The 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series has something for everyone — whether they’re a top professional angler, an aspiring pro or simply a fan of the sport.
Nine events in nine states covering three geographic regions will send winners to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, top performers to the Bassmaster Elite Series and thousands of fans to weigh-ins where they can catch the action.
The Opens Series consists of nine events — three tournaments each in Southern, Central and Northern divisions — covering rivers, natural lakes and man-made reservoirs and running from January to October.
For the fourth season in a row, Opens tournament winners who compete in all three events in a single division will earn a berth in the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
And for those anglers hoping to take the next step in their careers, the Opens are the way to reach the most prestigious professional fishing circuit in the world, the Bassmaster Elite Series. Opens competitors earn performance points at each tournament, and at the end of the season the Top 5 ranked anglers in each division who aren’t already qualified for the Elites will be invited to join the premier tour. In recent years, Ott DeFoe, Hank Cherry and Jason Christie followed this path and have made their marks as Elite pros.
At seven of the nine Opens, the full field of anglers will weigh their fish at the lake on Thursday and Friday of each tournament week, but on Saturday, when the field is cut to the Top 12 anglers, weigh-ins will take place before large crowds of fans at nearby Bass Pro Shops stores. At the other two venues, lakes Amistad and Champlain, weigh-ins will be held lakeside all three competition days.
Entry fees remain unchanged from 2013. The cost for pros to participate in each event is $1,500. The cost for co-anglers is $425. For more details, visit Bassmaster.com.
No. 1 — Lake Tohopekaliga at Kissimmee, Fla., Jan. 23-25
“Toho” has hosted 17 B.A.S.S. events, including Bassmaster Classics in 1977 and 2006. In 2001, Dean Rojas set a B.A.S.S. record that still stands with five fish that weighed a whopping 45 pounds, 2 ounces. The 2013 Open was won by Rich Howes in a fish-off, after the regulation three days of competition ended in a tie. The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes was ranked No. 22 on Bassmaster Magazine’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” list in 2013.
No. 2 — Smith Lake at Jasper, Ala., March 6-8
Six previous B.A.S.S. events have been held on Smith, beginning in 1967 with the second tournament ever conducted by founder Ray Scott. More recently, the 2012 Open was won by Hank Cherry (newly crowned Elite Series Rookie of the Year), qualifying him for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, in which he finished third.
No. 3 — Lake Norman at Charlotte, N.C., Oct. 2-4
Norman was the site of Southern Opens in 2011 and 2012, as well as five previous B.A.S.S. events beginning in 1992. The 2012 Open was won by North Carolina’s Tracy Adams.
No. 1 — Lake Amistad at Del Rio, Texas, Feb. 6-8
The inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series tournament was held in 2006 on this big-bass factory that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border. “Amistad” is Spanish for “friendship.” The fishery was ranked No. 23 among the nation’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” list in 2013. The 2010 Open was won by Texan Craig Schuff.
No. 2 — Red River at Shreveport, La., April 24-26
Two of the best-attended Classics in history were held on the Red in 2009 and 2012, when Skeet Reese and Chris Lane, respectively, prevailed. Elite angler Stephen Browning won the 2013 Open there.
No. 3 — Arkansas River at Muskogee, Okla., Sept. 11-13
The Opens series returns to Muskogee and the Arkansas River, which are hosting the final Central Open of 2013 this week. A total of nine previous B.A.S.S. events have taken place on the Arkansas, although only two were held in Oklahoma. The others were out of Arkansas and included Bassmaster Classics in 1984 and 1985. The 2011 Open out of Muskogee was won by Oklahoman Tommy Biffle.
No. 1 — Douglas Lake at Dandridge, Tenn., May 29-June 1
The “long-lining” method of crankbait fishing came to prominence here during a 2012 Elite Series tournament, when bass were holding too deep for conventional crankbait presentations to reach them. Douglas has hosted three other B.A.S.S. events since 2001. The 2013 Open was won by Patrick Bone. Douglas ranks No. 56 on the “100 Best Bass Lakes” list.
No. 2 — Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh, N.Y., July 31-Aug. 2
Anglers should be on the lookout for “Champ,” the mythical lake monster with more than 300 reported sightings. At more than 400 feet deep in places, Champlain offers plenty of room for Nessie’s cousin to hide. The fishery, ranked No. 16 on Bassmaster’s “100 Best Bass Lakes,” has hosted eight Bassmaster tournaments beginning in 1997. The 2010 Open, which had a field of 200 boats, was won by Dave Wolak.
No. 3 — Lake St. Clair at Detroit, Mich., Sept. 4-6
Elite Series anglers caught bass in a transitional stage during the recent Plano Championship Chase, when St. Clair failed to live up to its billing as No. 1 on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list. Chris Lane won that event, but he had to go to Lake Huron to find the winning strings. The lake should be much better next September, when anglers in the Northern Opens wrap up their division. With a Detroit launch site, several lakes and a seemingly endless amount of water will be available to the competitors.
B.A.S.S. Nation and Life members can register online beginning Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. CT and for call-in on Nov. 7 beginning at 9 a.m. CT at 877-227-7872. B.A.S.S. members who want to fish all three tournaments in a division may register online beginning Nov. 12 at 9 a.m. CT and may call in Nov. 14 beginning at 9 a.m. CT.
Anglers interested in fishing only one or two events may register online beginning Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. CT and may call in beginning Nov. 21 at 9 a.m. CT.
The cost for pros to participate in each event is $1,500. The cost for co-anglers is $425. For more details, visit Bassmaster.com.
Logo courtesy B.A.S.S.