The B.A.S.S. tournament season is winding down. The last of nine Bassmaster Opens started today, the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship begins the first week in November and the Weekend Series Championship starts a week later. In about three weeks, the field for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic will be set.
So, there's no time like the present to take a look at what's setting up for the last tournaments of the year.
There's one Classic berth to be had at the final Central Open this week. It will go to the winner at Table Rock Lake unless that person did not fish the previous two Central Opens.
If the winner is already Classic-bound by virtue of having made it through the Elite Series, then Elite pro Kelly Jordon will get in. He's currently on the bubble after finishing 38th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Jordon was signed up for the tournament, but — ironically — couldn't have helped himself in the Classic picture because he didn't fish all of the Central Opens. Things might have gotten interesting if he found himself in the hunt for the win and his closest competitor was someone who could have gotten him into the Classic. Would he have tried to win the Open or taken his foot off the gas so someone else could put him in the 2012 Classic?
We'll never know.
Only two anglers in the Open field can help Jordon — Stephen Browning and Jeff Kriet. Both qualified for the Classic through the Elite Series, and if one wins at Table Rock, Jordon is headed to the Red River and the 42nd annual Bassmaster Classic.
I know Kriet likes his chances. He's been looking forward to Table Rock and has a lot of confidence in his game plan. Nothing would make him happier than to help his friend get back to the Classic by winning the Open.
Perhaps the bigger news at the Open is the chance to make Elite Series history. Janet Parker — currently second in the Central Opens points race — will earn an invitation to join the Elites for the 2012 season if she can hang on and stay in the top five. Obviously, she's in good position now.
Parker has been quoted as saying she believes she needs to finish 50th or better to stay in the top five. I'm not sure who's doing that math, but I wouldn't be so sure about it, and I don't think she can breathe easy if she finds herself just inside the top 50.
Right now, fifth place in the Centrals belongs to Jared Miller with 503 points. That's an average of 251.5 points per event, or about a 13th-place finish. It means that the fifth place angler is on a pace to finish with 754.5 points.
Parker currently has 536 points. If she's to finish with 754.5 or more points this season, she'll need to be 28th or better at Table Rock.
Realistically, things are going to level out a little bit at the third and final tournament of the three-event Central Opens season. By that I mean it's almost certainly not going to take 754.5 points to finish in the top five, but it might take 725 or a little better. If that's the case, Parker needs to finish no worse than 43rd ... and hope the top-ranking anglers around her stumble.
Taking a look at the BASS Federation Nation Championship coming up on the Ouachita River out of Louisiana, the first thing I noticed was the lack of usual suspects. Yes, there are plenty of guys who have been there before, but just two who have ever gone the Fed Nation route to the Bassmaster Classic.
Jamie Horton is representing Alabama again in the Southern Division. He made it to the Classic in 2002 after taking 5th place (best of any anyone from his division) at the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship. That tournament was on the Red River, where the 2012 Classic will be held.
As you can see, Louisiana has been very good to Horton. Look for him to lead a talented Southern team going into the finals.
Chris Price of Maryland is the other. Like Horton, he made it to the 2002 Classic. Watch for him to be a factor. Experience pays at the BFNC.