The Open Championship is the culmination of the CITGO Bassmaster Open series presented by Busch Beer, which will qualify the top 20 anglers in each of the four Open divisions’ point standings and send them to the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., for December’s championship.
Ohio’s Scalish, winner of the first Northern Open of the season on Lake Erie, slipped to 15th place in the Northern Division’s season point standings after the second event on the Hudson River. Scalish knows how hard it is to earn a top slot in the division point standings, which are a cumulative score based on an angler’s finish at each of the Open season’s three tournaments.
Scalish is still holding on to hope that he’ll make the Championship. The top five anglers at the championship will walk away with invitations to Pittsburgh to compete in bass fishing’s world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. Scalish went to the 2002 Classic during his rookie season on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour and is eager to make a return trip.
“Amen for small miracles,” he said. “(Fishing) is what I do for a living and my goal every year is to get to the Classic and to qualify for the Tour. I messed around a little on the Hudson on the last day and didn’t do so well, but some tournaments you fish for points and some tournaments you fish to win.”
Anglers in the Northern Division have competed twice already and will wrap up their season in October on Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake. The Western and Central divisions have each had one tournament, while the Southern Opens begin in September. The anglers in every division share one trait: a focus on strategy as they try to catch bass that seem at times to be wily, stubborn and occasionally clairvoyant.
For some, it boils down to fishing for points or for the win. Anglers who fish for points fish conservatively, putting together steady, consistent limits that (they hope) will help them finish high enough to boost their spots in the point standings. Anglers who fish for the win are chasing their sport’s equivalent of a home run, looking for fat, scale-tipping bass that make up in weight what they lack in numbers.
“Smith Mountain Lake is a catch-22,” Scalish said. “I’d love to win it, but I think it’s a five-fish-a-day lake. I can’t take a gamble there because the last thing I want to do is fall out of the top 15 or 20, really, and not get to the Championship. I really want to go to the Open Championship because you can fish differently there. The pressure is kind of off, so you can just go fish to win.”
Missouri’s Mark Tucker, whose 15th-place finish in Paducah, Ky. at the only Central Open so far puts him 15th in the Central’s point standings, fared very well in previous outings on the Ouachita River, site of this year’s Open Championship.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Tucker said. “I finished in second place down there last year and if I would have known what I had, I could have won it easily. This year, the Championship is going to be the first week of December, so it should be a lot better. When we were there for the Open last year, it was still hot and the fish hadn’t moved shallow yet, so I’m really hoping I get in.
“I was lucky that I got out of the first Open with a decent finish. The fishing on the Ohio wasn’t all that outstanding. I think that tournament will be the deciding factor on who gets to the Open Championship (from the Central division) because Rayburn and the Atchafalaya are going to be much better.”
The CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship will be held December 1-4 out of the City of West Monroe Lazzarre Point Recreation Area. Fans can also catch the action Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. ET/9 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
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 Open series presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.