Fantasy Fishing winner enjoys dream weekend at Bassmaster Elite event

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B.A.S.S.

Joshua Phillips of Knoxville, Tenn., won the 2020 Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing championship title and was invited for a VIP weekend, which included meeting the anglers on his roster.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An estimated 45.9 million Americans play fantasy sports. But how many of those players ever have the opportunity to meet their league-winning team?

When Joshua Phillips of Knoxville, Tenn., began playing Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing in 2020, he never imagined that he would close out the year as Fantasy Fishing Champion — besting nearly 37,500 other players — or that he would spend a weekend among the world’s best anglers at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Tennessee River.

“It is crazy knowing I beat so many people in my first season,” said Phillips. “It is an honor and I can say forever that I won Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing in the crazy year of 2020.” 

While he has mastered competitive prognostication, the weekend provided Phillips with an opportunity to delve behind-the-scenes of an actual Elite Series event. On Days 2 and 3 of the tournament, Phillips spent time with the contenders before launch, joined a media boat on the water to track the action and even traded Fantasy Fishing tips with B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. While being interviewed on Bassmaster LIVE, Phillips engaged in some good-natured trash talk with Fantasy Fishing guru and Inside Bassmaster LIVE host Ronnie Moore. All of this before being recognized in front of a crowd of enthusiastic fans during weigh-in on Semifinal Saturday.

The most rewarding part of his experience was spending time with his favorite anglers and the pros who helped Phillips secure the 2020 Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing championship.

“Meeting everyone, it was a blessing and made me feel like I was a part of the Bassmaster crew,” Phillips said. “It was awesome going out on the boat and watching John Cox and Steve Kennedy (on Championship Sunday).”

In addition to scoring the bragging rights that came with winning the coveted Fantasy Fishing season points championship title, Phillips also won over $20,000 in gift cards, cash and gear.

Like many champs, Phillips is finding it hard to repeat last season’s success, and his Tennessee River roster wasn’t performing up to his high standards.

“I knew I should have picked up (Brandon) Card for my team, but choosing local anglers came back to bite me some last year,” said Phillips. Brandon Card, the former Knoxville-native, ended the tournament in the Top 4. The highest-placing member of Phillips’ Fantasy Fishing roster finished outside the Top 35.

It isn’t too late to get in on the fun and start playing Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. Players can register at any point during the season and the Top 20 points leaders in every tournament get their share of prizes, including Rapala Touch Screen Scales and culling kit, Rapala Performance Tool Combos, Rapala baits, clothing, gift cards, cash prizes and more.

Participants select their best five-angler team for each Elite Series event and the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, then compete against other players to score the highest number of points. Points are awarded based on each angler’s final standings at the end of an Elite Series event, and every event will feature $2,500 in prizes from Rapala

Registration for the 2021 competition, along with full rules and a description of each prize package, can be found at Bassmaster.com/fantasy.