With the completion of the 2007 Elite Series, we've not only crowned a new Bassmaster Angler of the Year in Skeet Reese, we've also gone a long way toward determining the field for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
Next February, 50 of the best bass anglers in the world will vie for $500,000 and the title Bassmaster Classic champion. While most of the Elite Series anglers will admit that AOY means more to their ego, the Classic changes careers like no other championship. With the Elite Series finale at Lake Toho, 37 of the berths are now determined.
Boyd Duckett will be going back to the Classic as the defending champion. Coming off the most lucrative year in Bassmaster tournament history, Duckett earned $837,500 in prize money plus another $10,250 in AOY money for finishing 17th in the points race. His spot in the Classic was reserved.
The next 36 Classic qualifiers are the top ranking anglers from the 2007 Elite Series season.
2008 Classic Qualifiers (from the Elite Series) Skeet Reese Kevin VanDam Aaron Martens Terry Scroggins Jared Lintner Todd Faircloth Scott Rook Brent Chapman Steve Kennedy Tommy Biffle Greg Hackney Fred Roumbanis Jeff Kriet Gary Klein Ishama Monroe
Cliff Pace Peter Thliveros Kelly Jordon Chris Lane Kevin Wirth Stephen Browning John Murray Edwin Evers Derek Remitz Tim Horton Takahiro Omori Michael Iaconelli Matthew Sphar Mike McClelland Alton Jones Casey Ashley John Crews Kevin Short Mike Wurm Gerald Swindle Kotaro Kiriyama
The group includes five Classic rookies (Roumbanis, Lane, Sphar, Ashley and Short). One is an Elite Series rookie, but has fished the Classic before (Remitz).
Kevin VanDam owns the longest active consecutive appearance streak in the Classic, with 18 straight. Tim Horton is second with 9.
Gary Klein is the ultimate Classic veteran, with 26 appearances, but he's yet to win the big one. KVD is second with his 18 trips to the show. Four others have been to the Classic 10 or more times (Biffle, Thliveros, Jones and Wurm).
With 37 qualifiers in the books, Alabama and Texas are tied with the most Classic anglers at 6 apiece. Arkansas keeps its sting alive, too. The Natural State has sent a competitor to each and every Classic. This year, Arkansas has 4 qualifiers thus far.
The Classic will be welcoming back a couple of anglers after a long hiatus. Stephen Browning and Kotaro Kiriyama will both be competing in their first Classic since 2002.
Four of the Classic qualifiers have at least one Classic trophy in their trophy case at home (Duckett, Omori, Iaconelli) and VanDam has two (2001 and 2005). Seven of them have won AOY titles (Reese, VanDam, Martens, Klein, Horton, Iaconelli and Swindle).
Only one South Carolinian (Ashley) and no Georgians will fish the 38th Classic on Lake Hartwell, which straddles the two states on the Savannah River.
On the bubble to qualify in 38th place is Kentucky's Mark Menendez who is holding his breath for Terry Scroggins to have a good performance in the final Southern Open event on Wheeler Lake. If Scroggins, who won the first two Southern Opens of the 3-tournament season, can finish in the top three in that circuit, he'll "double-qualify" for the Classic, opening the door for Menendez to get in, too.
The final Classic berths will come from the following trails:
Bassmaster Weekend Series — 1 angler