As the pros in the Bassmaster Elite Series left Lake Okeechobee last Sunday, amateur anglers in the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Southern Divisional were taking their place.
Ninety-eight Federation Nation anglers from seven Southern states hit the water Monday and Tuesday for official practice for the Wednesday through Friday tournament. The top prizes are berths for the Oct. 25-27 Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. The national championship in turn will qualify six anglers for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Southern Divisional angler George Crain of Cropwell, Ala., knows all about that. After nine years of trying to win a Classic berth through the Federation Nation, Crain did it in 2010 at age 58. He competed in the 2011 Classic, finishing 32nd. This week he’s attempting to win a second trip to the biggest event in competitive fishing.
“If you ever make it to the Classic, you want to go back twice as bad as you did before you made it,” Crain said.
Another Southern Divisional participant has a last name familiar to anyone who has followed pro bass fishing lately: Arnie Lane. He’s the brother of 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ Chris Lane, who finished in second place in the just-concluded Elite event. Arnie, who lives in Lakeland, Fla., is also brother to Elite pro Bobby Lane, who has an Elite Series win and five Bassmaster Classic qualifications on his pro record.
Yet another name might catch the eye: Kyle Glasgow. But, no, he is not kin to Allan Glasgow of Ashville, Ala., qualifier for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic by winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers.
“We know each other, but we aren’t related — not that I know of,” said Kyle, who lives in Guin, Ala., on the opposite side of Alabama as Allan. “We get asked that all the time.”
Kyle Glasgow is in his fourth Southern Divisional on the team from Alabama. The state traditionally has a strong team. It produced Jamie Horton, winner of the 2011 Federation Nation Championship (which the Federation anglers often call “The Nationals”). Horton took the option to turn Elite. While Glasgow would like that person to be him this time around, he’s focused now only on the first step.
“I’d really like to get to The Nationals, especially because they’re in Alabama this year,” he said. “I haven’t made it there yet. There’s a lot of tough competition.”
From this week’s event, only one angler from each state will advance to the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship. Besides Alabama, represented in the Southern Divisional event are Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Throughout the year, other divisionals will qualify anglers from across the country. They’ll be joined at the national championship in October by anglers who won qualifying events in several foreign countries as well as by the Angler of the Year from the Paralyzed Veterans of America circuit.
On Okeechobee this week, Federation anglers are likely to get into the same mix of spawning bass and postspawners that Elite pros found in the vast fishery. California pro Ish Monroe won with a colossal 108 pounds, 5 ounces, over four days.
The Federation Nation competitors will have three, not four, days on Okeechobee, but equally good opportunities to feast on the famed lake’s spring bounty. The weather predictions show they’ll encounter steady conditions of partly cloudy skies and air temperature highs in the low- to mid-80s.
Like the pros, the Federation Nation anglers will have to figure out the effects of lake winds. Even the predicted 10 to 15 mph winds of this week can whip up shallow Lake Okeechobee and affect how the bass bite, as the pros discovered last week.
“I think the wind will play a big role for us,” said Crain, who last fished Okeechobee in the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open. He’s been coming to the lake since the mid-1990s. “It’s a different lake every time, and it’s a great lake.”
Bassmaster.com will provide live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards during the weigh-ins. Coverage at Bassmaster.com also will include daily standings and results.
The weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET.