Full field is set for 2024 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees

With the entire 2023 Bassmaster tournament season in the history books, the field is officially set for the next renewal of fishing’s grandest spectacle.

A group of 56 anglers will compete in the 54th Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for March 22-24, 2024 on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees with weigh-ins and festivities in Tulsa, Okla. From an age and experience standpoint, it’ll be one of the most diverse fields in the event’s history, with competitors ranging from 17-year-old Floridian Aaron Yavorsky (the youngest participant in Classic history) to veteran Oklahoma pro Jason Christie (a 10-time Classic qualifier, the 2022 Classic winner and one of the clear favorites to score another victory on his home waters in 2024).

“With the field in place for the 2024 Classic, it’s amazing to kind of take a breath and look back over the 2023 season that brought us here,” said Chris Bowes, vice president of tournaments for B.A.S.S. “These guys put in countless hours of work just to get to this point — and the result, for them, is a chance to score the biggest victory of their careers. For B.A.S.S., the result is another powerhouse field for the greatest celebration of professional bass fishing.”

As usual, the bulk of the field came from the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, with AOY winner Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., leading the way. Other notable anglers who qualified from the Bassmaster Elite Series include...

Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., an 18-time Classic qualifier and the 2014 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, a 13-time Classic qualifier and two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year (2017, 2022) Hank Cherry of Lincolnton, N.C., an eight-time Classic qualifier and back-to-back Classic winner (2020, 2021)

“One of the most exciting things about the Classic is you never know who’s going to claim the next piece of history,” said Elite Series Tournament Director Lisa Talmadge. “We could certainly have a first-time winner — someone who doesn’t get a lot of attention leading up to the event. But to hold that trophy, they’ll have to go through a field of anglers who’ve been there before and done this at the highest level for a long time.”

Defending champion Jeff Gustafson of Canada received an automatic berth, and a pair of anglers from the Elite Series AOY standings were double-qualified for the event, opening up spots for others who would have been just outside the cut.

South Carolina pro Patrick Walters finished third in the AOY race, easily inside the cut. But since he also earned an automatic berth with his victory in the Elite Series regular-season finale on the St. Lawrence River — the only Elite event that offers such a berth — it opened a spot for Tennessee rookie Cole Sands (42nd, AOY) to make his first Classic appearance.

Will Davis Jr., of Alabama also finished comfortably inside the Classic cut at 31st in the AOY standings. But since he also earned a berth as the first-ever back-to-back winner of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell in October, a Classic spot was opened for fellow Alabama pro David Gaston (43rd, AOY). New Hampshire’s Timothy Dube, who finished second in the Nation Championship, and Wisconsin’s Josh Wiesner, who placed third, also earned Classic berths.

Throughout the rest of the field, you’ll find pros who’ve raised blue trophies more than once on the Elite Series stage. Those with multiple wins on pro bass fishing’s most prestigious tour include South Carolina’s Brandon Cobb (two), Arkansas pro Joey Cifuentes III (two), Maryland’s Bryan Schmitt (two), Georgia’s Drew Benton (two), Hackney (four), Texas pro Lee Livesay (three), Palaniuk (five), Christie (five), Connecticut pro Paul Mueller (two) and Walters (two).

“Think about that,” Bowes said. “Nothing can prepare you for the pressure and excitement of the Classic, but the Elite Series probably comes closest — and you have anglers scattered throughout this field who’ve topped Elite Series competition more than once throughout their careers. It’s a steep path to that Classic trophy this year.”

The field will feature eight winners from the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens, including Georgia’s Justin Barnes, Ben Milliken of Texas, North Carolina’s Powell Kemp, Wisconsin’s Adam Rasmussen, Alabama’s Joey Nania, Tyler Williams of Maine, New York’s Kyle Patrick and Kentucky’s Matt Messer.

Jody White of Vermont won the Open on the St. Lawrence River in July but did not qualify for a Classic berth because he failed to fish all three events in Division 3 as the rules require. The spot that would have belonged to him went to Mueller (41st, AOY).

The field was completed Saturday when Yavorsky won the two-day Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes by a margin of more than 22 pounds. His remarkable story happened the same year that University of Montevallo (Ala.) angler Easton Fothergill qualified through the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s just weeks after having emergency surgery to remove an infected abscess from his brain.

“If you want storylines, this Classic has them,” Bowes said. “This event is a dream for the media, for fans of the sport and certainly for the anglers taking part.

“Even though the season just ended, I wish it started tomorrow.”

Grand Lake hosted previous Classics in 2013 and 2016 — and as with past Classics in Tulsa, daily weigh-ins will be held at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, with the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo across the street at the Cox Business Convention Center, which boasts 275,000 square feet of event space. Daily takeoffs will be held about 90 miles away at the Wolf Creek Park and Boating Facility on Grand Lake.

2024 Bassmaster Classic Qualifiers

Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C.

Justin Barnes, Ellaville, Ga.

Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla.

Stetson Blaylock, Benton, Ark.

Scott Canterbury, Odenville, Ala.

Brandon Card, Salisbury, N.C.

Hank Cherry, Lincolnton, N.C.

Jason Christie, Dry Creek, Okla.

Joey Cifuentes III, Clinton, Ark.

Brandon Cobb, Greenwood, S.C.

Drew Cook, Cairo, Ga.

John Cox, DeBary, Fla.

Will Davis Jr., Sylacauga, Ala.

Bob Downey, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Timothy Dube, Nashua, N.H.

Austin Felix, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Easton Fothergill, Grand Rapids, Minn.

Kyoya Fujita, Minamitsuru, Yamanashi, Japan

Cooper Gallant, Bowmanville, Canada

David Gaston, Sylacauga, Ala.

Jeff Gustafson, Kenora, Canada

Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La.

Justin Hamner, Northport, Ala.

Cody Huff, Ava, Mo.

Taku Ito, Chiba, Japan

Carl Jocumsen, Toowoomba, Australia

Chris Johnston, Otonabee, Canada

Cory Johnston, Cavan, Canada

Powell Kemp, Scotland Neck, N.C.

Kenta Kimura, Hirakata, Japan

Shane LeHew, Catawba, N.C.

Lee Livesay, Longview, Texas

Matt Messer, Warfield, Ky.

Ben Milliken, New Caney, Texas

Brock Mosley, Collinsville, Miss.

Paul Mueller, Naugatuck, Conn.

Joey Nania, Cropwell, Ala.

Brandon Palaniuk, Rathdrum, Idaho

Luke Palmer, Coalgate, Okla.

Kyle Patrick, Cooperstown, N.Y.

Jacob Powroznik, North Prince George, Va.

Jay Przekurat, Stevens Point, Wis.

Adam Rasmussen, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

Tyler Rivet, Raceland, La.

Matt Robertson, Kuttawa, Ky.

Cole Sands, Calhoun, Tenn.

Pat Schlapper, Eleva, Wis.

Bryan Schmitt, Deale, Md.

Hunter Shryock, Ooltewah, Tenn.

Bryant Smith, Roseville, Calif.

Patrick Walters, Summerville, S.C.

Kyle Welcher, Opelika, Ala.

Clark Wendlandt, Leander, Texas

Josh Wiesner, Fond du Lac, Wis.

Tyler Williams, Belgrade, Maine

Aaron Yavorsky, Palm Harbor, Fla.