BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s an often heard refrain among bass anglers: “I’ve dreamed of going to the Bassmaster Classic since I was a kid.” Only a select group achieve the objective of seeing their names on the roster for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, but with the field for the world championship of bass fishing close to completion, many of those anglers rest easy knowing they’ve made it.
Already 54 of the eventual 56 competitors — from Classic rookies to former Classic champs — have been determined and will compete for a share of a purse worth $1 million in Birmingham, Ala., B.A.S.S.’s headquarters. Fishing will take place on Lake Guntersville, Feb. 21-23, and weigh-ins will be held at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
Remaining to be determined are qualifiers from the Toyota Bassmaster Weekend Series and the inaugural Bassmaster Classic Wild Card tournament on Lake Okeechobee.
The Top 50 Weekend Series anglers will compete on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tenn., Nov. 6-9. The anglers will be vying for prize money and the Classic berth that goes to the champion. At the Wild Card, Dec. 5-7, Elite Series and Opens anglers have one final shot at earning their way into the Classic.
Alabama has been home to the Bassmaster Classic 11 times since 1974, and Birmingham has been the site of the Classic weigh-in six times.
Of the 54 anglers already qualified for the Super Bowl of bass fishing, six earned their spots through the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Eight competitors qualified through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, and eight took their slots by winning Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments.
Others in the field earned their spots by consistently performing throughout the Bassmaster Elite Series season and accruing Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., ended the season at the top in points and won the coveted Angler of the Year trophy. Cliff Pace, last year’s Classic champion, automatically qualified to defend his title but also earned his way through points.
As for the anglers who are “in,” here are a few interesting facts:
- Alabama leads the way with nine qualifiers. Texas has six, and Oklahoma has five. It’s the seventh year in a row that Alabama has sent the most anglers to the Classic or tied for that distinction. Since the championship’s inaugural event in 1971, Texas has qualified the most anglers with 295.
- Arkansas is the only state to qualify at least one angler for the Classic every year. This time, 1995 Classic champ Mark Davis, Stephen Browning and Doug Thompson will represent the Natural State.
- Gary Klein has the most experience of anyone in the field. He'll be competing in his 30th championship. Only four-time Classic champ Rick Clunn has fished more (32).
- There are eight former Classic champions in the 2014 field, including Mark Davis (1995), Alton Jones (2008), Michael Iaconelli (2003), Chris Lane (2012), Cliff Pace (2013), Takahiro Omori (2004), Skeet Reese (2009) and Kevin VanDam (2001, 2005, 2010 and 2011). Between them, they’ve won 11 world championships.
- There are eight former Toyota Bassmaster Anglers of the Year in the 2014 Classic field, including Brent Chapman (2012), Mark Davis (1995, 1998 and 2001), Michael Iaconelli (2006), Gary Klein (1989 and 1993), Aaron Martens (2005 and 2013), Skeet Reese (2007), Gerald Swindle (2004) and Kevin VanDam (1992, 1996, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011). Between them, they’ve won 18 AOY titles.
- With 56 anglers, the 2014 Classic will feature the second largest field in championship history. In 2003, there were 61 anglers in the Classic.
Classic qualifiers will vie for a first-place payday of $300,000, the most coveted trophy in sportfishing and a piece of bass fishing immortality.
2014 Classic qualifiers and their qualification routes
Defending Bassmaster Classic Champion
Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss.
Bassmaster Elite Series Champions
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas
Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas
Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla.
Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.
Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.
Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla.
Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho
Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala.
Bassmaster Opens Series Champions
Richard Howes of Oviedo, Fla.
Patrick Bone of Cleveland, Ga.
David Kilgore of Jasper, Ala.
Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark.
Bassmaster Opens Series Champions (continued)
Chris Jones of Bokoshe, Okla.
Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla.
Randy Howell of Springville, Ala.
Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.
B.A.S.S. Nation Champions
Jeff Lugar of McGaheysville, Va.
Coby Carden of Shelby, Ala.
Mark Dove of North Vernon, Ind.
Paul Mueller of Southbury, Ct.
Doug Thompson of Mabelvale, Ark.
Tim Johnston of Kalispell, Mont.
Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Champion
Jordan Lee of Auburn, Ala.
Bassmaster Angler of the Year Points Rank
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year
Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.
Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas
John Crews of Salem, Va.
Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.
Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La.
Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif.
Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn.
Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C.
Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala.
John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz.
Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan.
Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.
Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.
Yusuke Miyazaki of Forney, Texas
Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.
Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas
Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va.
David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn.
Cliff Pirch of Payson, Ariz.
Morizo Shimizu of Osaka, Japan
Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark.
Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.
Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas
Josh Bertrand of Gilbert, Ariz.
Bill Lowen of Brookville, Ind.
Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla.