Dale Hightower of Sand Springs, Okla., is on the road to the Bassmaster Classic once again.
Hightower qualified for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic by being the best angler of 2010 in the Central Division of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. This week he is competing on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Central Divisional presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats, hoping he can fish his way once again onto the sport’s biggest stage.
“The Classic was such an experience that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get back,” said Hightower, who finished 15th in the 2011 Classic.
Out of Kimberling City, Mo., the divisional tournament will begin Wednesday and conclude Friday. Although all anglers fish against each other for the overall champion trophy, anglers compete only against others from their states for the right to advance to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats. At the championship, only six will end up with a Classic entry.
On Table Rock Lake on Monday, the first of two official practice days for the 96-angler field, Hightower said the lake was not fishing like it had last year when it was the site of the 2010 Central Divisional. Post-flood conditions are making a big difference, in fact.
“The lake is 14 feet above normal,” said Hightower. “A lot of fish are in transition, trying to move to summer patterns, but with the water being up, it’s keeping a lot of the fish up shallow. It’s been good fishing.”
Hightower likes his chances to advance to the championship. “I feel like I’ve been doing better (than other Oklahoma anglers), but then again, it’s only practice. Things could easily change,” he said.
Any experience he gains on Table Rock could help him later this year in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open (the tournament was rescheduled from April to October because of Table Rock floods). He said he entered the 2011 Opens as another possible avenue into the 2012 Classic as well as with an eye on qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series.