Team Tournament Angler Fulfills Dream To Qualify For The Bassmaster Classic

Matthew Robertson said he’s spent the past 20 years working toward a chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic.

Following a commanding performance at the Bassmaster Team Championship and the ensuing Classic Fish-Off, Robertson’s time has arrived.

Robertson, a 32-year-old resident of Kuttawa, Ky., was dominant both Friday and today on the Harris Chain of Lakes here in central Florida. His two-day total weighed a whopping 57 pounds, 9 ounces, which gave him almost a 24-pound cushion over the nearest competitor in the field of six anglers.

Robertson caught a five-bass limit on Friday that weighed 25-10, but he saved his best for last — a 31-15 sack that was the heaviest bag weighed in either the Team Championship or the Fish-Off.

Robertson teamed with Kentucky B.A.S.S. Nation Team Trail partner Wendell Anderson on Thursday to catch a 29-1 limit; the second-heaviest of the week. Robertson’s 25-10 limit on Friday was the third heaviest.

The victory earned Robertson the 52nd and final berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The Classic, the most prestigious bass fishing championship in the world, will be held March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Those guys (already in the Classic) don’t know who I am right now,” Robertson said. “But come March, I want them to show them what I can do.”

The Top 3 finishers among 197 teams entered in the national team championship qualified for the Fish-Off, which began Friday as the anglers competed individually for a spot in the Bassmaster Classic. Robertson and Anderson finished second in the team event, largely because of that 29-1 limit on Day 2, which vaulted them from a tie for 59th place after Day 1 straight into the Fish-Off.

But Robertson took things to a whole new level in the individual competition.

Many of the nearly 400 anglers competing this week fished grassbeds and shorelines throughout the Harris Chain — normal strategy for this fishery. Robertson, however, opted to fish 150 yards offshore in about 9 to 10 feet of water. He said there was no visible structure there; just a hard spot on the lake’s bottom. Robertson said the area measured 40 by 50 yards, and when he idled over it in practice, he saw big bass on his electronics.

“When Wendell and I got down here, we decided we were gonna’ fish exclusively offshore,” Robertson said. “We idled every inch of (Lake) Eustis and Harris and Little Harris in practice and we found the spot. We actually couldn’t get them to bite at practice, so that’s why we want back over to Eustis on Day 1 (of the Team Championship.)

“When we only caught 11 pounds in Eustis, we knew we had to make a change. If we were going to die, we were going to die doing what we do well, and that’s fishing offshore. So, we went back to that hard spot and pulled out some big swimbaits, a big spinnerbait and a big crankbait. We went to work on them.”

Anderson graciously relinquished the spot to his partner in the Fish-Off, and it replenished itself both days. Each of the bass Robertson caught Friday weighed between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds, but he caught a 7-4 Saturday to anchor the 31-15 bag.

Robertson’s key lures included a SPRO Big John (citrus) crankbait and a 7-inch swimbait with a 1-ounce jighead. The combination worked as he caught a limit within 75 minutes of takeoff both days of the Fish-Off.

He upgraded his catch several times on both days, and put back more pounds of bass than several of competitors weighed in the Fish-Off.

Robertson said he’s extremely confident in his abilities, but humbled by his chance to represent everyday anglers in the Classic.

“This is very special,” he said. “I’m just your ordinary working man. I represent every common man and that’s who I’m going to be fishing for in the Classic.”

Jayme Copenhaver III of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Bass Association finished second in the Fish-Off with a two-day total of 33-12. Copenhaver caught a 21-6 limit Friday and trailed Robertson by 4 1/4 pounds heading into the final day of competition. He couldn’t get enough big bites today, however, to pressure Robertson.

Rounding out the Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off field are: third, Adam Dysart, Chattanooga Bass Association, 22-3; fourth, William “Clay” Samples, U.S. Angler’s Choice, 15-5; fifth, Anderson, 10-4; and sixth, Charles “Tyler” Purcell of U.S. Angler’s Choice, 7-1.

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission hosted the tournament with the assistance of Florida’s Lake County.

In all, 197 tandems (394 anglers) from 35 states and three foreign countries competed in the Bassmaster Team Championship. A total of $120,000 in cash and prizes were distributed to the top 39 teams.

Robertson Takes Lead For Bassmaster Classic Spot With Huge Limit From Lake Harris

Matthew Robertson has been wearing a hat the past few days that pretty much sums up his experience this week on the Harris Chain of Lakes.

“ON ‘EM,” the hat reads in block white letters against a black field.

Robertson was “on” the Florida-strain bass yet again today, the first round of the Bassmaster Classic Fish-Off — a tandem event that followed the Bassmaster Team Championship held here earlier this week.

Robertson caught a five-bass limit today that weighed 25 pounds, 10 ounces. That put him more than 4 pounds ahead of Jayme Copenhaver III of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Team Trail; Copenhaver caught a 21-6 limit Friday.

Members of the top three duos from the Team Championship qualified for the fish-off, which offers a single berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods to the top finisher. After fishing alongside each other all week — all year, in fact — the teammates had their weights zeroed today as they began competing individually on the Harris Chain.

Though there’s still a full day of competition remaining, Robertson certainly looks like he could become the angler to fill the 52nd and final spot in the world championship of bass fishing. The 32-year-old Kuttawa, Ky., resident teamed with Kentucky B.A.S.S. Nation partner Wendell Anderson to finish second in the team tournament earlier this week. They bagged a 29-1 limit on Thursday (the heaviest of the two-day event) to leapfrog dozens of teams and reach the fish-off.

Robertson’s 25-10 today was the second heaviest bag weighed this week — trailing only the 29-1 he and Anderson posted a day earlier. After launching from Ski Beach Park at 6:45 a.m. ET, Robertson headed to Lake Harris, where he needed only an hour to catch a limit.

He upgraded his catch a few times later in the morning, but with more than 25 pounds in the livewell, the hardest work of the day was done.

His heaviest bass weighed 5 3/4 pounds, and the lightest was a 4 1/2-pounder, which proved the consistency of the bite he’s located here in the central Florida fishery.

“I’m just going out there and fishing my style,” Robertson said. “The fish are there. I’ll just see if I can get five bites.”

Robertson wants to fish professionally, and he said he’s spent the past 20 years preparing for the chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic. With only one day of solid fishing between him and his lifelong goal, his confidence is high.

“I’m fishing calm and collected,” he said. “I’m making the right decisions and not letting my emotions get the best of me. I’m ready for this.”

So is Copenhaver, it appears.

After Robertson wowed the crowd with his 25-plus pounds, Copenhaver slipped onto the stage and threw up his own impressive limit. He’s 4-4 behind the leader, but said the right bites are there to overcome the deficit. He had the big bass on Friday (a 6-12) to prove it.

“This morning, my bite was fast and furious for a bit,” Copenhaver said. “When you have some wind in the morning, you get some bites. When it dies down, it’s painfully slow; like watching paint dry. When you a get a blip of wind, you have to capitalize on it.”

Virginia’s William “Clay” Samples, a member of the U.S. Angler’s Choice Team Trail who paired with Charles “Tyler” Purcell to win the team championship, is in third with a limit that weighed 14 pounds. Adam Dysart of the Chattanooga Bass Association is fourth with four bass weighing 11 pounds, and Anderson of the Kentucky B.A.S.S. Nation is fifth with five bass weighing 10-4.

Purcell, also of U.S. Angler’s Choice team, is sixth after catching one bass that weighed 1-12. Launch for the final day of the fish-off will begin at 6:45 a.m. ET at Ski Beach Park in Leesburg. Weigh-in is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. at the same location.

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission is hosting the tournament with the assistance of Florida’s Lake County.

Registration Opens For The Bassmaster Marshal Program

Registration is now open for B.A.S.S. members who are interested in serving as marshals for the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series.

The marshal program, created by B.A.S.S. in 2009 as a way to attract observers who would ride along with the pros, allows people to spend two to four days on the water with some of the best professional anglers in the sport. Marshals are not allowed to fish, but they are encouraged to take photos, send blog posts to Bassmaster.com and serve as an extra set of eyes for B.A.S.S. tournament officials, making sure all rules are observed.

The marshal experience appeals to those from all walks of life. But since it allows people to gather tips and tricks, it obviously appeals most to serious bass fishermen.

“I marshaled for the first time about five years ago — just one tournament — because B.A.S.S. was holding an event in the western part of the United States, and it was something I had been wanting to do,” said Rick Moore, a retired California resident who fishes more than 100 days a year. “Since then I’ve just done it more and more, and now I think I’m scheduled to marshal seven events this coming year. It’s just become one of my hobbies.”

Moore said he expects to learn something on every trip.

“I’ve fished events in the past as a co-angler, and to me, marshaling is just a better experience,” he said. “The anglers are more relaxed and honest with you when you’re not fishing — and you can pay better attention to everything they’re doing when you’re not worried about putting fish in the boat yourself.”

Marshal spots are available for eight of the nine regular-season Elite Series events for $150. The Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department doesn’t include marshals; instead, judges are recruited to assist with the catch/weigh/release scoring process in that Elite event. Marshals also are invited to participate in the postseason event — Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in September at a site to be announced, and the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Every marshal is guaranteed to be on the water for the first two competition days. As the Elite Series field is cut to 20 for the semifinal day and 10 on Championship Sunday, marshals are selected for those bonus days based on their blogging and photography in the preliminary rounds.

Bass fishing fans who want to spend time on the water with a pro can register on the Elite Series page at Bassmaster.com or by phone at (877) BASS-USA.

Anglers Choice Team Goes From Alternates To Winners In Bassmaster Team Championship

William Samples and Charles Purcell weren’t supposed to compete in the Bassmaster Team Championship held today on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida.

But officials with the Anglers Choice Team Trail asked them a week ago if they could step in as alternates after another duo that did qualify couldn’t attend. Samples and Purcell made the most of the opportunity and won the Team Championship with a two-day total of 10 bass that weighed 42 pounds, 10 ounces.

Samples and Purcell outlasted a field of 197 teams from 35 states and three foreign countries to earn the win. That number included 14 fishing teams that finished ahead of Samples and Purcell in the Anglers Choice yearly standings.

Samples lives in South Boston, Va., and Purcell hails from just across the border in Townsville, N.C. They won a Nitro Z20 and Mercury 225 Pro XS boat/motor combo valued at $42,000 with their improbable victory.

“Everything just went wrong for us at the beginning of the year, until we pulled it together,” Samples said about their season on the Anglers Choice circuit. “I fell in the water in the first tournament of the year at Smith Mountain Lake. It was 46 degree water. It cost us $5,000. We had a monkey on our back until late spawn, and then we buttoned it up. We won a tournament a couple of weeks ago, and now here we are — winning the Bassmaster Team Championship.”

Samples and Purcell were in second place after Day 1 of the tournament with a five-bass limit that weighed 21-9. They were almost as good today, with a 21-1 limit of five bass.

“We found a spot in practice that I told (Purcell) was going to be a 30-pound hole,” Samples said. “Every fish we weighed came from (within 75 yards) of that hole. The bite started about 10 o’clock and ended about 11:30 a.m. In that hour and a half, there was a flurry.”

“We worked hard for this all year,” Purcell said. “Everything that could go wrong did, until we pulled it together. This is an incredible feeling.”

Matthew Robertson and Wendell Anderson, who are part of the Kentucky Bass Nation Team Trail, had the big bag of the tournament — a whopping 29-1 limit today that helped them finish second with 40-1 overall. It also earned them $14,800 in cash to split.

Adam Dysart and Jayme Copenhaver III of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Bass Association placed third with 39-15 and won $10,000.

Those Top 3 duos now will be separated, and the six anglers will compete individually in the Classic Fish-Off to be held Friday and Saturday on the Harris Chain. All weights were zeroed after the Team Championship ended today, and the angler with the heaviest overall weight in the two-day Fish-Off will earn the 52nd and final berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

This year’s Classic will be held March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Though they trailed the winners by nearly 3 pounds, Robertson and Anderson were the talk of the tournament after their tremendous 29-1 limit. They were tied for 59th after Day 1 and actually were in 85th place when they came to the scales at Ski Beach Park today.

Then the Kentuckians began hoisting Florida-strain largemouth that caused everyone to take notice. The biggest of the bunch weighed 6-12, and there were two more 6-pounders and a pair of 4-pounders in their sack.

“We just kind of hopped around and we came across something about midday,” Robertson said, taking care to not divulge too much information since he’ll fish again Friday and Saturday.

“We had some boat trouble yesterday and missed about three hours of fishing. We had a full day today and things went right. I’m doing something a little different, and not listening to what people say you should be doing.”

Dysart and Copenhagen overcame motor trouble of their own on Wednesday and still managed a limit of 19-2. They followed with a 20-13 limit on Thursday to slip into third place by a mere 6 ounces over Eddie Levin and Ryan Mallory of the Ohio Bass Nation Team Trail.

Levin and Mallory were fourth overall with 39-9 and they earned $8,000. Nevada’s Aaron Leon and Timothy Klinger of the Ultimate Bass Team Trail placed fifth with 36-8 and won $6,000.

Two bass caught today weighed more than 8 pounds and qualified for the Florida TrophyCatch program. Illinois’ Luke Estel of the U.S. Anglers Choice Team caught a 9-5 lunker that was worth $500 as the heaviest bass of the day. Matt Gorham of the West Michigan Team Trail caught an 8-6.

The six anglers who advanced to the Classic Fish-Off will take off Friday and Saturday at 6:45 a.m. ET from Ski Beach Park in Leesburg. Weigh-in is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. both days at the same location.

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission is hosting the tournament with the assistance of Florida’s Lake County.

Wisconsin Bass Team Grabs First-Round Lead In Bassmaster Team Championship In Florida

If Wisconsin anglers Pat Schlapper and Wade Rickey had started today’s opening round of the Bassmaster Team Championship using sturdier fish hooks, they likely would have a considerably heavier weight than the 22-pound, 3-ounce limit they carried to the weigh-in.

Still, that limit of five bass was enough to put the Wisconsin tandem atop the leaderboard heading into the second and final day here on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida.

Schlapper and Rickey had never fished in the Sunshine State, and they believed 3/0 hooks would be enough to boat the hefty Florida bass they hoped to catch. But when they did stick big bass early on Wednesday, the fish literally straightened those hooks and slipped away.

Frustrated, but undeterred, Schlapper and Rickey switched to beefier 4/0 hooks, and they started putting big bass in the boat. Rickey’s 6-pounder was the largest, and the duo rounded out their bag with a quartet of solid 4-pounders.

Schlapper and Rickey, who fish with the Major League Series back in Wisconsin, are 10 ounces ahead of the Anglers Choice team of Virginia’s William Samples and North Carolina’s Charles Purcell, who are second with 21-9. Brothers Travis and Shannon O’Quinn of Team Morristown Marine are in third place with 20-8; Eddie Levin and Ryan Mallory of the Ohio B.A.S.S. Nation Team Trail are fourth (20-6); and Dean Alexander and Tom Martens of the Texas Bass Nation Team Trail are fifth (19-15.)

“We’ve never been fishing down here, so we didn’t know what to expect,” Schlapper said. “We lost some nice fish, but we ground it out. We only fished that one spot, and we stopped fishing it hard about 10 a.m.”

Schlapper and Rickey said they found big bass on another half dozen spots they scouted in practice, but they’re not sure those places will be unoccupied when they arrive Thursday morning. The duo was, however, aboard the 151st of 197 boats to launch today. Since the takeoff order is inverted on Day 2, they’ll get an earlier start on Thursday.

“I’m confident we’re around some fish,” Schlapper said. “But not having fished here before, I don’t know which community holes we’re around. We didn’t see anyone else fishing like we were, but (a few boats saw us fishing) and got an education this morning. If one of them is ahead of us, we might come in with nothing.”

Duos from 35 different states and three foreign countries (Australia, Canada and South Africa) are competing in the Team Championship. Each team consists of two anglers trying to amass a shared five-bass limit in the team portion of the championship.

The tandem with the heaviest two-day combined weight will be crowned team champion after Thursday’s weigh-in, and also will win a Nitro Z20 boat and Mercury 225 Pro XS boat/motor combo valued at $42,000.

Brisk winds swept across central Florida on Wednesday which made moving around the Harris Chain rough on competitors. Still, anglers such as Alexander and Martens were among those who benefited from the weather, which featured temperatures in the upper 50s and clear skies to go with steady winds from 10 to 15 mph.

“(The wind) put us into a little funk, but we had a good morning,” Martens said.

Alexander caught an 8-2 largemouth that was one of three bass to qualify for the TrophyCatch Florida program on today. Adam Elliot caught a 9-4, and Tennessee’s Nobuyuki Terajima had the big bass of the day with a lunker that tipped the scales at 10-10. It was almost 3 pounds heavier than his previous best — a 7-12 he caught on Kentucky Lake.

Terajima didn’t offer details on how he caught the big bass, which earned him a $500 prize, but he did say he was worried at one point that he and his partner, Doug Castro, were in for a tough day.

“We were struggling,” Terajima said. “We had no fish at 11 (o’clock.) We moved to a new location and I got this one. I wish I could catch one more like this tomorrow. No one can tell.”

Anglers no doubt will be look for those types of bites again Thursday.

Following the Team Championship round, members of the Top 3 teams will move on to the Team Championship Classic Fish-Off, also on the Harris Chain, where they will compete individually for the final berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods. That tournament, the most prestigious and storied in all of competitive bass fishing, is scheduled for March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Anglers will launch Thursday at 6:45 a.m. ET from Ski Beach Park in Leesburg. The final weigh-in for the team portion of this tournament will begin at the same location at 2:45 p.m. ET.

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission is hosting the tournament with the assistance of Florida’s Lake County.

Final Bassmaster Classic Berth On The Line At Team Championship On Harris Chain

The 2018 B.A.S.S. tournament schedule that began in January and crisscrossed the country through 17 states over 10 months will reach its conclusion with the Bassmaster Team Championship on Dec. 5-8 at Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes.

The event will determine the final berth for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, which is scheduled for March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Qualified teams from around the globe will compete for two days next week to determine the national team champions. Then the six anglers from the Top 3 teams will fish solo the final two days in the Team Championship Classic Fish-Off, with the winner earning a trip to the Classic.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing to think that you’ll have teams from Arizona, Texas, Ohio — all over the country — and they’ll be competing for a chance to take part in pro fishing’s pinnacle event,” said Clifford Pirch, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Arizona who has fished the Classic five times. “I don’t care what part of the country you come from, that’s the deal you’ve always dreamed of being a part of.”

Some competitors will be traveling from other countries. Also competing in the championship are three teams from South Africa and one from Australia. To qualify, two-angler teams representing sanctioned team trails had to finish near the top of their respective circuit’s championship or team of the year race.

Daily takeoffs will be at 6:45 a.m. ET from Ski Beach Park in Leesburg, and weigh-ins will be held at the park each day at 2:45 p.m.

Counting the team qualifier, the Classic field will feature 52 anglers, including Alabama pro Jordan Lee, who receives an automatic berth as the defending champion, and Drew Benton of Florida, who punched his ticket by winning the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in May.

Seven anglers also qualified through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens circuit, along with one from the Carhartt College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, three from the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors, three from the Mossy Oak Fishing Classic Bracket and 35 from the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

Pirch finished 28th in the AOY standings to qualify for the Classic for the sixth time. He’s finished in the Top 20 three times at the Classic, including a 13th-place showing at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell last year.

He’s also had some success on the Harris Chain, where the final berth will be decided. In 2012, he finished second in a Southern Open held on the fishery with a three-day total of 58 pounds, 1 ounce.

“That tournament was in January, and when it actually warmed up, I saw a lot of really big fish,” Pirch said. “Then we had a little hiccup with the weather, had a cold night. So it wasn’t quite as wide open as it could have been.

“But I definitely saw the potential of the place.”

Pirch offered some advice to the anglers taking part in the Team Championship.

“Anywhere in the Southeastern United States this time of year, I would really be looking for that little bit of clearer water and better grass,” he said. “There’s always that zone that seems to be healthier than a lot of other places.

“There are plenty of big fish in those lakes, and if you can find areas like that, you should find some of those fish.”

Pirch said it’s also important for team anglers who may not be used to fishing under such enormous pressure to remember it’s a fishing tournament, just like any other.

“You’re fishing for a Classic berth, and that’s an exciting thing for any angler,” he said. “But in the end, it’s about catching the five biggest fish you can every day. Whatever happens will happen one day at a time.”

California’s Randy Pierson Wins B.A.S.S. Nation Championship At Pickwick

Randy Pierson’s scouting trip to Alabama’s Pickwick Lake paved the way to victory for the Californian at the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Pierson of Oakdale, Calif., encountered the best of worst-case scenarios during the October visit.

“Every fishing scenario I could possibly come across on Pickwick happened while I was there,” said the Oro Madre Bass Anglers club member.

High water and tough post-front fishing conditions were all in play. As fate would have it, those same conditions prevailed this week.

Today, Pierson weighed 15 pounds, 8 ounces to complete his winning catch of 55-11. Kyle Dorsett of Odenville, Ala., finished second with 51-14, while Jacapo Gallelli of Firenze, Italy, took third with 46-4.

Pierson, Dorsett and Gallelli received invitations to bass fishing’s most prestigious event, the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The Classic is March 15-17, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn., where the anglers will compete for a total purse of $1 million on the Tennessee River.

Pickwick’s water level rose 7 feet during Pierson’s rainy scouting trip. The Tennessee Valley Authority responded by releasing massive amounts of water from Wilson Lake into Pickwick. Pierson then took a crash course in how to pattern fish in strong current, which helped him win the tournament.

There was more of the same this week and the current put Pierson’s lesson to the test.

“It was all about the current,” he said. “When the current turned on, so did the fish.”

The current got stronger each day, ideally playing into his hand. Pierson rotated through areas where the bass sought refuge from the strong flow — behind rocks, bluff walls and points — where they fed on passing baitfish.

Timing was everything. Pierson located so many prime areas that eventually he would end up where the fish were actively feeding. When a stop at one area failed to produce he moved on to the next spot.

“Having plenty of areas to go through, which I found during the scouting trip, allowed me to increase my odds of eventually catching them sometime during the day.”

Early in the tournament he found the bass positioned on the extreme outside edges of the current breaks. As more water was released the fish moved away from the edges.

Pierson made his lure presentations down current in the swift water, which was nothing like he had experienced before.

He rotated through three lures for the win. A 1/4-ounce homemade hair jig with a Zoom trailer was his most productive bait. Alternatively, he used a 1/8-ounce homemade darter jighead with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact FAT Swimbait. A 5/8-ounce Zorro Aggravator Spinnerbait was another choice.

Dorsett fished the Wilson Dam tailrace, where he focused on current breaks created by isolated rocks, bluffs and points. Dorsett fished the same area all three days and never had another competitor near him.

“I caught all 13 of my keepers from one area,” he said. “It was a textbook kind of spot that really held a lot of fish in the strong current and the more of it, the better.”

Dorsett used a 1/2-ounce Kajun Boss Outdoors Spinnerbait without a trailer to catch all of his fish.

Gallelli became the first Italian angler to qualify for the Classic. His campaign to earn it was serious, considering the fact he bought a new fully rigged bass boat to fish the championship.

Like the other top finishers, he concentrated on current breaks created by rocks near the river channel. A 3/8-ounce spinnerbait was his best lure.

Pierson, Dorsett and Gallelli also earned the “Nation’s Best” package, which includes paid entry fees into the 2019 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series division of their choice, and the use of a fully rigged Phoenix boat for the year.

Pierson also received an invitation to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, and $16,000 toward entry fees. He also won a Nitro Z20, custom trailer with Mercury outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.

Dorsett won a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. Gallelli won a Triton 189 TrX and trailer, Yamaha outboard, and factory-installed accessories.

The championship is the only international competition of its kind for bass club anglers. Competing were qualifiers from 47 states and 10 foreign nations. Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Portugal, France, Italy, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the Republic of South Africa were represented.

The Florence/Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau was event host.

California Angler Takes Over Lead In B.A.S.S. Nation Championship

Californian Randy Pierson has found much to like about his first trip to Alabama’s Pickwick Lake — Pierson took the lead today in the second round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Pierson of Oakdale, Calif., added 19 pounds, 12 ounces to Thursday’s catch, yielding an overall weight of 40-3 for two days of fishing on the Tennessee River impoundment. Joshua Miller of Roberts, Wis., held onto second place with an overall weight of 36-5, while Jacopo Gallelli of Firenze, Italy, moved into third place with 32-14. Kyle Dorsett of Odenville, Ala., is fourth with 32-8 and Mark Pierce of Cadiz, Ky., is fifth with 32 pounds.

Stronger current created by more water released upstream from Wilson Lake into Pickwick greatly benefited the top anglers on Friday.

“It definitely made the bite better while it lasted,” said Pierson, a member of the Oro Madre Bass Anglers. “I didn’t have a fish until 9:30; then the current turned up, and I had a flurry of activity until noon.”

Pierson is fishing specific areas where the bass are seeking refuge from the strong current behind rocks, where they feed on passing baitfish.

“My success is all about timing,” continued Pierson. “Being on the right place, at the right time, is the key.”

The same theory applied to the strategy in play for Miller, who caught 14-3 today after weighing 21-8 on Thursday.

“They were there again but my execution as an angler was off,” said Miller, a member of the St. Croix Bass Anglers. “I was just really nervous and wanted to make the Top 10 cut, which I did.”

On Thursday, Miller fished flawlessly, catching his five-bass limit weighing 21 pounds in his first seven casts of the day. On Saturday, there will be no holding back.

“I’m going to drop the hammer on them,” he said. “The early bite was off because they didn’t release as much water, but when they did, the fishing really picked up.”

Stronger current also made Dorsett’s fish more active. After catching 13-7 Thursday, he added 19-1 today to grab fourth with a total of 32-0.

“I had three bites yesterday and six today,” said Dorsett, a member of the Coosa River Anglers. “The bite slowed back down when less water was generated.”

Being on his best spots when the most water is generated is a must.

“I have the area to myself, so I can really try and dial into the fish on Saturday,” he added.

After taking the Thursday lead with a limit weighing 22-4, Pierce only caught three bass today weighing 9-12. Pierce’s self-described “hero or zero” strategy held true today as he dropped to fifth place.

“It’s the Tennessee River in the fall,” said Pierce, a member of the Montgomery County Bass Club in Clarksville, Tenn. “When you are fishing river flats covered in grass, it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”

Pierce knows all too well the nuances of this river as a regular club tournament angler on the fishery nearer his home.

“I believe the cold front has already impacted the bite, slowed them down in my area,” added Pierce.

Today the nonboater champion was determined. Tim Ward won the title with 30-3 after catching 15-14 today and 14-5 on Thursday. Ward of Sylacauga, Ala., advanced to the championship round on Saturday.

Ward won a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. He also received paid entry fees in the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series division of his choice.

Ward gets to compete on Saturday from his boat as the nonboater champion. That was his goal for the tournament.

“I came here with that in mind and practiced really hard from my boat,” he said. “I prepared for this to happen, so I already have a plan in place for tomorrow.”

That makes winning the tournament his new goal. That is not a long shot, either. Louisiana nonboater Ryan Lavigne won the 2016 Championship, and Ward hopes to repeat the feat.

On Saturday the Top 3 pros earn invitations to bass fishing’s most prestigious event, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The Classic is March 15-17, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Those anglers also receive the “Nation’s Best” package, which includes paid entry fees into the 2019 Opens division of their choice, and the use of a fully rigged Phoenix boat for the year.

The overall winner receives an invitation to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, and $16,000 toward entry fees. He also receives a Nitro Z20, custom trailer with Mercury outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.

The second-place finisher receives a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. The third-place angler wins a Triton 189 TrX and trailer, Yamaha outboard, and factory-installed accessories.

Takeoff begins at 6 a.m. CT Saturday at McFarland Park. The final weigh-in at the park begins at 2 p.m.

The Florence/Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is event host.

Kentucky Angler Leads B.A.S.S. Nation Championship On Pickwick Lake

Mark Pierce is fishing what he describes as a “hero or zero” strategy on Pickwick Lake that put him in the lead after weighing-in 22-4 on Day 1 of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.

“I’m going for a big bass, a quality bite that will either produce well or not at all,” said Pierce, of Cadiz, Ky.

Joshua Miller of Roberts, Wis., is second with 21-8, while Randy Pierson of Oakdale, Calif., is third with 20-7. David Cavell of Prairieville, La., is fourth with 18-11. Bob Bayless of Indianapolis, Ind., is fifth with 18-3.

“Today went as planned, and I’m fishing where big bass are known to live this time of year,” explained Pierce. “They are aggressive, hitting reaction baits.”

Although Pierce declined to mention specific lures, he said moving baits are ideal for the areas where he is targeting the quality bass.

All it took were the first seven casts of the day to put Miller in second place. After leaving the launch site at 6:15 a.m., he caught the five-bass limit by 6:38 a.m.

“I have the place to myself,” he added. “I just pulled up on that spot, and it was lights out.”

He checked other similar areas for the remainder of the day, catching a 4-pound smallmouth along the way.

“I fish the upper Mississippi River and am leveraging that knowledge here,” said Miller, a member of the St. Croix Bass Anglers. “It’s all about the current, and the more the better for me.”

Miller is fishing offshore in the heavy flow of the Tennessee River. Current is key because it positions his fish behind calm water created by large boulders on the river bottom. The current is created by discharges from Wheeler Dam, which empties into Pickwick.

“The flow is up around 60,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), and it could be more,” he explained.

“I checked three more spots, and they were there too,” he continued. “I have five more areas just like those and will try them tomorrow if needed.”

Pierson brought a California tactic to Alabama to leverage his strong catch. As his pattern came together it built momentum and proved to be solid, reliable and filled with promise.

“I’ve discovered the same two types of productive cover in multiple locations,” said Pierson, a member of the Oro Madre Bass Anglers. “I didn’t realize just how good it was until today.”

Pierson intentionally avoided catching too many fish from his areas during practice to save the bite for the competition. The more water he covered the more fish he caught.

“I’m using three different lures and can switch to spinning gear and continue using them if the weather dictates making the change,” he added.

Switching from casting tackle might become necessary if the fish grow finicky following a predicted cold snap.

“The unknown is the weather because this is my first tournament on Pickwick,” added Pierson. “So I have no idea of what to expect tomorrow.”

Cavell only caught two bass during practice. He rebounded after weighing four bass that included a largemouth weighing 8-4, his personal best for a tournament.

“I wasn’t on anything during practice and could have caught 23 pounds today, counting the lost fish,” said the Ascension Area Bassmasters club member. “The pattern came together later in the day, so I’ll have tomorrow to figure it out more.”

Weather is destined to be a key influencer on the bass fishing. Rising water, falling temperatures and lots of cold rain are forecasted. Fall could turn to winter by Saturday, when the temperature struggles to reach the mid-40s.

The catch here is spotted bass, largemouth and smallmouth in the 43,000-acre Tennessee River fishery. The mostly sought largemouth become lethargic following cold fronts, while smallmouth become more active. Pickwick is one of the nation’s premier smallmouth lakes, and it has a chance to show itself this week.

Joining anglers from 47 states are B.A.S.S. Nation representatives from five continents. Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Portugal, France, Italy, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the Republic of South Africa are the foreign nations represented in the championship.

Boater and nonboater anglers from each state or nation qualified for the championship. So did Kenneth Carter, the national champion of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Tour.

On the nonboater side, Travis Lugar of Virginia took the lead with 15-8. Lugar fished with North Carolina angler Norman Mullinax, whose limit weighed 11-5.

“We put something together; they just came up all around us,” said Lugar, a member of the Rockingham Bass Anglers. “My boater partner allowed me to try out my area, and it worked.”

The Top 3 finishers from the championship earn berths in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, which is set for March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Those anglers also receive the “Nation’s Best” package, which includes paid entry fees into the 2019 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens division of their choice, and the use of a fully rigged Phoenix boat for the year.

The overall winner receives an invitation to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, and $16,000 toward entry fees. He also receives a Nitro Z20, custom trailer with Mercury outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.

The second-place finisher and nonboater winner each receive a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. The third-place finisher wins a Triton 189 TrX and trailer, Yamaha outboard, and factory-installed accessories.

The competition concludes Saturday. Daily takeoffs begin at 6 a.m. CT at McFarland Park. Weigh-ins at the park begin at 2 p.m.

The Florence/Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is event host.

Bass Pro Shops Signs Multiyear Agreement To Sponsor B.A.S.S. And Bassmaster Events

Bass Pro Shops has signed a multiyear agreement to sponsor B.A.S.S. and Bassmaster events, B.A.S.S. announced today.

Under the agreements, Triton and Nitro will continue as premier, official boat sponsors of B.A.S.S. tournaments, including the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, the Bassmaster Elite Series, the Bassmaster Opens Series, B.A.S.S. Nation competitions, and the College and High School Series tournaments.

Bass Pro Shops becomes a supporting sponsor of the Bassmaster Elite Series, a supporting and title sponsor of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, supporting and presenting sponsor of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops and supporting sponsor of the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series.

“Triton and Nitro are among the most popular bass boat brands in America today, and we are pleased that they will again be showcased through their sponsorship of the Classic, Bassmaster Elite Series and other Bassmaster competitions,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO.

“In addition, the support Bass Pro Shops is providing for our Opens, College, High School and other Bassmaster events is invaluable to our fans and the anglers competing in those tournament series,” Akin said. “This partnership not only serves our millions of fans and followers, but it also provides great opportunities for B.A.S.S. and Bass Pro Shops to reach new audiences and to grow the great sport of bass fishing.”

“We’re very proud to expand upon our longstanding support for B.A.S.S. through these significant partnerships with our fishing brands,” said Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine group founder Johnny Morris, himself a five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “B.A.S.S. events help us advance our goal to connect more people to nature by engaging people of all ages and skill levels to the great sport of fishing.”

Under the agreement, all White River Marine and Bass Pro Shops brands will receive exhibit space in the extremely popular Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, as well as at Elite Series expos and other Bassmaster events during the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons.

As in previous years, most final-day weigh-ins for Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens tournaments will be held at the nearest Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s stores.

Triton also will award two $500 scholarships to the winners of the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Championship.

The agreement includes advertising and promotion on behalf of Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine brands in B.A.S.S.’s industry-leading media, including Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times magazines, Bassmaster.com, Bassmaster LIVE programming and The Bassmasters TV show on ESPN2.

“B.A.S.S. and Bass Pro Shops share common roots, dating back all the way to the earliest days of B.A.S.S., when Johnny Morris was a Classic competitor and a rising star in our professional tournaments,” Akin added. “And we share a common dedication to conserving our natural resources and promoting sportfishing as a family recreation. We are especially grateful to see the history of our sport showcased in the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame located within Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.”

Field For The 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Features Familiar Faces, Rising Stars

With another season just three months away, B.A.S.S. officials announced Wednesday that the field for the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series has been set.

The prestigious circuit, which will feature higher payouts and lower entry fees than ever before, will consist of 75 anglers (about 40 fewer than last year), including three who have won both the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods and the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.

The season-opening event is scheduled for Feb. 7-10 on the St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla.

“Every year when our anglers leave the takeoff site for the opening day of the first tournament, the excitement in the air is just amazing — and that will certainly be true this year,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “As in past years, we have some familiar faces who have already accomplished great things with us.

“Then, we also have some new anglers who are bound and determined to become superstars themselves.”

Missouri legend Rick Clunn, who owns four Classic trophies and the 1988 AOY award is back from last year’s Elite Series field, along with North Carolina pro David Fritts, who won the 1993 Classic and the 1994 AOY trophy. Jay Yelas, a veteran Texas pro who won the 2002 Classic title and 2003 AOY award, will also be joining the Elite Series after several years with other circuits.

Other big names returning from last year’s Elite field will be Keith Combs, a two-time B.A.S.S. winner who is right on the cusp of the $1 million mark for career earnings, 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship tournament winner Seth Feider of Minnesota and Nevada pro Chris Zaldain, who holds two B.A.S.S. wins of his own.

Elite Series stalwarts John Crews, Mark Menendez, Bernie Schultz, Matt Herren, Clifford Pirch and Steve Kennedy are also back, along with 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Rookie of the Year Jake Whitaker. A final spot will be added based on the top finisher from the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.

The field will have a distinct international flavor with popular Australian pro Carl Jocumsen joining the circuit, along with Canadian pros Chris Johnston, Cory Johnston and Jeff Gustafson and Japanese angler Yusuke Miyazaki.

“We’ve got a great mix of competitors in every conceivable way,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “We have anglers from all over the United States and a few from around the world. We’ve got established pros who have seen a little bit of everything and some young guys who have been waiting on the opportunity to make their dreams come true.”

After the kickoff tournament on the St. Johns River and a second event scheduled for Feb. 14-17 on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, the Elite Series schedule will pause for the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on March 15-17 on the Tennessee River in Knoxville, Tenn. Seven more regular-season Elites will be held between April and August, including the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on May 2-6 at Lake Fork, Texas. Then, the season will conclude with the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, which will be held at a date and site yet to be determined.

The Bassmaster Classic, Texas Fest and the Angler of the Year Championship will all feature $1 million payouts with no entry fee.

Regular-season Elite Series events will feature a full field of 75 anglers for the first two days, 20 during the semifinal round and 10 on Championship Sunday. Instead of only the top half of the field being paid — as they were in the past — all participants will leave this year’s events with a check. The winner will still earn $100,000 and the prestigious blue trophy that has become synonymous with Elite Series victory, and the angler who finishes in 75th place will earn $2,500.

The popular Bassmaster LIVE show on Bassmaster.com, which generated over 2.8 million video views and 65 million minutes of content consumed by fans in 2018, will be produced all four days of 2019 Elite Series events instead of just the final three days of an event as in the past. There will also be live-streaming cameras on all 20 boats for the semifinal round, as well as Bassmaster LIVE cameras on all 10 anglers for Championship Sunday.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary at B.A.S.S. this year,” Akin said. “But even after a half-century of excellence, we’re not slowing down in our efforts to create the best opportunities possible for all of our anglers.

“With the field we’ve just announced and the format changes we’ve made, we have some really exciting days ahead.”

2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Field

            Name                                       Hometown/State

1.        Matt Arey                                 Shelby, N.C.

2.        Todd Auten                              Lake Wylie, S.C.

3.        Drew Benton                            Panama City, Fla.

4.        Stetson Blaylock                      Benton, Ark.

5.        Scott Canterbury                      Odenville, Ala.

6.        Quentin Cappo                         Prairieville, La.

7.        Brandon Card                           Knoxville, Tenn.

8.        Tyler Carriere                           Youngsville, La.

9.        Hank Cherry                             Lincolnton, N.C.

10.     Gary Clouse                               Winchester, Tenn.

11.     Rick Clunn                                 Ava, Mo.

12.     Brandon Cobb                            Greenwood, S.C.

13.     Keith Combs                              Huntington, Texas

14.     Drew Cook                                 Midway, Fla.

15.     John Crews Jr.                            Salem, Va.

16.     Clent Davis                                 Montevallo, Ala.

17.     Rob Digh                                    Denver, N.C.

18.     Greg DiPalma                             Millville, N.J.

19.     Seth Feider                                 Bloomington, Minn.

20.     Micah Frazier                             Newnan, Ga.

21.     David Fritts                                Lexington, N.C.

22.     Chris Groh                                 Spring Grove, Ill.

23.     Jeff Gustafson                            Keewatin, Ontario, Canada

24.     Skylar Hamilton                        Dandridge, Tenn.

25.     Ray Hanselman                         Del Rio, Texas

26.     Jamie Hartman                          Newport, N.Y.

27.     Matt Herren                               Ashville, Ala.

28.     Dale Hightower                         Manford, Okla.

29.     Harey Horne                              Bella Vista, Ark.

30.     Derek Hudnall                           Baton Rogue, La.

31.     Mike Huff                                  Corbin, Ky.

32.     Kelley Jaye                                Dadeville, Ala.

33.     Carl Jocumsen                           Frisco, Texas

34.     Chris Johnston                           Otonabee, Ontario, Canada

35.     Cory Johnston                           Cavan, Ontario, Canada

36.     Steve Kennedy                          Auburn, Ala.

37.     Koby Kreiger                             Bokeelia, Fla.

38.     Robbie Latuso                           Gonzales, La.

39.     Shane Lehew                            Charlotte, N.C.

40.     Brandon Lester                         Fayetteville, Tenn.

41.     Shane Lineberger                      Lincolnton, N.C.

42.     Lee Livesay                              Longview, Texas

43.     Ed Loughran III                        Mechanicsville, Va.

44.     Bill Lowen                                Brookville, Ind.

45.     Mark Menendez                        Paducah, Ky.

46.     Yusuke Miyazaki                      Forney, Texas

47.     Kyle Monti                                Okeechobee, Fla.

48.     Chad Morgenthaler                   Reeds Spring, Mo.

49.     Rick Morris                               Lake Gaston, Va.

50.     Brock Mosley                            Collinsville, Miss.

51.     Paul Mueller                             Naugatuck, Conn.

52.     David Mullins                           Mount Carmel, Tenn.

53.     Luke Palmer                             Coalgate, Okla.

54.     Garrett Paquette                       Canton, Mich.

55.     Chad Pipkens                           Lansing, Mich.

56.     Clifford Pirch                           Payson, Ariz.

57.     Brett Preuett                             Monroe, La.

58.     Cliff Prince                               Palatka, Fla.

59.     Tyler Rivet                                Raceland, La.

60.     Bernie Schultz                          Gainesville, Fla.

61.     Hunter Shryock                         Newcomerstown, Ohio

62.     Brian Snowden                         Reeds Spring, Mo.

63.     Randy Sullivan                         Breckenridge, Texas

64.     Caleb Sumrall                           New Iberia, La.

65.     Jesse Tacoronte                         Orlando, Fla.

66.     Frank Talley                             Temple, Texas

67.     Patrick Walters                         Summerville, S.C.

68.     Bill Weidler                              Helena, Ala.

69.     Clark Wendlandt                       Leander, Texas

70.     Brad Whatley                            Bivins, Texas

71.     Jake Whitaker                           Fairview, N.C.

72.     Jason Williamson                     Wagener, S.C.

73.     Jay Yelas                                   Lincoln City, Ore.

74.     Chris Zaldain                            Laughlin, Nev.

75.    TBD - 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors

New Junior Division Unveiled As B.A.S.S. Announces College And High School Slates For 2019

Just when it seemed B.A.S.S. couldn’t possibly provide more competitive opportunities for anglers, the organization announced today that it will be adding a Junior Bassmaster Division to its annual slate of events in the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series.

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