The road to the Bassmaster Classic is a long one. Regardless of the route an angler chooses, it is a difficult journey to the pinnacle of bass fishing. Even with the obstacles, every fisherman that dons a tournament jersey at one time or another entertains thoughts of fishing in the Classic. "It is your one and only goal at the beginning of each year," said Toyota pro Terry Scroggins. "If you make it to the Classic then you can think about winning, but you have to get there first."
Terry is one of hundreds of professional anglers vying for a chance to fish in the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic to be held at Lay Lake in Alabama. The '07 Classic will be a mixed bag of Elite Series anglers, Tour competitors, Federation fishermen and the Weekend Series champion. Doubling his odds and his efforts, Terry is fishing at both the Elite Series level and on the Bassmaster Southern Tour. With just one event remaining at both levels, Terry has put himself in an enviable position. He currently sits atop the point's race in the BASS Southern Division Tour and he is 34th in the Angler of the Year race on the Elite side. "I haven't made it yet," Terry said about his chances of fishing in a fourth Classic. "I still have two events to go, but my odds are looking better."
It was not the thought of a Classic berth that enticed Terry into fishing the Opens. "We finished the '05 season early in the year and there really wasn't anything left to fish," he said. "I started fishing the Opens and actually made more money in 2005 doing that than I did on tour." In his fourth year as a professional angler, Terry is again capitalizing on the financial rewards of fishing the Tour division formerly known as the Opens. In just three events, he has earned more than $110,000.00. At the Elite Series level, Terry has won $75,600.00, but if you add in his Major finishes and a fourth at the 2006 Bassmaster Classic, Terry is well over the $100,000 mark there as well.
The last of five Southern Tour events kicked off this week at Lake Lanier near Gainesville, Georgia. The top three point's leaders after this event will qualify for the Classic. Heading into this week's competition Terry led the way with 867 points. The Toyota team member was followed closely by Texan James Niggemeyer at 864 and fellow Floridian Chris Lane with 803. "The fishing is tough," Terry said. "The better fish will probably come from deeper water and it could take around 40 pounds to win."
With such a tight race going on in the Southern division finale, Terry needs a strong finish at Lake Lanier to remain in the top three. Currently sitting at 34th in the AOY standings on the Elite Series trail, Scroggins is on the bubble in that race as well. After the final regular season event at Table Rock, the top 37 anglers will qualify for the Classic. "Table Rock will be a tough event," he said. "The fish will be suspended and its one of those tournaments where you are really on them (fish) or you not."
With a 2006 tournament schedule made up of 11 Elites Series events, 3 Majors and 5 Southern Tour stops Terry has worked hard trying to make a return trip to Lay Lake. Fishing in three Classics, Terry has finished no worse than 16th and that was at Lay Lake in 2002. "It would be great to make it back there," he said. "I've got two shots at it and hopefully things will work out."
Terry's road towards the Classic has been a grueling one. It began with a second place finish at the first Southern Tour event on Lake Okeechobee followed by a fourth place finish at the '06 Classic. He continued his strong performance throughout most of the year but stumble at the Bluegrass Brawl on Kentucky Lake posting a 92 and on Lake Champlain where he finished 84th. Now, after 9 months and 17 tournaments, Terry is excited about the state of professional bass fishing. "This is the way it should be," Terry said. "Since I've been doing this, 2006 has been the best year by far."
"We used to call it the spring season," Terry continued referring to the previous Bassmaster schedule. "With 11 regular season events, the Tour events and the Majors spread out over the entire year, anglers have a chance to showcase all their talents." Terry hopes his talents will continue to shine as he heads down the road to the brass ring of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.