Some anglers are signing up in hopes of winning a coveted berth in the Bassmaster Classic. Others want to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. And still others simply want to pocket prizes while making a name for themselves on the national tournament scene.
Whatever the motivation, pro angler rosters are filling up for the nine-event Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series for 2013, which kicks off Jan. 31 at Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
Co-anglers, who fish alongside the pros and compete for a separate prize purse, have their own reasons for signing up for the nonboater division. Most hope to win a tournament-ready bass boat rig, as well as cash prizes, while many are just happy for the chance to share a boat and learn tournament tactics from some of the nation’s best fishermen — Elite Series pros like Gerald Swindle, Ish Monroe and Michael Iaconelli.
“The pro competition is top notch and includes a diverse field of Elite Series Pros, full-time tour pros and extremely skilled local anglers looking to make their mark,” said Chris Bowes, senior tournament manager. “The Opens are the stepping stones to the Bassmaster Elite Series. These top-level pros compete not only for valuable boat/motor packages and a substantial cash payout, but the opportunity to advance to the next level.”
Anglers in the 2012 Opens Series will fish some of the nation’s best bass lakes, including fisheries that made Bassmaster Magazine’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” in 2012. They include Lake Erie, No. 3; Oneida Lake, No. 16; Kissimmee Chain, No. 21; and Red River, No. 47.
“In all three divisions — Central, Northern and Southern — these anglers will fish outstanding lakes,” Bowes said. “And of course the full attention of the industry is on each event as bass fishing fans tune in to see which pro angler can climb to the top of the leaderboard after the final fish is weighed and secure the coveted Bassmaster Classic berth.”
This year, six Bassmaster Opens Series champions qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic: Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C.; Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C.; Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla.; Pete Gluszek of Mt. Laurel, N.J.; Josh Wagy of Dewitt, Va.; and Casey Scanlon of Lenexa, Kan.
The winning pro in each Opens Series competition receives a prize package valued at $40,000, and the co-angler takes home a boat and motor package valued at $25,000. With a field of 150 boats, more than $250,000 in cash and merchandise is awarded at each tournament. The entry fees for Opens tournaments are $1,500 for a pro angler and $425 for co-anglers.
“Many B.A.S.S. members are not in the position to own a bass boat or feel they are ready to fish at the professional level but still dream of fishing competitively at the highest level,” Bowes said. “The Bassmaster Opens pro/am format allows for an angler to do just that. In addition to the financial rewards, there’s the opportunity to fish with some of the greatest pro anglers in the world.”
The 2012 Southern Opens Pro Points champion, Kevin Hawk, who fished several of the Bassmaster Opens in 2010 as a co-angler, demonstrates the potential for co-anglers to climb to the top-tier tournament pro level. The Guntersville, Ala., angler signed up for the Opens in 2012 and reached the pinnacle of the sport — the Bassmaster Elite Series — on his first try.
Logo courtesy Bassmaster