B.A.S.S. just released the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, and it looks really good. I'm excited about the opportunity to return to some of my favorite bodies of water and intrigued by a few of the new ones. Here are my first thoughts on each of the events.
To kick the season off, we'll be starting on Lake Guntersville for the Bassmaster Classic. There is little doubt that every Bassmaster Classic weight record is in jeopardy at this event. Big fish and power fishing should lead the way. If the weather lines up right, it will turn out to be the best Bassmaster Classic of all time. I'll be loaded up with Livingston's new Pro Line of crankbaits by then, and there is a good chance that'll be the bite that wins it.
For the first regular season stop, we're headed to Lake Seminole. Seminole is a lake I have spent a little time on in the past, but it's been a while. It holds big fish, and it should be a sight-fishing event. I've caught four fish weighing 9 pounds, 8 ounces in tournaments, and Lake Seminole is where one of them came from. When it comes to big fish, I rank it right there with the California Delta, Clear Lake and Lake Falcon. These lakes also happen to be where the rest of my near-10 pounders came from.
From Georgia, we head south to the St. Johns River. The St. Johns is where we started in 2012, and a good event there got my AOY season going full steam ahead right from the beginning. Once again, it'll take some big fish to have a chance at winning this event. More than likely, I'll be putting the Costa sunglasses to work for a second event in a row, sight fishing.
Then we head to the Ozarks and Table Rock. Table Rock is one of the lakes I would consider a home lake. I grew up on that lake, and my goal will be to fend off the home lake jinx and perform well. Table Rock is a nice change of pace from Bull Shoals, which has been good to me over the past two years.
After that, we head to Texas and Toledo Bend, the home of my 2012 Elite Series victory. While it'll fish differently this time of year, it's still one of the best lakes in the country, and the fishing should be great.
Next on the schedule is Lake Dardanelle. I have a fair amount of time on the water there, but like Seminole it's been a while since I've been there. I think it'll be a shallow water bite, which is right up my alley.
There are two new bodies of water (for me) on the schedule, and they are Lake Chickamauga and the Delaware River. Lake Chickamauga, in Tennessee, is the first on the schedule, and the fishing has been incredible there for the last few years. It's just up the river from Guntersville, which leads me to believe it should fish similarly. Ledge fishing will probably be the pattern of choice, but you never know.
The Delaware River is the biggest mystery for me. While I am hoping my experience on the Potomac River and other tidal fisheries will be of help, I really don't know. The rule I have for myself is to pre-practice any body of water I haven't been to in the past. Therefore, I'll visit both Lake Chickamauga and the Delaware River to scout them before the off limits period begins. What some of you might find interesting is that I probably won't fish at either lake. I will just look at everything with my eyes and my Lowrance HDS units. I want to know what's there to work with when I return.
Finally, we head back up to New York. If you follow my blog, you'll know I love fishing in New York — "up state" especially. While Lake Cayuga will most likely be more largemouth fishing than smallmouth, it's still going to fish very well. Luckily, I was listening when New York Governor Cuomo was talking about us coming back. I wasn't the only one listening either, I think about half of the Elite Series anglers visited Cayuga between the St. Lawrence River and St. Clair events this year.
The schedule looks great and it's good to see B.A.S.S. making some changes. The first change of note is the BASSfest (Elite event on Chickamauga), which is a fan appreciation event. I like the idea of a bigger payback for that event. B.A.S.S. is also giving some Bassmaster Opens anglers a chance to get in there and mix it up with us — or as B.A.S.S. put it, "test their skills against the best."
The other change is the ninth Elite event or the AOY Championship. I love the new concept of the top 50 fishing the event instead of the top eight to 10 and a vote for the next four. It's a great concept and rewarding the top 50 in the AOY points is a nice little bonus for the anglers that fished well all season.
Overall, the 2014 season is still over five months away, but I can't wait to get to Guntersville for the Classic. In the meantime, I plan to climb into a few tree stands, get myself a nice big buck and then turn my focus towards Lake Guntersville and bringing home a Bassmaster Classic title.