BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series promises to be one for the history books. The 100 or so Elite Series anglers who compete on the nation’s premier bass tournament circuit will visit rivers, reservoirs and natural lakes in 11 states as they vie for fame, fortune and a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Several of the fisheries are steeped in B.A.S.S. lore, and the others soon will be.
“We’ve just finished an Elite Series season that saw record attendance, record Internet traffic and record media coverage,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin, “but we’re already looking forward to all that 2014 will hold.”
The Elite Series, which has included eight events for the past five years, will grow to nine tournaments next year, he added, and one of them will include a fan-attracting “BASSfest” reminiscent of the old summertime Bassmaster Classics and with a $1,000,000 prize purse.
And for the first time in Bassmaster tournament history, the ninth and final event of the Elite Series will be the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in which the Top 50 Elite anglers will compete for a share of the $900,000 AOY payout, along with Bassmaster Classic berths and what many of the pros consider the ultimate prize, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy.
The Elite Series kicks off in Bainbridge, Ga., at Lake Seminole, March 13-16. Seminole has been the site of 13 previous B.A.S.S. events, including the very first tournament ever conducted under the auspices of B.A.S.S., fishing’s largest membership organization. Two earlier events were run by founder Ray Scott in 1967, but the organization had not yet been formally created. This will be the first Elite event on Seminole and the first B.A.S.S. event on its waters since a Bassmaster Southern Open in 2010.
From Seminole, the Elite anglers will head southeast to Palatka, Fla., and the St. Johns River, March 20-23, where 18 previous professional tournaments have taken place, including Elite events in 2011 and 2012. The St. Johns produced the first 10-pound bass in B.A.S.S. competition history in 1973, and double-digit fish could be plentiful at this springtime event. Edwin Evers won the 2011 Elite stop at the St. Johns, while Alton Jones took top honors in 2012.