Roughly three months out from bass fishing's biggest event, the full field for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic was finalized Saturday after Jeff Coble of Beaufort, N.C., punched the final ticket by winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship Operated by American Bass Anglers. The 50 Bassmaster Classic competitors will face off Feb. 22-24 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
Other than Coble and Boyd Duckett, who qualified on the strength of his 2007 Bassmaster Classic victory, the other 48 competitors earned their berths through one of three avenues: the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens or the BASS Federation Nation Championship.
"This is the ultimate championship event in professional bass fishing," said Trip Weldon, BASS director of tournaments. "All of these anglers are top-notch competitors who persevered through difficult roads to get to this point."
According to BASS rules, Lake Hartwell will become off-limits to Bassmaster Classic participants Dec. 15. Anglers will get another crack at the fishery during the official practice period, set for Feb. 12-14, and a final look Feb. 20.
The competition will feature daily launches at 7:15 a.m. ET Friday-Sunday at Portman Marina. Daily weigh-ins will take place at Greenville's Bi-Lo Center at 3:30 p.m. ET. The 2008 Classic will be hosted by Greenville Convention & Visitor's Bureau.
The tournament will receive 11 ½ hours of television coverage on ESPN2 during the three-day event. The full list of qualifiers arranged alphabetically can be found below.
Sponsors of the event include Toyota Tundra, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Purolator, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics and MotorGuide.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com/classic
2008 Bassmaster Classic Contenders
1. Casey Ashley Donalds, S.C.
2. Todd Auten Lake Wylie, S.C.
3. Mike Baskett Salem, Oreg.
4. Tommy Biffle Wagoner, Okla.
5. Stephen Browning Hot Springs, Ark.
6. Brent Chapman Lake Quivira, Kansas
7. Jeff Coble Beaufort, N.C.
8. John Crews Salem, Va.
9. Boyd Duckett Demopolis, Ala.
10. Edwin Evers Talala, Okla.
11. Todd Faircloth Jasper, Ala.
12. Jeff Freeman Max Meadows, Va.
13. Jay Fuller Kingston, Okla.
14. Greg Hackney Gonzales, La.
15. Brent Haimes Mazeppa, Minn.
16. Charlie Hartley Grove City, Ohio
17. Timmy Horton Muscle Shoals, Ala.
18. Mike Iaconelli Runnemede, N.J.
19. Alton Jones Waco, Texas
20. Kelly Jordon Mineola, Texas
21. Steve Kennedy Auburn, Ala.
22. Kotaro Kiriyama Moody, Ala.
23. Gary Klein Weathford, Texas
24. Jeff Kriet Ardmore, Okla.
25. Jamie Laiche Gonzales, La.
26. Bobby Lane Lakeland, Fla.
27. Chris Lane Winter Haven, Fla.
28. Jared Lintner Arroyo Grande, Calif.
29. Chris Loftus Bloomfield, N.Y.
30. Aaron Martens Leeds, Ala.
31. Mike McClelland Bella Vista, Ark.
32. Ish Monroe Hughson, Calif.
33. John Murray Phoenix, Ariz.
34. Takahiro Omori Emory, Texas
35. Cliff Pace Petal, Miss.
36. Clark Reehm Russellville, Ark.
37. Skeet Reese Auburn, Calif.
38. Derek Remitz Madison, Ala.
39. Scott Rook Little Rock, Ark.
40. Fred Roumbanis Auburn, Calif.
41. Terry Scroggins Palatka, Fla.
42. Kevin Short Mayflower, Ark.
43. Matthew Sphar Pavilion, N.Y.
44. Gerald Swindle Hayden, Ala.
45. Peter Thliveros Jacksonville, Fla.
46. Richard Watson Plattekloof, South Africa
47. Kevin Wirth Crestwood, Ky.
48. Dave Wolak Wake Forrest, N.C.
49. Mike Wurm Hot Springs, Ark.
50. Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich.