B.A.S.S. qualifier tournaments give anglers shot at the big leagues

My buddy Shags should be a tournament bass fisherman. He fishes harder than anyone I know. In his forties, he has the energy of a small child. He’s going to be the first man on the river and likely the last one off. The only problem is Shags loves trout, not bass. Plenty of other anglers, though, pursue bass with a mad passion. Those guys and gals have a huge opportunity ahead of them in 2023. 

The St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing gives unknown anglers the chance to compete at the highest level. The Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.) recently announced nine locations for these popular tournaments. The top nine anglers in the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers earn an invitation to join the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024. In fishing, this is like being called up to the majors. 

The nine Bassmaster Opens take place in three divisions. Anglers will compete in eight different states from March until October. Those fishing all the events are competing for the Elite Series. Anyone who doesn’t fish them all, but wins a tournament as the individual event winner, becomes eligible for a berth in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic. 

“We’re so excited about this new format,” said Executive Director of Tournaments Hank Weldon, who oversees the Bassmaster Opens. “With the Opens EQ format, there is a clear path forward for those who want to make fishing a full-time career and prepare as much as possible while progressing toward the Elites. Those anglers’ abilities will be tested throughout the year on a variety of fisheries and prepare them for the cross-country rigors of the Elite Series. At the same time, those who only fish three events in one division will still be fishing for a dream chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic. That excitement, plus the great fisheries we have on our schedule, will make 2023 so much fun for anglers and fans of the sport.”

These tournaments are big economic drivers for the often rural destinations where they take place. Anglers and staff need hotels, meals, equipment, gas and more. They bring a nice influx of stimulus when they roll into town. One of the destinations hosting a tournament in 2023 is Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, October 12-14.

“On behalf of our local partners at the City of Leesburg and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, we are thrilled to welcome the Bassmaster Open tournament to Lake County,” said Ryan Ritchie, Director-Office of Visit Lake, Lake County Florida. “Our area continues to be a destination for championship professional fishing and our communities thrive off the visitation from spectators and anglers who stay in our hotels and visit our local establishments translating in positive economic impact. Our partnership continues to grow with Bassmaster, and we always enjoy working with their staff and welcoming them to Lake County.”

Another tournament of note takes place September 21-23 at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Lake of the Ozarks is no stranger to B.A.S.S. The tournament trail has stopped there 11 times, but not since the 2001 Missouri Central Open. B.A.S.S. recently ranked Lake of the Ozarks as  seventh best ass lake in the Central Division of Bassmaster Magazine’s recent 100 Best Bass Lakes list.

“When you look at the layout of our schedule — both the times and locations — it’s easy to see why we feel like someone who fishes all nine Opens and qualifies for the Elite Series will be fully prepared for the challenge,” Weldon said. “These are all great fisheries, and anytime we visit a lake we haven’t been to in a while, it’s a big thrill for the competitors and for fans keeping track of the circuit across the country.”

Registration will open in early November, beginning with anglers who want to participate in the Opens EQ Division. 

“What a schedule,” said B.A.S.S. Vice President of Tournaments Chris Bowes. “Zigzagging the country, visiting some of the best fisheries in the world — some that we’ve been to a lot and some that we haven’t been to in a long time — will be fantastic. We like to think our schedules each year for all of our trails are not only a test of our anglers’ abilities but a celebration of the sport itself. This one certainly checks all the boxes.”

I tip my hat to the anglers gearing up to hit all nine of these tournaments. Chasing your dream is a worthy investment. Too many spend their life wondering if they could have done it. If fishing the Classic or being on the Elite tournament trail is your dream, well, here’s your chance. Shags should switch to bass. 

See you down the trail…

Pic: Bass fishing tournaments give anglers a chance to compete for money and fame. 

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.


Frog Gigging Offers Summer Fun and Excellent Food

Deer Hunting Success Begins Long Before the Season Starts