Why the Opens are important


James Overstreet

The Bassmaster Opens are more important than a lot of anglers realize. They provide good things to recreational tournament anglers wanting more experience, pros wanting to move up to the Bassmaster Elite Series and to those of us who are already at that level.

Let’s look at each group and talk a little about them.

Recreational tournament anglers can get stuck in a rut if they aren’t careful. You tend to fish the same lakes and rivers against the same anglers. Maybe your wins are frequent and you’re considered to be the hot stick in your neighborhood, but that’s in your neighborhood.

If you want to know how good you really are, move up and fish an Open in your part of the country. You’ll have the advantage of fishing close to home —same general type of water, not too much money — but at the same time you’ll be competing against a large group of really good tournament anglers.

The really good tournament angler thing is especially important. There are dozens of top bass anglers fishing any Open. And, don’t kid yourself. Not all of them are Elite Series guys. In fact, some of them have qualified to move up but for a variety of reasons didn’t. Test yourself. It’s the only way to know how good you really are.

If you’re a pro who wants to move up, the Opens are the path you must take. Fish all of them you can, and all over the country. Qualifying in one division, near your house, might get you there, but it won’t help you when you start traveling all over the country and have to face radically different waters under radically different conditions while living on the road. Fishing nine Opens is a great way to find out if you’re really ready.

For those of us who are in the Elites the Opens offer things that are different but no less important.

We have a long break in the summer, six weeks. For me that’s too long to go without fishing competitively. Fun fishing is not tournament fishing. I need to keep fishing under the clock and to be forced into making win or lose decisions on the fly. I suspect that a lot of the other guys are the same.

That’s the basic reason I've fished the Northern Opens since the middle 1990s. I need them. But, there’s also a couple of other reasons as well.

I live in New Jersey. For the most part every tournament we fish is at least 15 hours away. The Northern Opens are usually five or six hours away. In my world that’s right around the corner. And, at least some of them are smallmouth events. Put those two things together and you pretty much have a perfect world.

The biggest reason of all, though, for those of us in the Elites to fish the Opens is to protect our careers. Back in 2013 I failed to qualify for the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic through the Elites. I saved myself in the last Northern Open on Lake Erie by winning it. Nothing else needs to be said about that.

The final reason for an Elite pro to fish the Opens doesn’t apply to me, but it could someday. You can protect your status as an Elite angler. There’s at least one guy fishing now who wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t requalified for the Elites through the Opens. I’m sure there are others, but I don’t know that for sure so I won’t say.

The sport of professional bass fishing is what I’m about. The Bassmaster Opens are a big part of what makes it happen. I’ll support them any way I can, now and in the future.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, mikeiaconelli.com.