BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Faced with unprecedented demand from anglers wanting to compete in the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series, B.A.S.S. has decided to expand the field to accommodate more Elite Series anglers.
The field size was set earlier this year at 105, but it became obvious this week that that number would soon be reached and that 10 anglers who competed in past Elite Series events would not be able to continue in B.A.S.S.’s premier tournament series. To date, 102 anglers have accepted their invitations, and three more are due to respond by Nov. 26.
“We’ve had less attrition from the Elite Series and higher participation from the Opens than any time in the past,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. Only two of the 85 Elite Series anglers who requalified for 2014 failed to sign up by deadline dates, and 14 of the 15 pros who earned invitations through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens have committed to compete next year. That has left a number of rookies as well as veteran B.A.S.S. anglers outside the cut.
In a letter to Elite Series anglers today, B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin told the group, “Many of you have asked us to consider letting some of those anglers into the Elites. In the interest of fairness, and because we believe there has been some misunderstanding among some of the fishermen, we have decided to invite everyone who fished the Elites in 2013.”
He also noted that any additional entry fees from anglers beyond the full field of 105 will be applied to payouts in 2014 Elite Series tournaments.
“We were extremely pleased to see that so many Elite Series anglers wanted to continue competing on this circuit, and especially that almost every qualifier from the Opens wanted to become an Elite Angler,” noted Akin. “This shows that the Elite Series is stronger than ever, despite the weak economy. It’s a testament to the popularity of the nation’s premier bass fishing circuit.”
He pointed out that the Elite Series has been extremely popular with fans as well. Attendance at Elite events in 2013 totaled 110,285, up 25 percent from the previous record of 87,685 set last year. “We’re going into 2014 with tremendous momentum,” he added. “And we’re hoping to hit new heights with two new and exciting events: BASSfest in June and the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship at the end of the season.”