All-Star week: Big unknown for pros, certain fun for fans

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Take 14 of the best and most popular Bassmaster Elite Series pros of 2013 and challenge them to catch bass from lakes most of them have never seen, let alone competed on, and what happens?

It’s pure fun. It’s the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship, and it’s happening Sept. 27-29 during Toyota All-Star Week in Muskegon, Mich.

The Elite pros will go head-to-head in a $100,000 competition. At the same time, eight college student anglers will compete for a coveted 2014 Bassmaster Classic berth in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket. A Sept. 29 Folds of Honor Foundation Pro-Am, presented by ARE, will pair Elite pros with veterans and guests of Folds of Honor.

Fans not only can enjoy the daily take-offs and weigh-ins, they will be treated to the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo as well as the music, activities and food at the Family Fun Fall Festival organized by the local host, the Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The competitions will be covered online at Features include live video of the weigh-ins, real-time leaderboards, extensive photo galleries, daily results, Lowrance War Room coverage and analysis, and on-the-water blogs and BassCam video. All online access is free.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Championship competition will kick off Friday, Sept. 27, with all 14 Elite pros on Muskegon Lake for two days. Only the Top 4 after Day Two will advance to the final round Sunday on White Lake. With their weights zeroed, those pros will start from scratch on the different fishery.

The pro with the heaviest five-fish limit from White Lake will claim the All-Star title and first-place prize of $50,000.

All 14 earned their way into All-Star Week. Eight finished the regular Elite season atop the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings: AOY winner Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala.; Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.; Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.; Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas; Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas; John Crews of Salem, Va.; and Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.

Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., qualified as the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champ, and Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., qualified as the 2013 Rookie of the Year.

The final four pros worked to be elected by fans through voting at Those pros are Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, who was the top vote-earner; Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.; and Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.

The pros won’t be the only ones collecting prizes on Sept 29. One of 14 finalists who have been virtually paired with anglers in the Toyota All-Star Fan Favorite Angler Sweepstakes will win a 2014 Toyota Tundra valued at $35,000.

TV coverage of the All-Star event will be presented on The Bassmasters on Sunday, Oct. 13, on ESPN2, in three hour-long shows. At 2-3 p.m. ET, and again at 4-5 p.m., the first show will set the stage. Two more shows about the competition will air at 6-7 and 7-8 p.m. ET.

Toyota All-Star Week Highlights (all three days unless noted)

  • Elite Series take-offs at 7:15 a.m., Sept. 27-28, Heritage Landing, 1050 7th St., Muskegon, Mich. Competition will be on Muskegon Lake.
  • Elite Series take-off at 7:15 a.m., Sept. 29, Montague Municipal Boat Ramp, 8500 Ramp Road, Montague, Mich. Competition will be on White Lake.
  • College Series take-offs at 7:15 a.m., Fruitport Charter Township Public Launch, with competition on Grand River.
  • Folds of Honor Foundation Pro-Am, presented by ARE, Sept. 29 on Muskegon Lake. Six of the Elite pros eliminated from the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship will be paired with guests of Folds of Honor in a bragging-rights team tournament. Folds of Honor provides educational scholarships to the dependents of service members killed or disabled while serving our country.
  • Weigh-ins for all events will begin each day at 4 p.m. at Heritage Landing, 1050 7th St., Muskegon.
  • Bassmaster Elite Series Expo — Featuring Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors’ products and activities, the no-admission Expo opens at noon Sept. 28-29.
  • Register on site for free demo rides in Nitro, Skeeter and Triton bass rigs powered by Mercury and Yamaha engines (ages 16 and up).

Muskegon County’s Family Fun Fall Festival Highlights

  • National Guard Obstacle Course and Jousting Ring – Test your skills on these fun inflatable activities.
  • Sensory Safari – See, touch and learn about animals from around the world.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Boat Tour – Tour a 41-foot U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Boat and learn more about these protectors of boaters and waterways (Saturday only).
  • Girl Scouts of America Craft and registration – Learn about the Girl Scouts of America, do a craft and sign up for a Girl Scout troop near you (Sunday only).
  • Darling Cetaceans – Games for kids. Crack-A-Crab, Beach Treasure Dig, Dime Toss and Find the Jellyfish.
  • Muskegon County CVB Duck Pond – Kids pick a duck and win a prize.
  • Muskegon Family YMCA – Face painting, bounce house and other games and activities for kids.
  • Representatives from the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership will be on hand to tell adults and kids about the efforts to keep Muskegon County’s lakes, rivers and streams clean.
  • Sportsmen for Youth will outline their year-round activities to introduce youth and their parents to the great outdoors.
  • Bands will be playing from 6-10:15 p.m. each evening. “Yard Sale Underwear” will be the headliner on Friday, and “Dutch Henry” will play Saturday.
  • Food and refreshments will be available from noon to 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to close on Sunday.
  • Local high school students will sing the National Anthem each day before the weigh-ins.