The Open circuit provides direct qualifying avenues into the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing. Each division features a points system similar to that of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. The top three in the Open standings from each division will qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, while the top 10 pros qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.
“We have received great feedback from BASS anglers regarding the Bassmaster Opens,” said Tom Ricks, vice president and general manager of BASS. “There is a legitimate opportunity to climb the ranks and progress to the top level of competition.”
Those who qualified for the Elites in 2007 from a lower-level qualifying circuit include Derek Remitz of Madison, Ala., and Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C. Both have scored Elite Series victories in 2007.
Additionally, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., has enjoyed success in the top levels of competition. Duckett kicked off his 2007 season with a victory in the 2007 Bassmaster Classic and recently notched his second BASS victory at the Bassmaster Legends presented by Ramada Worldwide on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle.
He attributes much of his success to the experience he gained from the Bassmaster Tours, a format similar to the Opens.
“The Opens are an extremely competitive circuit,” Duckett said. “They help prepare and teach an angler how to travel, practice and compete in big-league events. It’s a big help to guys looking to qualify for the Elites.”
The Southern Open circuit launches Jan. 24-26 on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, site of more than 20 previous BASS tournaments. Bassmaster Elite Series angler Chris Lane of Winter Haven, Fla., won a Bassmaster Southern Tour event in January 2006 on Okeechobee.
For the second Bassmaster Open, May 8-10, in Manning, S.C., anglers head to Santee Cooper, a fishery that BASS has visited more than a dozen times. In March 2006, Elite Series angler Preston Clark of Palatka, Fla., set a BASS record – which has since been broken – for four-day heaviest catch when he won a Bassmaster Elite Series event on Santee Cooper.
Southern Division Open anglers will close the circuit Oct. 16-18 on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Ala. In 2007, two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., scored a Bassmaster Elite Series victory on the famed fishery.
The Central Division kicks off April 24-26 on the Red River in Shreveport, La., the second consecutive visit to the area for the Open circuit.
Anglers travel north Sept. 25-27 to Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn. Kentucky Lake also will be the site of a 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series event and has hosted more than 10 BASS events.
The final event of the Central Division is Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Lake Texoma in Denison, Texas. Texoma, another repeat stop for the Central Opens, was won in March 2007 by Texan Brian Clark.
Pro angler entry fees are $1,000 per event and co-anglers pay $300 per event. Anglers can fish both Open divisions. There is a five-fish limit for all anglers, with payouts based on a 175 pro and co-anglers.
New in 2008, Open pros will compete for an all-cash payout of more than $190,000. The champion on the pro side of each event will receive $45,000 and the top 50 pros will receive checks.
Co-anglers will vie for a top prize of a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $32,000 and $2,000 in cash. The total payout to the top 50 co-anglers is more than $70,000.
Full fields will participate in the first two days of competition. The top 30 anglers will move on to fish the final day.
Expanded payouts, rules and registration information can be found at www.Bassmaster.com.
Registration for BASS members begins at noon ET Monday, Nov. 12, 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 at http://www.Bassmaster.com or call 1-877-BASS-USA.
“The Opens provide a fantastic format for anglers looking to experience the top levels of BASS competition,” said Skeet Reese, who leads the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. “This is a great venue to build a resume and to gain some much-needed experience.”
2008 Bassmaster Southern Open Division
Jan. 24-26 Lake Okeechobee Okeechobee, Fla.
May 8-10 Santee Cooper Reservoir Manning, S.C.
Oct. 16-18 Lake Guntersville Guntersville, Ala.
2008 Bassmaster Central Open Division
April 24-26 Red River Shreveport, La.
Kentucky Lake Paris, Tenn.
Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 Lake Texoma Denison, Texas
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.Bassmaster.com. Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more
Bassmaster Open Sponsors: Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics and MotorGuide.
Local sponsors of the Bassmaster Opens include the City of Okeechobee County Tourism, Shreveport Regional Sports Authority, Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, Henry County Alliance, Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Denison Chamber of Commerce.
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 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.