2020 Opens loaded with opportunities

5d3_4897.jpg-alex-wetherell.jpg

James Overstreet
Alex Wetherell weighs in on Day 1.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. That phrase defined the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, with the same destined to hold true this season for its feeder league.

Just like how Elite Series events were (and will be) scheduled to maximize chances of catching big bass on the tournament fisheries, the same is set to happen with the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens. The season opener underway on Lake Kissimmee provides the evidence, and throughout the year will be more chances to fulfill dreams.

“When you think about the Eastern Division side of the schedule — Florida in January, trips to awesome fisheries like Cherokee and Oneida where B.A.S.S. has had some great events and a finish at Hartwell, which is deeply entrenched in B.A.S.S. history — it’s hard not to be excited,” said Chris Bowes, tournament director. “That’s a slate that will give anglers a chance to prove themselves — and one that fans across the country will be able to appreciate, I’m sure.”

The same can happen with the Central Division and especially so at the season finale on Sam Rayburn Lake. The famed Texas fishery could play heavily in anglers fishing for coveted angler of the year points.

There are even more opportunities to win cash, qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Elite Series and gain notoriety for sponsors. That includes co-anglers.

The Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year will award a $10,000 prize to the overall points winner in the pro division. The top co-angler will have paid entry fees into the 2021 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens division of his or her choice.

Each division has four tournaments and there are now three ways to qualify for the 12 available Elite Series invitations. The Top 4 from the Central and Eastern Divisions get invites, along with the Top 4 overall anglers in the point standings.

That explains why more than 50 boater anglers are fishing both divisions, up from just 16 in 2019.

Participation is up too, with seven of eight tournaments topping the 150-angler mark, with five easily exceeding 200 entries for the boater divisions. Payout per event is $250,400 with a total season payout exceeding $2 million.

And like before, the winner of each tournament gets an automatic berth in the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, if they fish all four tournaments in a given division.

The level of skill and talent competing this year in the Opens is another storyline to follow. Some compare the Opens to a “minor league” circuit. That is even with a competition field loaded with a dozen current Elite Series pros, perennial Classic qualifiers and top regional anglers. Added to this season’s talent-heavy roster is former top FLW Tour pros, among those Scott Martin, Randy Blaukat, Bradley Hallman and Andrew Upshaw. Also returning to the Opens (and the Elite Series) are AOY winners Gerald Swindle and Brandon Palaniuk.

“The field is stacked with talent, there are more opportunities to get into the Elite Series, the Classic and more,” added Bowes. “We haven’t seen a season or format like this ever in the Opens, and that makes this league even more appealing for anglers dreaming of launching a career in the sport.”

Bowes is right on. Stay tuned. Fishing fans and aspiring pros have much to be excited for in 2020 with the Opens.