Will they or won’t they be Elite?

Cliff Prince
B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. pro Cliff Prince holds up his catch.

Last Saturday, Brandon Card of Caryville, Tenn., and Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., became the first non-Bassmaster Elite Series pros to be invited to join the Elite corps for the 2012 season.

They qualified through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open circuit. Only the Top 5 in points receive instant invitations; Card ended as No. 2 and Prince was No. 4 in points.

Less than a week ago, Card confirmed that he’d join if he qualified. The 2011 season was his first in the Bassmaster Opens; he had entered with the express purpose of joining the Elite Series.

Prince, who has been competing in the Southern Opens since the 2008 season, is considering his options.

“My family’s all for it. We’ll see,” Prince said Monday.

The other three pros in the Top 5 are already Elite Series pros: Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., points-race winner; Elite Series rookie Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., No. 3 in Open points; and Britt Myers of Lake Wylie, S.C., finishing out the Open season as No. 5.

Rounding out the season’s best 15 were: sixth, Elite Series pro Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala.; seventh, bass fishing legend and TV personality Roland Martin of Naples, Fla.; eighth, Elite Series pro Jason Quinn of Lake Wylie, S.C.; ninth, Elite Series pro Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.; 10th, Wayne Hauser of Mooresville, N.C.; 11th, Larry Cahan of E. Palatka, Fla.; 12th, Elite Series pro and current AOY points leader Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.; 13th, two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va.; 14th, Southern Open event winner Fletcher Shryock of Newcomerstown, Ohio; and 15th, Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.

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