Forty down, 11 to go.
With the completion of the Southern Opens this weekend, three more anglers are qualified to fish the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Louisiana. Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., finished first, second and third, respectively, in the Southern Opens points race, earning each a spot in the upcoming Classic. Herren and Pugh will be Classic rookies. Lane fished the 2008 Classic after qualifying from the Southern Opens last year.In fact, Lane, the 2008 Advance Auto Parts Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, had already qualified for next year's Classic by virtue of his 15th place finish in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. With his third place finish in the Southern Opens, he'll now take his Classic berth through the Opens rather than through the Elite Series, creating an additional Classic spot for the Elite Series that will send legendary pro Rick Clunn to his record-setting 32nd Classic."I came here with a specific goal — to make the Elites [the Top 10 anglers in the two Opens divisions earn a spot in the 2009 Elite Series]. That was priority one, but now the Classic is right here in my hands, too," said Herren.Pugh is also a first-time Classic qualifier.
"Making the Classic this season was my top goal," said Pugh. "It's something I've wanted to do for several years, but I hadn't been able to fish the Opens like I wanted to. Everybody always dreams of going to the Bassmaster Classic, and I finally made it. I'm very excited."Clunn, the only 4-time Classic champ, has now earned a spot in his 32nd Classic, but might not have to step in through the "back door." He's currently 7th in the Central Open standings with one event left. A strong finish at that circuit's finale on Lake Texoma, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, could push him into the top 3 and open up a slot for the next Elite angler on the bubble, Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., who finished second in the 2006 Classic on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida.
Here's the Classic field so far:
Alton Jones, Waco, Texas
Elite Series Qualifiers
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas
Mike McClelland, Bella Vista, Ark.
Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif.
Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla.
Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Randy Howell, Springville, Ala.
Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J.
Bill Lowen, North Bend, Ohio
Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark.
Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala.
Dustin Wilks, Rocky Mount, N.C.
Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla.
Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala.
Kenyon Hill, Norman, Okla.
Fred Roumbanis, Bixby, Okla.
Brian Snowden, Reeds Spring, Mo.
Tim Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Scott Rook, Little Rock, Ark.
Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan.
Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas
Dave Wolak, Wake Forest, N.C.
Kotaro Kiriyama, Moody, Ala.
Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C.
Kevin Wirth, Crestwood, Ky.
Kelly Jordon, Mineola, Texas
Bryan Hudgins, Orange Park, Fla.
Shaw Grigsby, Gainesville, Fla.
Ish Monroe, Hughson, Calif.
Peter Thliveros, St. Augustine, Fla.
Boyd Duckett, Demopolis, Ala.
Bernie Schultz, Gainesville, Fla.
Byron Velvick, Del Rio, Texas
Greg Hackney, Gonzalez, La.
Davy Hite, Ninety Six, S.C.
Matt Herren, Trussville, Ala.
Greg Pugh, Cullman, Ala.
Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla.
Most of the qualifiers are Classic veterans. Just four are Classic rookies (Hudgins, Velvick, Herren and Pugh). There are six former Classic champs in the field (Jones, 2008; VanDam, 2001 and 2005; Iaconelli, 2003; Davis, 1995; Duckett, 2007; and Hite, 1999).
A total of 51 anglers will compete Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., for the Classic's top prize of $500,000 and the most prestigious title in all of sportfishing.
The remainder of the 51 angler Classic field comes from the Central Opens (3 anglers to be determined Nov. 1), the BASS Federation Nation Championship (6 anglers to be determined Nov. 8), the Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors (1 angler to be determined Oct. 25) and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers (1 angler to be determined Nov. 15).