Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is the No. 1 goal of every Elite Series angler at the start of each season. As we approach the end of this final event of the year, those qualifiers have come into focus.
The top 39 in the final Angler of the Year points standings automatically qualify for the Classic. That list extends with various scenarios. For instance, the defending Classic champion also receives an automatic berth to the following Classic. Hank Cherry finished 38th in the AOY standings this week, so that bumps the Classic qualifiers from the AOY standings one spot to 40. Patrick Walters will have triple-qualified after he's crowned champion of Texas Fest this afternoon. Walters also won an Bassmaster Open this season at Lake Hartwell. So that bumps the AOY list down two more places to 42.
Now that the final AOY points are all but set, with some minor adjustments based on how the Top 10 finish today, here's a look at those final qualifying spots:
- Brad Whatley was on the 39th-place bubble coming in, qualified for today's Top 10 and is now well inside the cut at 29th.
- Bill Lowen was even lower on the bubble — in 40th place — and stayed in the Classic cut with a 40th-place AOY finish.
- Ed Loughran was 41st before Lake Fork and jumped to 31st by qualifying for today's Top 10.
- Chad Pipkens was 42nd coming in and jumped to 36th with his 18th-place finish here.
- Hank Cherry was 43rd coming in and became a double-qualifier with his 29th place finish at Fork. He's now 38th in AOY points.
- Shane LeHew was 38th coming in and is now in the 42nd and last qualifying spot after finishing 57th here.
With two more Bassmaster Basspro.com Opens remaining on the schedule, there's still a chance that the Elite Series AOY Classic qualifiers list extends one or two more places. But there's no guarantee it does so. The first man out of the Classic cut now — in 43rd place — is Keith Combs.