Editor’s Note: The dates originally provided for Elite Series No. 5, the Alabama River Charge, were incorrect. The dates have been corrected to May 9-12, 2013. We regret the error.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series offers something for everyone: rivers and lakes; largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass; opportunities for record catches; and plenty of challenges for the world’s greatest bass anglers. Eight events in seven different states promise to create a true test of the best and one of the most exciting Elite seasons ever.
The coming year marks the eighth anniversary of the Elite Series and the 46th of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. The organization will be commemorating the milestones with a new Bassmaster Classic venue, some water the Bassmaster circuit has never visited and a few historic fisheries on which anglers will pit their skills against the fish and one another.
It all begins with the 43rd Bassmaster Classic — “the Super Bowl of bass fishing” — on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees out of Tulsa, Okla. (Feb. 22-24). It will be the first time for Tulsa and Grand Lake to host a Classic — and the farthest west the championship has been held since 1979.
The 2013 Classic will feature some three dozen Elite pros, including winners from each of the 2012 Elite tournaments. Other qualifiers include champions from the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, six talented amateurs from the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, the Weekend Series champion and the Carhartt College Series qualifier, Matt Lee of Auburn University.
After the Classic, the Elites head south to Orange, Texas, and the Sabine River system for the Sabine River Challenge (March 14-17). It’ll be the first time B.A.S.S. has ever held a professional level event on the river, which flows out of the historic waters of Toledo Bend Reservoir. In early spring, bass on the river should be fat and plentiful.
From the Sabine River, the Elite anglers will drive southwest to Zapata, Texas, for the Falcon Slam (March 21-24) and a much-anticipated return to Falcon Lake.
When they were last here in 2008, it was nothing short of historic. Paul Elias won the tournament with a record catch weighing 132 pounds, 8 ounces. The event also produced the biggest bass in Elite history (13-2), the second heaviest five bass limit in B.A.S.S. history (44-4) and 12 catches weighing better than 108 pounds. Not surprisingly, Falcon was selected as No. 1 on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes for 2012. The pros and fishing fans everywhere have been waiting for this one!
With another round of record breaking catches expected to come from Falcon, the Elites will have — and probably need — a short break before the third event, the Bull Shoals Quest on Bull Shoals Lake (April 18-21). This will be B.A.S.S.’s eighth visit to the historic impoundment where flippin’ first came to national prominence in 1975. In April, Elite pro Brandon Palaniuk needed more than 78 pounds of bass over four days to win here. And while largemouth bass will likely dominate catches in the tournament, Bull Shoals has produced smallmouth and spotted bass weighing better than 7 pounds.
In May, the Elite trail heads east to LaGrange, Ga., for the West Point Lake Battle (May 2-5). It will be the seventh trip for B.A.S.S. to West Point and the first since the Elites were here in 2011. That’s when Steve Kennedy pulled out a win with nearly 65 pounds of bass over four days.
At the conclusion of the West Point Elite, anglers will drive 95 miles west to Montgomery, Ala., to begin practicing for the Alabama River Charge on the Alabama River (May 9-12), to be held in conjunction with Montgomery’s Second Saturday Festival. The tournament marks a return to the birthplace of B.A.S.S. as well as the site of two Bassmaster Classics (1981 and 1982). Its waters, part of the popular Alabama Bass Trail, are well known to those anglers who qualified for the postseason events of 2009 and 2010 or Toyota Tundra All-Star Week in 2011, but they’ll be unfamiliar to much of the field. All three of those events were held in late summer. Fishing is traditionally much better in late spring — plus, anglers will be permitted to go through Robert F. Henry Lock and Dam to fish the Alabama River downstream.
Wisconsin was the site of two successful stops in the 2012 season, so it should come as no surprise that the Elites will be back next year. The Mississippi River Rumble out of La Crosse (June 20-23) will be the fourth time B.A.S.S. has visited this stretch of the Big Muddy. Todd Faircloth will look to repeat his success on the popular fishery that always seems to offer exciting topwater action and outstanding visuals on The Bassmasters.
The St. Lawrence River Showdown out of Waddington, N.Y. (Aug. 8-11), marks the return to one of the Bassmaster trail’s favorite fisheries. Though the last professional event here came in 2002, this will be the 14th trip to the river, making it one of the most-visited destinations in B.A.S.S. history. It was also the site of the 1980 Bassmaster Classic and of Kevin VanDam’s professional debut in 1987. KVD was just 19 years old when he fished that New York Invitational, and he finished 110th out of 311 anglers. He still thinks of the St. Lawrence fondly, though. Two of his 20 career wins have come from here.
The 2013 Elite season wraps up in Detroit with the Lake St. Clair Championship (Aug. 22-25). Though the Elite Series has not been to the Motor City before, this will be the fourth B.A.S.S. event to launch from the lake since 1994. Northern Opens were held on the adjacent Detroit River in 2010 and 2012. The lake and rivers are strong summertime fisheries — St. Clair ranks 13th on the Best 100 Bass Lakes list — and promise to provide a great season finale in which so much is at stake. The 2013 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be crowned here, and as many as 36 Elite anglers will earn berths in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
Whether you like your bass green, bronze or spotted; whether you prefer rivers or reservoirs; whether you want to see bass caught shallow or deep, the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series lineup has something for you. What’s more, it’s guaranteed to offer the greatest challenge in professional fishing to the best anglers in the world. You can bet they’ll be ready.