Deb Johnson: BASS Reporter's Notebook

B.A.S.S. is back; New digs; Open registration runs wide open; Russ Lane's new ride is a Phoenix; Women in the Opens; and … Up next

Deb Johnson

B.A.S.S. is back

The "dots" are returning to the name and products of the organization that's been serving bass anglers worldwide for more than 40 years. T

he subtle name change from BASS to B.A.S.S. is an affirmation of the company's grass roots, said Jerry McKinnis, who with Don Logan and Jim Copeland acquired B.A.S.S. from ESPN on Nov. 1. "We want to get this back to being a friendlier organization, a we're-here-to-do-whatever-we-need-to-do-to-make-you-happy organization," McKinnis said. "To me, that's what those dots mean. It means we're back to where we used to be a long time ago … to where we make everybody feel like this is a very warm and fuzzy group of new owners who want to know about the members."

Originally the company was the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the name founder Ray Scott created for his fledgling startup in 1968. As the company grew, the abbreviation B.A.S.S., spelled with periods and all capital letters, was adopted.

After ESPN bought the company in 2001, the periods were removed during a broad-based rebranding campaign Many Federation Nation clubs and state organizations, however, retained the periods in their official names and on patches. "The Federation Nation is a big part of what I'm talking about," McKinnis said.

"They kind of feel like they've been forsaken — and by that, I don't mean to be disparaging about ESPN, because ESPN was wonderful, but they were awfully big folks to be getting down with the Federation Nation and making them feel important."

The name change will be reflected in all B.A.S.S. products. "We're not going to go chucking all of our letterheads and so on, but over time we'll have everything changed back to B.A.S.S. — with dots," he said.

New digs

Almost simultaneously with the Nov. 1 purchase from ESPN, B.A.S.S. moved to new quarters just down the street from its former offices. The new address is 1170 Celebration Blvd., Suite 200, Celebration, FL 34747. B.A.S.S. offices had been located in a Celebration property that also housed several operations of Disney, ESPN's parent company.

Open registration runs wide open

With nine Bassmaster Classic berths up for grabs through the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open season, the staff at B.A.S.S. headquarters is expecting to be slammed this week as anglers call to get in the game.

Registration began today (Nov. 16) for B.A.S.S. Federation Nation members, B.A.S.S. Life Members and B.A.S.S. Insider members. Anyone within those groups will have priority through tomorrow to sign up for all three Southern Open tournaments. On Thursday (Nov. 18), any B.A.S.S. member will be eligible to register for all three Southern Open events. Last week, anglers who earned priority through a 2010 Bassmaster circuit were eligible to get on the Southern Open roster.

They filled about one-third of the 200-angler field, according to Chris Bowes, senior tournament manager. "There are still openings, but the field will fill fast," Bowes said Monday before the expected onslaught of registration requests. B.A.S.S. also is accepting co-angler registrations this week, he said. The Southern Opens will kick off Jan. 20-22 with the Lake Tohopekaliga competition out of Kissimmee, Fla.

Then Southern Open anglers will compete March 24-26 on Lake Norman out of Charlotte, N.C., and June 2-4 on Douglas Lake out of Jefferson County, Tenn. The pro-side winner of each of the three tournaments will win $55,000 in cash and prizes and will qualify for the 2012 Classic, as will the pro champs of the three Central Open events and winners of the three Northern Open tournaments. That's a total of nine Classic qualifiers through the Opens tour.

"We're anticipating full fields throughout the year," Bowes said. "With a Classic berth going to each of the nine winners, we're creating more opportunities for every angler throughout the season." The points system still will be used, but only to determine qualifiers for the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series. The top five anglers from each Open division will receive an Elite Series invitation.

Central Open registration will begin later this month; registration for the Northern Opens will begin in early December. (


Russ Lane's new ride is a Phoenix

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., has a new boat deal for the 2011 season with Phoenix Boats of Tullahoma, Tenn. He'll power his 721 ProXP Phoenix with a Yamaha SHO 250. His first Bassmaster tournament with his new rig will be the Feb. 18-20 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.

Lane said that by then, the boat will be wrapped with a design very similar to what he had last season. The wrap's background was primarily black. The design centered on a big, red, open-mouthed fish about to swallow the words "Big Bite Baits," Lane's wrap sponsor. He lists more than a few favorite things about his new water-based ride. "I'm not an engineer or anything, but what I can testify to is what the boat does, and it rides extremely soft in choppy or rough water," he said. "It is best ride I've ever been in.

On top of that, the Diamond Vee hull design is what makes the boat able to handle very sharp turns." Deck padding under the carpet makes it "almost like standing on your carpet at home. It has a lot of give. That helps your back over a long period of time," he added. A Lazy-Susan design within a below-decks storage box keeps his organizer boxes … well, organized. Lane is especially taken with the rig's speed. "I expect this boat, with the Yamaha SHO 250, to be one of the fastest boats on tour, so I'm looking forward to outrunning many of the guys on tour," he laughed.

Lane has been a full-time pro for more than four years. His record includes a 2010 Elite Series postseason win on Lake Jordan in his home state. His 2011 Classic qualification will be his fourth Classic appearance.

Women in the Opens

One result of the 2010 Bassmaster Open season is that women showed once again that they can compete for bass bites in tournaments with big fields, and male-dominated fields at that. As if there was a question. Kim Bain-Moore and Pam Martin-Wells already provided ample proof that bass don't know who's holding the rod. Bain-Moore was the first woman in a Bassmaster Classic; she shattered that ceiling in 2009.

Martin-Wells, a 2010 Classic qualifier, made the final-day cut, finishing 22nd in a field of 51. When the Women's Bassmaster Tour was disbanded after the 2009 season, several of the anglers signed on for the 2010 Bassmaster Open circuit. A few went to the Southern Open division. About a dozen joined the Central Open as pros; eight elected to go out as co-anglers. A few of the pros, most notably Martin-Wells, had been entering Opens for years. One of the Central Open pro-side recruits was Dianna Clark, a three-time WBT champ and 2006 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year.

A retired Army sergeant now living in Bumpus Mills, Tenn., she turned in a fifth-place finish in the Central's Red River event. Another Central recruit was Patti Campbell. She's from Waxahachie, Texas — not Lake Texoma — but she found and landed a 5-pounder, unofficially a big bass of the Central's 2010 season finale on Texoma (big-fish weights aren't officially recorded in the Opens).

No matter that she was competing as a co-angler, the big fish was a coup from anyone's perspective. She finished in sixth place. Competing as a pro, Janet Parker of Little Elm, Texas, made the cut to compete the final day at Texoma. She was in 18th place after two days, but finished in 26th place. This was a tournament in which many anglers struggled, but Parker prevailed, just as she did in 2009 to win a WBT event.

Those three examples don't begin to tell the entire story of women in Bassmaster tournaments. And, no doubt, most of that history is yet to be written.

Up next

Scheduled next for "Day on the Lake LIVE" at is 2008 Bassmaster Classic champ Alton Jones of Woodway, Texas. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro will attack Fayette County Lake in his home state on Dec. 8. visitors can watch the live show, but only members of B.A.S.S. Insider can click in and ask the pro questions as he fishes. The Nov. 12 edition with Mark Menendez, Elite Series pro from Paducah, Ky., is now available for viewing at B.A.S.S. Insider.