2011 Elite Series - Sunshine Showdown Harris Chain of Lakes - Tavares, FL, Mar 10 - 13, 2011

Elites Series 2011 Rookie Rundown

Brian Snowden's fall at the finish line of the 2008 Sunshine Showdown still stands as one of the most dramatic moments of the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Andy Montgomery

TAVARES, Fla. -- Rookie (noun): A first year participant in a major professional sport.

The above definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, might apply to part of the 2011 Elite Series field, but for others, it's far from fitting. Here we've surveyed several of the tenderfoots set to take on the best anglers in the world.

Ott Defoe, 25

Knoxville, Tenn.

How he qualified: Southern Opens

Angling credentials:

Q: Have you ever been a guide?

A: Yes, one year. "I got laid off about a year ago, and I've been doing it so I'd have something to do."

Q: Have you ever been a touring pro on another circuit?

A: FLW Tour four years, 1 on FLW Series

Q: What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?

A: 10-9

Goals for 2011 season: "My number one goal is to make the Classic."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? "I fished with FLW for last 4 or 5 years as a pro, and I had to quit that so that I could fish Elites. There was no way I could do both with the schedules the way they are."

Event most anticipating: "That's a toss up between West Point Lake and Lake Wheeler. But, I'd probably have to say Wheeler because it'll probably fish like some of the lakes at home do."

Event least anticipating: "Lake Murray. I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just that around then the blueback herring will be doing their thing and I don't know much about that."

Rig: Nitro/Mercury, Nitro wrap


Andy Montgomery, 28

Blacksburg, S.C.

How he qualified: Southern Opens

Angling credentials:

Q: Guide?

A: Yes, " A little bit, but not enough to speak of."

Q: Touring pro?

A: FLW Tour and Series 4 years

Q: Big bass?

A: 9-8

Goals for 2011 season: "My main goal is making it to the Classic."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? I had to give up the FLW Tour. I would have liked to fish both, but had to give that up. I was civil engineer for four years prior the FLW, but I quit that to go full-time fishing."

Event most anticipating: "Good question. I don't know, none really stick out. I don't care for Florida events. It was Toledo Bend, but then I found out that it's really low, so it's hard to say."

Event least anticipating: "The Florida ones!"

Rig: Ranger/Evinrude, Fetha Styx rods wrap


Brandon Palaniuk, 23

Rathdrum, Id.

How he qualified: B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Champion

Angling credentials:

Q: Guide?

A: No.

Q: Before this, were you ever a touring pro?

A: No.

Q: Big bass?

A: 12-0

Goals for 2011 season: "I want to re-qualify for the Classic, Elite Series, and win Rookie of the Year."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? "I quit working my logging job. My philosophy is that it was going that way anyway, so when I got the chance to get out, I did."

Event most anticipating: "That's hard to say since I've never fished any of them. But, I have to say I'm excited about Pickwick and Wheeler."

Event least anticipating: "This one. It all goes uphill from here."

Rig: Skeeter/Yamaha, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation wrap


Ryan Said, 30

Wixom, Mich.

How he qualified: Northern Opens

Angling credentials:
Q: Guide?
A: No.

Q: Touring pro?
A: No.

Q: Big bass?
A: 6-2 smallmouth

Goals for 2011 season: "Mainly, I want to re-qualify for the Classic and have a good time. The folks at home say that I'm living their dream, so I'm going to try and do them proud."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? "Well, I had a job with Chrysler as an engineer, which I took a leave of absence from. It was a relatively high-paying job that I left for a chance to fish."

Event most anticipating: "I don't know because I haven't been to any of them before. But, I think that lake Murray might be good for me because they should be done spawning and the bite may move offshore. At least that's what I'm hoping for."

Event least anticipating: "The one that starts in two days!"

Rig: Skeeter/Yamaha, Ram Trucks wrap


Lee Sisson, 62
Winter Haven, Fla.

How he qualified: Central Opens

Angling credentials:

Q: Guide?
A: No.

Q: Touring pro?
A: No.

Q: Big bass?
A: 12-14

Goals for 2011 season: "Survival! But, I want to have fun as well. And, like everyone, else, I want to win one. I want to win all of them, because if you're going to wish, wish big. But, realistically, I think I want to make a few checks, which would make my wife happy."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? "Not much. I sold my company and semi-retired a while back. But, I almost had to give up a wife! But besides that, nothing too much."

Event most anticipating: "I don't know. There are a lot of them I'm looking forward to. Toledo Bend, Murray, and Pickwick to name a few. I say those because I've fished them before and have done pretty well, but this is a whole new group of guys, and they can catch fish. Every lake presents a different challenge."

Event least anticipating: "Harris Chain. But, I think there are a few things that could go well here."

Rig: Skeeter/Yamaha, Two Way Boat Alarms wrap


Nate Wellman, 28
Newaygo, Mich.

How he qualified: Northern Opens

Angling credentials:

Q: Guide?
A: Yes, in western Michigan for five years.

Q: Touring pro?
A: Yes, FLW Tour.

Q: Big bass?
A: 11-4

Goals for 2011 season: "My main goal is to finish well in every tournament, but I want to be Rookie of the Year - Angler of the Year would be great - but ROY and making it to the Classic are my main goals."

What did you quit/drop to fish the Elites? "Nothing, really. Except for a lot of family time."

Event most anticipating: "There are a couple of good ones, namely Wheeler and Pickwick. I love the Tennessee River. I like fishing offshore when I can, that's a lot of fun when you get on em."

Event least anticipating: "The St. John's River. There is so much water and with three big lakes and a river system, there's a lot to cover. Plus, some of it's tidal, and some isn't. I'm sort of Looking forward to it, but I don't know. There's a lot going on there."

Rig: Ranger/Yamaha, Trailer Equipment


Jonathan VanDam, 22
Kalamazoo, Mich.

How he qualified: Northern Opens

Angling credentials:
Q: Guide?
A: No.

Q: Touring pro?
A: No.

Q: Big bass?
A: 8-6

Goals for 2011 season: "My main goal is to re-qualify for the Elites. Otherwise, qualify for the Classic. Also, Rookie of the Year would be nice."

Event most anticipating: "I'm really looking forward to this next one, and Pickwick as well. I've never been there, but it has both smallmouth and largemouth. Toledo Bend should be pretty good, too."

Rig: Triton/Mercury, RadicalOutdoors.com wrap


Craig Schuff, 50
Watauga, Texas

How he qualified: Central Opens

Angling credentials:
Q: Guide?
A: No.

Q: Touring pro?
A: No.

Q: Big bass?
A: 12-0

Goals for 2011 season: "Like everyone else, I want to make the Classic."

Event most anticipating: "I'm looking forward to enjoying the experience, and seeing what it's like."

Event least anticipating: "When it's over!"

Rig: Skeeter/Yamaha, Fun N Sun wrap

Also new to the Elite Series for 2011 are Dean Alexander, Keith Combs (2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open points champion), Travis Manson, Ben Parker, Russell Parrish, James Stricklin and David Walker.

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