The 2019 Bassmster Elite Series schedule includes several fisheries that we’ve visited previously. Some of them, like the St. Johns River and the St. Lawrence River, have hosted multiple great events, but even if the conditions of yesteryear repeat themselves that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll fish like they did before.
A big part of fishing professional tournaments is anticipating which areas and which patterns will receive pressure. You might find the winning school of fish, but if you’re sharing them with other anglers they might not even get you a check. During past Elite Series events, there were certain areas where you could expect boats to pile up. Those fish might get you through the first day, but they’d often be weaker on Day 2, and if you depended on them after that they’d usually disappear.
It was amazing to see how often I’d find certain anglers on the same spots I’d found. There were the offshore guys, and the ones who’d grown up fishing Texas trails – we’d often gravitate to the same stuff while there were others who I never saw after takeoff. It was a factor that I had to account for during practice and then during the tournaments themselves.
There’s also another kind of history – spots that particular anglers had “claimed” as their own. Maybe they’d won a tournament there or had a high finish, and then they thought that they had the right to keep others out. Or maybe they were the only one who made a long run one year, then got that tactic exposed on television, and the next year they found a lot of boats crowding that area. Are those places “fair game,” or do you have a right of first refusal to fish them again? It’s a sensitive subject, and the answers aren’t always black and white.
While the tournaments were always truly a test of the best, in some ways the repetition and territoriality made them less exciting than they could have been. You knew that certain anglers fished certain areas and certain styles. It limited the amount of innovation we saw.
That’s all going to change this year.
We have more new anglers on the Elite Series this year and there are a lot of “X factors” in terms of their fishing styles and strengths. At each stop on our schedule there will be anglers who’ve fished the lake or river before and others who are seeing it for the first time, but with respect to how it affects the overall field of play there will be no more “been there, done that.” The enhanced no-information rule will only accentuate this trend.
With all of these new faces and new styles interacting, I fully expect that one, two or even three times this year somebody is going to truly blow my mind when I hear about how they caught their fish. It might be an East Tennessee angler bringing something that works at home to the St. Johns, or it might be an Alabama guy doing something different on Cayuga.
No matter how the season plays out, there is going to be a new flavor and a new excitement to our events as we see some of America’s best bass fisheries through a new competitive lens.