Who’s next?

As this photo shows, most of the Elite field attended the Birmingham meeting.

Over the past 15 plus years, I’ve been fortunate to sit next to Tommy Sanders and the rest of the team that covers the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Every year has been a magical year. I’ve seen some amazing things happen on the water.

But friends, I gotta tell you, the magic of Bassmaster events is a lot different for me now than when I first started.

In previous years, I could look at the schedule and get a pretty good idea who the hammers would be as we wormed our way through the season.

That was cool, but the real magic the past few years has become seeing a face and a name you didn’t know 12 months prior, and seeing that person accomplish a lifelong goal.

Jordan Lee is a good example. I was fortunate enough to know him when he was fishing his way through college. I knew then there was something different about him and that has become blatantly obvious now.

It’s guys like Jordan who come out of the shadows to become stars in this very difficult sport that makes covering the Elites so special.

Back in December, I sat in on a meeting in Birmingham with this year’s Elite anglers. I looked around the room and saw ol’ veterans who have survived this game and for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. They are true warriors who have made it in tournament fishing and built a lasting career. They will no doubt be a force this season.

But then, I looked around the room and was asking myself, which one of you other guys is next?

And that’s what gets me excited. In all the years of working for B.A.S.S. – and this isn’t a rah-rah statement – I’ve never been this excited heading into a season and watching the next stars rise.

I mean, we’ve always had an unbelievably good crop of rookies and some who stood out more than others. But when I looked around that room, I saw a unique form of hunger that I haven’t seen in a long while. The looks I saw on faces and body language told me that these guys realize what lies ahead of them – the opportunity to succeed at the highest level and this group was ready to go get it.

Of course, I know the usual suspects will in that room will catch ‘em, but there were a handful of new guys who carried themselves differently. You could tell they are coming into this game to throw the ball into the end zone. They realize the door is wide open for them to walk in and immediately have an impact in pro bass fishing.

To get to this level, they all paid their dues, toiling at the grassroots level in weeknight tournaments, then at state and regional levels and getting their teeth kicked in along the way. They persevered through all those training grounds that led them to the opportunity to sit in that room and realize the opportunity starring them in the face.

They’re there because they worked hard to earn it. 

And that is awesome.

You will get glimpses of who they are in the first few events on waters that are incredibly diverse.

The way this schedule is laid out, the anglers who possess the most versatility and consistency will rise to the top. It will be that way most of the season. The 2019 Elite Schedule is no place for a one-trick pony.

Sure, there’s an anxious unknown going into this season, but it will be fun to watch who’s next to have that magical season and solidify their seat among the Bassmaster stars.