In 2015, B.A.S.S. celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Bassmaster Elite Series with a schedule that commemorates some of the greatest events in bass fishing history. Six of the sites have hosted Elite tournaments in the past decade, and all eight fisheries are among the finest venues the sport has to offer for the best anglers in the business.
“It’s fitting that the 10th Elite Series season features such prominent and important fisheries,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin in announcing the 2015 schedule. “The schedule spans the country from coast to coast and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and it includes some of the very best bass lakes and rivers in the country — and some of the most challenging.”
The season begins March 19-22 in Orange, Texas, at the Sabine River, site of one of the most popular Elite tournaments in history. At that 2013 event, a new Bassmaster Elite Series attendance record was set with more than 33,000 visitors during the four-day tournament. While some Elite anglers struggled to fill out limits in the Sabine’s backwaters, Todd Faircloth caught almost 50 pounds of bass to earn his fourth Elite victory.
From the Sabine, the best bass anglers in the world head east to Alabama and Lake Guntersville, April 9-12, the site of 22 previous professional tournaments, including four Elite events and the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro, won by Randy Howell. It took more than 100 pounds to win each of the last two Elites here, and weights should be high again next spring.
“Lake Guntersville is a perennial bass fishing powerhouse,” said Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “It has never ranked below fifth on the annual rankings of Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list.”
Later in the month, the Elite Series reconvenes in California at the Sacramento River, April 30-May 3. The river may appear to be new to the B.A.S.S. schedule, but it’s a tributary of the legendary California Delta, and it’s a sure bet that many of the pros will make the run to the Delta for their catches. The birthplace of the “flippin’” technique, the Delta has hosted two previous Elite tournaments; they were won by Aaron Martens and John Crews.
The California Delta produced the heaviest bass in Bassmaster tournament history, a 14-pound, 9-ounce largemouth caught by Mark Tyler in 1999. Big bass like that make the fishery one of the best in the country (13th on 100 Best Bass Lakes list). If the weather’s right, it will take more than 100 pounds over four days of competition to have a chance to win.
Upon leaving Sacramento, the Elite pros will travel approximately 600 miles to Lake Havasu City, host of the fourth Elite event of the season, to be held May 7-10 on Lake Havasu. The Colorado River fishery, which is ranked 20th on the list of best bass lakes, has been the site of three previous B.A.S.S. events, but none since the Elite Series debuted in 2006.
At 19,300 acres, it’s one of the smallest venues on the slate. That means the 100 or more Elite anglers could be fishing in a crowd on one of the finest impoundments in the West. That just might give Elite pro Dean Rojas, who lives in Lake Havasu City, a real home-water advantage.
Fishing fans will be glad to learn that BASSfest is back in 2015, and this time it’s on Kentucky Lake, June 3-7, out of Paris, Tenn. The seminars, photo and autograph sessions and fan-friendly format that made this special event such a hit in 2014 should be hugely popular on a lake that has already hosted four Elite tournaments, two of which required more than 90 pounds to win.
Kentucky Lake is one of the most consistent bass fishing destinations in the country, which led to its ranking of 18th by Bassmaster Magazine. The century mark is certainly within reach on Kentucky Lake in June. And watch out for Kevin VanDam to regain his winning form — he’s already won two Elite tournaments here.
After a summer hiatus, the Elites are back in action on the St. Lawrence River, July 30-Aug. 2, out of Waddington, N.Y. The St. Lawrence has been a frequent stop on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, hosting 16 previous tournaments, including the 1980 Bassmaster Classic and an Elite contest. In 2013, the Waddington event broke the Elite Series attendance record set months earlier in Orange, Texas, with more than 34,000 fans participating over the four-day event.
The St. Lawrence is a world-class smallmouth fishery and ranked 11th among the 100 best fisheries in America. Brandon Palaniuk earned his blue Elite trophy in 2013 with 88 pounds, 12 ounces of smallmouth bass, an average of 4.4 pounds per fish.
Chesapeake Bay out of Cecil County, Md., is big water with an impressive B.A.S.S. history. It was the site of the 1991 Bassmaster Classic, which was held in mid-August and won by former fisheries biologist Ken Cook with 15 bass weighing 33-2. Exactly 24 years later, on Aug. 13-16, 2015, it will help set the stage for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and dozens of Classic berths.
The 2015 Elite Series regular season wraps up in Detroit, Mich., on Lake St. Clair Sept. 24-27. St. Clair has hosted several Bassmaster events in recent years, including the 2013 regular season Elite finale won by Chris Lane. One of the best smallmouth lakes in the country, it ranked 16th on Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes this year. It was No. 1 in the nation in 2013.
Once again, the season will culminate in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship tournament, to be held at a time and place to be announced later. The Top 50 pros in final standings for the regular season will battle for the Angler of the Year title, berths in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic and shares of the $1 million AOY prize fund.
Though the traditional gift for a 10th anniversary is tin or aluminum, the first decade of the Bassmaster Elite Series has been gold and platinum all the way. The eight fisheries on the 2015 schedule are “classic” waters that have hosted Classics, heavyweight contenders that have produced 100-pound catches and popular venues that have attracted record-setting crowds of fans.
It truly will be a “test of the best.”
Qualifiers for the exclusive Elite Series won’t be known until later this year, but anglers who would like to spend two to three days on the water learning valuable tips and techniques from the world’s best bass anglers can register to become Bassmaster Elite Series Marshals. Enrollment for B.A.S.S. Nation and Life members begins Oct. 7 online and Oct. 9 by telephone. Registration for other B.A.S.S. members begins online Oct. 14 and by phone Oct. 16. All entries start at 9 a.m. CT.
Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster