BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2013 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens will have it all — top prizes, berths in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, invitations to the Bassmaster Elite Series, a wide variety of waters and venues — and on a budget that respects the demands of both professional and amateur anglers.
The Opens consist of nine events — three tournaments each in three divisions (Southern, Northern and Central) — in nine different states, covering rivers, natural lakes and man-made reservoirs and running from January in the South to October in the Central region.
For the third season in a row, Opens tournament winners who compete in all three events in a single division will earn a berth in the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. The “win-and-you’re-in” format has proved extremely popular. All 2012 Opens winners qualified for berths in the 2013 Classic, Feb. 22-24, on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla.
For professionals looking to take the next step in their fishing careers, the Opens offer that path. Anglers earn performance points at each event, and the Top 5 ranked anglers in each division at the end of the season will be invited to join the most prestigious professional fishing circuit in the world, the Bassmaster Elite Series, where they will compete against Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Michael Iaconelli, Brent Chapman and other legends of the sport.
At each of the stops, weigh-ins will be held lakeside during the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday of each tournament week. The 12 finalists who earn the right to fish on Saturday will weigh their catches in front of consistently large crowds at nearby Bass Pro Shops stores.
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens
The Southern Opens season kicks off in Central Florida on Lake Tohopekaliga, commonly known as Lake Toho, in Kissimmee, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. Giant catches are always a possibility on legendary Lake Toho and its sister lakes, as it has hosted two Bassmaster Classics and 16 previous B.A.S.S. events, including the 2001 tournament that saw Elite Series pro Dean Rojas catch a five bass limit weighing a record 45 pounds, 2 ounces.
In April, the Southern Opens move to Dandridge, Tenn., and Douglas Lake, April 4-6, where a 2012 Elite tournament that brought “long lining” to the attention of the bass fishing world. Opens anglers will be there during the prespawn this year, so the bass should be shallower and the catches even heavier.
The final event of the Southern Opens season will be held on Lake Logan Martin out of Pell City, Ala., May 16-18. It will be the first time B.A.S.S. has visited the lake since 1998. Prior to that, it was the site of three Bassmaster Classics, including the closest in history — the 1997 world championship that was won by a single ounce.
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens
The legendary James River out of Richmond, Va., is the site of the first Northern Opens of the 2013 season, June 13-15. Three consecutive Bassmaster Classics (1988-90) were held on the James, and it has been a regular stop on the Opens schedule since 2011. This year, Joshua Wagy earned his berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic with a win on the James.
From Virginia, the Northern Opens trail travels to New York’s Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, Aug. 1-3. This will be B.A.S.S.’ ninth visit to Oneida — all since 2003 — and the reason is simple: The bass fishing is outstanding. Anglers have the choice of world class smallmouth or largemouth fishing, and limits are usually plentiful.
The Northern Opens wrap up on big water — Lake Erie out of Sandusky, Ohio, Sept. 12-14. Erie is not just a Great Lake, it’s a great lake! Five-pound smallmouth bass are seemingly everywhere, making it arguably the best bronzeback water in the world. Big brown bass, big water and big waves will make this a great finale.
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens
The Bassmaster Central Opens season starts in Shreveport, La., on the Red River, April 25-27. B.A.S.S. has been to the Red 11 times before, including stops in 2009 and 2012 for the Bassmaster Classic. Weights should be good in the springtime. They certainly were in 2008 when Elite pro Billy McCaghren won with bass that averaged more than 3 1/2 pounds.
To succeed in the Central Opens in 2013, it will help to be a “river rat.” After the Red, the trail goes to the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Okla., Sept. 19-21, site of just one previous B.A.S.S. event — a 2011 Open claimed by Sooner State legend Tommy Biffle.
The third and final event in the Central division also closes out the 2013 Opens season. Ross Barnett Reservoir in Jackson, Miss., will host the finale, Oct. 17-19. The lake is a legendary stop, and the 2013 Opens will be the first B.A.S.S. professional tournament there since 1998. B.A.S.S. and Ross Barnett go way back. It was the site of the fourth event in B.A.S.S. history, as well as the 1978 Bassmaster Classic.
Priority online registration for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens begins Oct. 16; B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and Lifetime members can register online beginning Oct. 23, and other B.A.S.S. members wishing to fish all three tournaments in a division may register online on Oct. 30. Additional dates have been set for call-in registration and for anglers wishing to fish only one or two events. See the complete schedule here.