‘Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.’

It’s T-minus 24 days and counting to the launch of one of the most momentous seasons in the history of professional bass fishing. With the biggest bass on the biggest stage in the sport, the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series is making dreams reality.

“I’m really excited,” said Elite angler Bill Lowen of Brookville, Ind. “I’ve been in the Elite Series for 12 years, and today I feel just like I did right before my very first season. I can only imagine how exciting this has to be for the new guys over what I feel is fixing to take place.”

What is “fixing” to take place is a 10-event series of tournaments on some of the best big-bass lakes in the nation. The trail features a smaller field, bigger payouts per angler, lower entry fees and more media coverage than ever in the 14-year history of the nation’s premier bass fishing circuit.

Elite No. 1 gets underway Thursday, Feb. 7, on the St. Johns River at Palatka, Fla. — a storied fishery where, three years ago, four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn won his 15th B.A.S.S. competition at age 69. Clunn’s tournament heroics included a five-bass limit weighing 31 pounds, 7 ounces. The St. Johns River is also where Florida-native Cliff Prince landed the largest bass in Elite Series competition since 2016, weighing 10 pounds, 8 ounces.

Monstrous catches like that are part of the reason B.A.S.S. and the Elite anglers have adopted the mantra, “Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.” to describe the Elite Series in 2019.

Big Bass

“We’re visiting some of the hottest fisheries at the best times this year to catch the biggest bass,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “If you want to talk ‘Big Bass’, this is the tried-and-true tournament format that rewards anglers who have the skill to catch the heaviest five-bass limits each day. We can’t wait to see what our anglers bring to the scales from the waters of places like the St. Johns River, Lake Guntersville, Lake Fork and the St. Lawrence River.”

Big Stage

With more than 130,000 fans attending Elite events on average the past five years and the unparalleled media exposure for the Bassmaster Elite Series, B.A.S.S. continues, by far, to be the “Big Stage” in professional fishing. Bass fishing’s digital flagship, Bassmaster.com, averages 1.8 million page views on competition days, while Bassmaster LIVE in Elite events (excluding the Classic) reach more than 2.2 million fans. In addition, the 2019 Elite Series will include 214 hours of television coverage on ESPN networks and the Pursuit Channel, reach millions of readers of Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times magazines, and receive extensive coverage by independent media nationwide.

Elite angler Chris Zaldain said media coverage already has been remarkable. “I was averaging one major interview per day leading up to the Christmas break,” he said. “My social media following has been growing every single day. Fishing fans will have a lot to see and digest this year.”

Big Dreams

Part of the buzz is attributed to the new field size, with 75 anglers now competing on the Elite Series. The lineup includes 40 Elite anglers returning from the 2018 season joined by a mix of top-ranked Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens anglers, former Elite Series anglers and a handful of accomplished pros from other circuits. Five new international anglers from three continents also add a new element to the competition.

Akin added, “For many, if not all of them, this season fulfills a lifelong dream. At least six of the new Elite anglers worked their way up from our grass-roots program, the B.A.S.S. Nation, and 15 out of the 75 are former standouts on their college fishing teams who clawed their way to the pinnacle of professional fishing through the Bassmaster Opens.”

Elite angler Matt Herren says he’s pleased to see the “new blood” in the Elite Series. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really excited about the year. There are a lot of fresh faces and fresh attitudes — positive attitudes — among the anglers. The fans are positive, too. I looked around Lake Lanier and the St. Johns River a couple of days before the cutoff, and the folks I ran into in both areas are really looking forward to us coming to their areas.”

A two-time tournament champion and four-time Classic qualifier, Zaldain is impressed with the newcomers’ fishing skills, as well.

“I’m waiting for that one tournament finish where someone says, ‘Oh, the competition is diluted,’” he said. “It’s not diluted. It’s just as fierce as it has been. Maybe we’ve never heard of some of these guys, but a quarter of the way through this season, the fishing community is going to know who these guys are. They’re no slouches, and there won’t be any ‘gimmes.’”

Adding to the thrill of the approaching season is the knowledge that 40 of the 75 Elite anglers will qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, the 50th edition of what is inarguably the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.

Lowen, a nine-time Classic qualifier, said he is motivated to return to the world championship.

“As a kid growing up, all I wanted was to fish the Classic,” he said. “That’s where you want to be. It’s the biggest stage there is.”

For more information and to follow the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series action, visit Bassmaster.com.

2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Schedule

Event                                                    Fishery                        City                              Dates

Elite No. 1                                             St. Johns River           Palatka, Fla.                Feb 7-10

Elite No. 2                                             Lake Lanier                 Gwinnett, Ga.             Feb 14-17

Elite No. 3                                             Lake Hartwell              Anderson, S.C.            April 4-7

Elite No. 4                                             Winyah Bay                 Georgetown, S.C.        April 11-14

Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest             Lake Fork                    Emory, Texas              May 2-6

Elite No.6                                              Fort Gibson Lake         Tahlequah, Okla.         May 16-19

Elite No. 7                                             Lake Guntersville         Scottsboro, Ala.          June 21-24

Elite No. 8                                             St. Lawrence River      Waddington, N.Y.       Aug. 15-18

Elite No. 9                                             Cayuga Lake               Union Springs, N.Y.     Aug 22-25

Toyota Bassmaster AOY Championship                                   TBA