Meet the B.A.S.S. Nation’s Classic qualifiers

How the B.A.S.S. Nation's top three anglers punched their tickets to the 2024 Bassmaster Classic.

Will Davis Jr. already knows what it’s like to compete on bass fishing’s biggest stage. 

Josh Wiesner has several decades’ experience in high-stakes derbies, albeit none as big as the Bassmaster Classic. 

Tim Dube, meanwhile, remains a bit in awe of what’s on the horizon.

And that’s understandable, because what’s on the line is big — really big.

The trio of Davis, Wiesner and Dube had podium finishes at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell in October 2023, which earned them entry into the 54th annual Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for March 22-24 on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

Though they’ve taken different routes to the world’s biggest bass tournament, each is squarely in the field of 56 anglers. Everyone has a shot to win, and they’re all eager to etch their names into the annals of B.A.S.S. history.

Dube, who finished second at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship to lock down a Classic berth, also grabbed a spot in the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series at that event. He can thank Davis, who won his second consecutive Nation title, allowing the accompanying spot in the Elites to fall into Dube’s lap. 

“I’m just excited that there are two Elite tournaments before we fish the Classic,” said Dube, 30, of Nashua, N.H.

“Even if I have horrible finishes at those Elites on Toledo Bend and Lake Fork, it’ll help just to get some nerves out of the way before we get to the Classic.”

Davis, a 31-year-old native of Sylacauga, Ala., qualified for his first Classic by winning the 2022 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He had a decent showing in the 53rd Classic, too, finishing 40th of 55 competitors on the Tennessee River in Knoxville. Davis ranked it among the highlights of a dramatic year, one in which he won the Elite Series event on Alabama’s Lay Lake and placed 31st in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. 

“It was a blessed year, but it was a whirlwind,” Davis said. “And there wasn’t much rest before I started getting ready for this Classic.”

Davis said he trekked to Grand Lake in early December, the first time he’d ever been to the 42,000-acre Sooner State jewel that hosted two previous Classics in 2013 and 2016. 

“I did some research before I left the house, but I don’t like to dive too deep into things,” he said. “I think you have to stick to your strengths on a new fishery or things don’t pan out well. I’m a pattern fisherman, and everything I read says this is one of the best pattern lakes in Oklahoma. And there’s an abundance of fish there. I rode and rode for a few days, just looking for similar-looking things that I like and marking them in different areas.”

And what did he find?

“I like what I saw,” Davis said. “And I feel good about it. I think it will be in my wheelhouse. The key will be finding the right depth that week, the right structure and the right bait. Then we’ll run with it.”

Wiesner, 45, has competed in professional walleye tournaments in his native Wisconsin for more than two decades, and he’s had a great deal of success. But he’s a stick to consider in a bass derby too, as he proved in June by winning the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Region at Lake Winnebago. His third-place finish in the Nation Championship at Hartwell also proved his win on home water was no fluke.

But what about Grand Lake and the pressures of the Classic?

“I’d never fished Grand until I went there (in early December),” Wiesner said. “I brought a little tiller boat with me with a 15 (horsepower engine) on it and just drove around the lake from dark to dark, looking for as many juicy spots as I could find. I found some things I think will work, but I also noted there are a lot of stumps in the middle of nowhere. I marked those too. You don’t want to hit one of those in the middle of the Classic.”

Wiesner said his experience in tournament fishing, and his age, should serve him well in what’s been dubbed the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.

“I bring some wisdom to the game,” he said. “I’m not worried about the mental side. I can spend days grinding on the water. It’ll be nerve-racking with the crowd, I’m sure, and the big drive-through weigh-in. But I’ll likely be throwing a crankbait, and if I find fish, I feel like I have a pretty good shot. You just have to make the right decisions, stay focused and go fish.”

Dube also pre-fished Grant Lake, saying it reminds him a bit of New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee.

“I broke the lake down into sections, like I’ve done on Winnipesaukee at home,” he said. “They’re about the same size with a lot of shoreline. I marked a lot of waypoints, measured water temperatures, did a lot of side scanning. I was just gathering information. I didn’t even fish until the last day I was there. The lake is very healthy, but it all looks very similar. That’s why I wanted to get as familiar with it as I could.”

Dube’s hoping the extra knowledge lends a boost of confidence when he’s competing against some of his heroes on Grand Lake.

“I was talking with Will Davis about it, and he said there really is no way to prepare for the emotions you feel when you roll up in the drive-through at the Classic,” Dube said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.

“I mean, I’m a fan of the sport,” he continued. “I love watching the Elites. They’re the best in the world. It doesn’t seem real to say I’m in that category, on that level with them. But it’s my new club, and I’m fishing.”

Davis still pinches himself at times too.

“The biggest thing in any sport is not worrying about failure,” he said. “So you practice and you prepare. You give it 110% in every way. Then you see what happens.”