BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bass club anglers qualifying for three B.A.S.S. Nation Regional tournaments in 2018 will have an unusual opportunity at the host fisheries — they might encounter a “10” during the competition.
Two of the fisheries, Clear Lake in California and Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas border, are known for producing bass weighing 10 or more pounds. The Pee Dee and Santee river basins out of Winyah Bay, S.C., where the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional will be held, aren’t as likely to produce double-digit bass, but there’s a good chance anglers there will see a 10-foot alligator, said Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S. Nation national director.
Stewart announced the 2018 schedule for the Western, Central and Eastern regionals, which are part of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors. They are qualifying events for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, from which the three top finishers will earn spots in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
“It’s bound to be exciting for our B.A.S.S. Nation anglers to be able to fish Toledo Bend, where they might catch the bass of a lifetime,” Stewart said. “We should be there at prime time, too.”
The Central Regional will be held March 7-9 out of Many, La. The Western Regional will be May 23-25 on Clear Lake out of Clearlake, Calif. And the Eastern Regional will be June 20-22 on Winyah Bay.
“At Clear Lake, too, you have the potential of catching a 10-pound bass every time you throw a bait out there,” Stewart added. “Anglers will love it, and we’ll be there at a good time of year. Competitors in the eastern tournament will enjoy Georgetown, which has been a great host for our past tournaments. The fishing will be different from the other two regionals — bass don’t get as big there — but anglers from Maine and other places in the Northeast might see their first alligators.”
B.A.S.S. Nation qualifiers were previously held on Clear Lake and Winyah Bay in 2015. The series hasn’t visited Toledo Bend in more than 15 years, at which time Stewart competed there on behalf of the Kansas B.A.S.S. Nation. Toledo Bend ranked No. 1 nationally on Bassmaster Magazine’s Best 100 Lakes list in 2015 and 2016, and Clear Lake is currently third in the nation on that list of fisheries.
In the regional tournaments, 20-angler teams from 47 states and the province of Ontario compete within their respective geographic divisions. The Central and Eastern tournaments will each include 380 anglers, and the Western event, which comprises fewer states, will draw 220.
At the conclusion of each three-day regional championship, the top boater and the top nonboater from each state receives a bid to compete in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors. In addition, the winning state team, based on cumulative weight of bass caught, earns a new bass rig that can be used to raise funds for youth and conservation programs and other projects within the states.
Stewart said affiliated B.A.S.S. Nations from nine other foreign countries are invited to send teams to the regional tournaments, or they can conduct qualifying events in their own countries to select a boater and nonboater each to fish in the championship. The date and location of that event will be announced later.
Next season will mark the third year of the innovative B.A.S.S. Nation’s Best program, which rewards outstanding grass-roots bass anglers and helps underwrite their entrance into professional tournament fishing.
The Top 3 finishers in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship earn berths in the Bassmaster Classic, and they are provided paid entry into the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series of their choice. In addition, each is given the use of a fully rigged, tournament-ready Phoenix bass boat for one year.
The B.A.S.S. Nation champion also qualifies for the Bassmaster Elite Series and receives a $16,000 bonus should he or she join the circuit. The champion wins a prize boat-and-motor combo to keep. Second- and third-place finishers also receive prize boats, and the non-boater champion earns a prize boat, paid entry into an Opens division and a Bassmaster Classic Marshal spot.
Established nearly 50 years ago when individual B.A.S.S. clubs began to affiliate with the national organization, the B.A.S.S. Nation is a global network of locally organized clubs whose members participate in and support a range of activities, including tournaments, conservation initiatives and youth programs. In addition to organizations in 47 states, B.A.S.S. Nation groups are active in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Australia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series Regionals presented by Magellan Outdoors
March 7-9, 2018 Toledo Bend Reservoir, Many, La. Host: Toledo Bend Lake Country
May 23-25, 2018 Clear Lake, Clearlake, Calif. Host: Konocti Vista Resort and Casino
June 20-22, 2018 Winyah Bay, Georgetown, S.C. Host: Georgetown County, S.C.