B.A.S.S. Nation releases 2016 schedule

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More opportunities will be available for club anglers who qualify for the 2016 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation regional championships under the new B.A.S.S. Nation tournament format.

B.A.S.S. has expanded the B.A.S.S. Nation tournament format into three major regionals with larger fields of contenders. Under the new format, the divisions include a Western, Central and Eastern divisional. The Western Regional will be comprised of the same 11 states from the former Western division plus eight countries outside the United States.

The new format will allow more anglers to fish on their state teams in the regionals. “Each of those state teams will have 20 anglers and a couple of alternates, versus 12 anglers and a couple of alternates,” said Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S. Nation director. “So each team is going to be bigger, and we will have more states in a region.”

The regionals will also change to a Bassmaster Opens-style event with boater and nonboater divisions, rather than the partner draw system used in the divisionals. “That is something Nation anglers have requested for a while,” Stewart said.

The format change also increases the number of qualifiers for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC). The top finishing boaters and nonboaters on each state team from the regionals will advance to the BNC, which will be held in the fall at a site to be determined later.

Stewart said he believes the changes will help the B.A.S.S. Nation ranks grow. “We’re ready to change things up,” he said. “We think giving more anglers a chance to participate in the regionals with bigger teams and letting each state send an extra person to the Nation Championship will help us grow. There will also be substantial cash and awards paid directly to individuals in the regionals and the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. For the anglers, the regionals and the championship will be the most lucrative events we have ever had in the B.A.S.S. Nation, maybe in any amateur event!”

The Eastern and Central regionals will now feature 190-boat fields, while the Western Regional will have a field of 110 boats. The breakdown of states in each division is as follows:

Western — Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and the countries of Mexico, Japan, Italy, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Australia and Portugal

Central — South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama

Eastern — Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, along with Spain and the Canadian province of Ontario

The Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional, April 6-8, on Nevada’s Lake Mead will be the first of the season. “Lake Mead has been fishing well the last couple of years,” Stewart said. “I have been told it should be really good that time of year.” B.A.S.S. has visited the lake five times, including the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971 won by Bobby Murray with 43 pounds, 11 ounces. The last Bassmaster event held there was the March 2002 Nevada Western Open won by Rob Vanderkooi with 29-14.

Next on the B.A.S.S. Nation schedule is the Central Regional, April 20-22, on Lake Guntersville in Alabama. “Guntersville is always a classic fishery, and April should be prime time for that lake as well,” Stewart said. “You have an opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime any time you go there.” The lake is a frequent stop on the Bassmaster trail and has hosted two Bassmaster Classics. Last April, Skeet Reese won the Bassmaster Elite Series event there with a four-day total of 92-11.

The Eastern Regional is set for May 4-6 on Douglas Lake in Tennessee where nine Bassmaster events have been held. The last Nation tournament held there was a Southern Divisional won by Coby Carden with 49-5 in April 2013. A Bassmaster Northern Open in May 2014 was won by local favorite Ott DeFoe with 62-5.

The top boater and top nonboater from each state advances to the BNC, where the Top 3 contenders will advance to the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. The date and location of the BNC will be announced at a later time.