The Bassmaster Opens, comprised of three qualifying series in Southern, Central and Northern divisions, each with three events, will visit fisheries in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas in 2009.
BASS has adjusted its qualifying berths with the addition of the Northern Open division, which will visit Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, New York's Lake Champlain and Ohio's Lake Erie. As in past years, the Open format will provide direct qualifying avenues into the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic.
In 2009, the top two competitors from each of three divisions will advance to the Bassmaster Classic and the top seven anglers in each will be invited to join the Bassmaster Elite Series. The points system for the Opens that will determine Elite Series and Classic qualifiers will mirror the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings used in the Elite Series.
As in 2008, the Opens will feature an all-cash payout for pros. The payout will be based on 175 boaters and will adjust to the actual field size. Pros will compete for more than $190,000 in cash in each event, with the winner receiving $45,000. Co-anglers will continue to compete at the Open level for more than $70,000 in cash and merchandise in each event, including the top prize of a boat/motor package valued at $32,000.
Full fields will fish the first two days of competition, and the top 30 will advance to the third and final day. The best cumulative three-day total will win the event.
The Southern Open circuit launches Jan. 29-31 on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes out of Tavares, Fla. The Harris Chain has hosted more than 10 BASS events. For the second Southern Open, April 30-May 2, anglers head to Wheeler Lake and Decatur, Ala. The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor's Bureau will serve as the host. Southern Open anglers will close the circuit Oct. 22-24 on the Santee Cooper reservoirs out of Manning, S.C., an event hosted by the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.
The Northern Opens will kick off April 16-18 on the Chesapeake Bay hosted by Cecil County, Md., marking the first BASS event there since the 1991 Bassmaster Classic. From Maryland, anglers travel north to Plattsburgh, N.Y., which will host an Aug. 20-22 competition on Lake Champlain. The final event in the Northern division is Sept. 24-26 on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio.
For the Central Opens, anglers will start in Many, La., March 5-7, for a tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir, hosted by the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission. From there, anglers will move over to Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Jasper, Texas, on Sept. 3-5. To finalize the division and the entire Open circuit, anglers will head back to Louisiana to Morgan City and the Atchafalaya Basin on Nov. 5-7. The Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau will host the final event.
Registration for BASS members begins at 9 a.m. ET Thursday, Nov. 13, but early registration is available for Federation Nation, BASS Insider and Lifetime members as well as certain pre-qualified anglers. Interested participants can sign up at Bassmaster.com or call 877-BASS-USA.