The 2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens tournament series will span nine months, visit nine states and possibly provide nine professional anglers a ticket to the Super Bowl of bass fishing — the Bassmaster Classic.
B.A.S.S. announced the three-division, nine-tournament Opens schedule today, noting that it kicks off with the Jan. 15-17 Southern Open No. 1 on Lake Tohopekaliga at Kissimmee, Fla., and concludes Oct. 22-24 with the final Southern Open on Lake Seminole at Bainbridge, Ga.
The company also announced that the eighth Bassmaster Elite Series tournament for 2015 — the St. Clair Elite at Detroit, Mich., has been moved from its originally announced dates of Sept. 24-27 to Aug. 27-30, 2015.
“These lakes and rivers are all outstanding, legendary waters that are steeped in bass fishing history,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “Four of the lakes and rivers have hosted the Bassmaster Classic in years past, and seven are ranked on Bassmaster’s Best 100 Lakes list for 2014. The Bass Pro Shops Opens have become extremely popular among tournament anglers over the years, and the selection of fisheries this year should make it even more attractive.”
B.A.S.S. Senior Tournament Manager Chris Bowes noted that tournaments in each of the three divisions typically fill rapidly, with waiting lists forming in a matter of hours.
“We expect spots in the Opens to go just as quickly this year,” said Bowes, who noted that the events reward anglers in several ways.
“Many fish the Opens in hopes of winning a berth in the Bassmaster Classic,” he said. “Some are trying to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series, and of course everybody is fishing for the payouts.” The winner of each event will get $46,400, including a bass boat and motor, plus an invitation to compete in the 2016 Classic, contingent upon the winner fishing all three events in that division.
Competitors earn performance points at each tournament, and the Top 5 in each division are invited to join the Elite Series the following year. In recent years, nearly all who received Elite bids have joined the prestigious tour.
At each of the stops, weigh-ins will be held lakeside during the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday of each tournament week. The 12 finalists who earn the right to fish on Saturday will weigh their catches in front of large crowds at nearby Bass Pro Shops stores.
Registration for B.A.S.S. Nation and Life members begins online on Nov. 4. Other details and complete registration information will be posted on Bassmaster.com.
No. 1 — Lake Tohopekaliga at Kissimmee, Fla., Jan. 15-17
Lake “Toho” has hosted 18 Bassmaster events, including Classics in 1977 and 2006. The one-day catch record of 45 pounds, 2 ounces, for five bass was set there by Dean Rojas in 2001, and the heaviest bass ever weighed in during a Classic, 11-10 by Preston Clark in 2006. The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes ranked No. 21 on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list in 2014.
No. 2 — Alabama River at Prattville, Ala., April 16-18
The first B.A.S.S. tournaments to be held on the Alabama River were Bassmaster Classics in 1981 and 1982, and they featured the first indoor weigh-ins. Kevin VanDam won two of his seven Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles in postseason competition on the river, and Edwin Evers won a Bassmaster Elite Series event there in 2013 with more than 75 pounds for four days of fishing.
No. 3 — Lake Seminole at Bainbridge, Ga., Oct. 22-24
Lake Seminole has been a popular venue for Bassmaster tournaments for 45 years. Brett Hite was the latest to win there, claiming the 2014 Elite Series season opener with just less than 100 pounds for four days. The 2010 Open on Seminole, also held in October, gave up 44-2 for the winner, Trevor Fitzgerald. The 37,500-acre lake ranks 17th among the Best 100 lakes in the nation.
No. 1 — Ross Barnett Reservoir at Ridgeland, Miss., March 12-14
In 1978, Bobby Murray won his second Classic title on Ross Barnett, which already was a storied tournament lake for B.A.S.S. pros by that time. More recently, Randall Tharp qualified for the 2014 Classic with a win there in 2013. Ross Barnett, 33,000 acres in size, ranks among the top 100 lakes in the country.
No. 2 — Ft. Gibson Lake at Wagoner, Okla., Sept. 10-12
Oklahoma pro Jason Christie won his second Open of the 2012 season on Ft. Gibson. He qualified for the Classic and the Elite Series that same year through the Northern Opens. If Tommy Biffle is in the field, he’s one to watch; Biffle won an Elite event there in 2010 and has fished the lake for 40 years. The 19,900-acre Ft. Gibson is No. 65 on the Best 100 Lakes list.
No. 3 — Table Rock Lake at Branson, Mo., Oct. 1-3
Table Rock featured two recent Opens in 2011 and 2012, won by Elite Series anglers Kevin Short and Casey Scanlon. Table Rock Lake cover 43,000 acres and is No. 68 on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes of 2014.
No. 1 — James River at Richmond,Va., July 9-11
The Bassmaster Classic was held on the James out of Richmond three years in a row (1988-90), and they were among the most memorable in history. Hank Parker claimed the title in 1989, after Jim Bitter let the winning fish slip from his fingers, and Rick Clunn won his fourth Classic on the James in 1990. In 2013, Alabama’s Randy Howell won an Open on the James to qualify for the 2014 Classic on Lake Guntersville — which he won.
No. 2 — Oneida Lake at Syracuse, N.Y., Aug. 6-8
Boyd Duckett won the 2012 Elite Series finale on Oneida with 62-6, edging Randy Howell by just 6 ounces. Another Elite pro, Ish Monroe, won a Northern Open on Oneida in 2011. Bassmaster Magazine ranked Oneida 41st among the nation’s top bass fisheries. It spans more than 50,000 acres.
No. 3 — Lake Erie at Sandusky, Ohio, Sept. 24-26
Michael Iaconelli earned his 2014 Classic berth with a win there in 2013. Before that, Nate Wellman won in 2011. Always a popular stop for both Elite and Opens anglers, Erie ranks No. 56 on the Best 100 Lakes list.
Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster