2.
"It's been unbelievably hard not to fish Wylie," he said. "I run a guide service down here as well, so I've been sacrificing some income waiting for the Elite 50 to be over. I've lived on this lake all my life and I know where the fish swim. As a matter of fact, I pretty much know what spot I'll go to first on the first day of the Classic.
"I'm just really excited. Anytime you get to compete in a tournament of this size on your home water, you have to feel like you have some advantage. You know, everybody always talks about (how) the hometown curse always gets you, but I'm pretty confident that I can do well."
In addition to Quinn and Matsubu, the other five anglers who benefited from the Elite 50 double qualifications include Missouri's Brian Snowden (in his first Classic appearance), Arkansas' Mike McClelland (second), Missouri's Randy Blaukat (eighth), Mississippi's Paul Elias (14th), and Missouri's Mark Tucker (3rd).
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, Visit Charlotte, the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill Sports and Tourism Council and Time Warner Cable.