The outcome of this week's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open in Georgia could mean a 2011 Bassmaster Classic entry for Jared Lintner.
Strange as it sounds, he'll be thousands of miles away in California while a fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro determines his Classic fate. Here's how that could work: When the Southern Open's points race concludes next Saturday, if either of the top two is an Elite pro who previously qualified for the Classic, that angler will take his Classic seat through the Open. Then BASS will award the Elite entry to the next pro on the Elite points list — Lintner, at No. 38. Lintner will not stand and wait for the Open's results, he'll fish and wait.
In the final hours of the Georgia Open, he'll be on the water, incommunicado, competing in a local tournament near his Arroyo Grande, Calif., home. Lintner said he will pack his laptop so he can keep up with daily standings.
In particular, he will be tracking the progress of Bobby Lane and Terry Scroggins, the two Elite pros most likely to become double-qualifiers and open the door for Lintner. "I'll be real curious to see how it's going every day," Lintner said. "Hopefully I'll be catching a fish while they will be, too." Meanwhile, he's staying cool and philosophical: "I shouldn't have put myself in this situation, but I did. Now it's out of my hands, and it's not going to do me any good to stress out about it. What will be, will be."
Anglers hit Lake Seminole on Monday, hoping they'd uncover a key bite that will carry them into a win and, perhaps, into the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. Monday was the first of three practice days for the season finale of the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, Oct. 7-9 out of Bainbridge, Ga.
Two anglers will end up with qualifications for the Feb. 18-20 Classic on the Louisiana Delta. Leading that race are Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., in first; No. 2 in points, Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.; and No. 3, Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala. Lane, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, was excited about fishing Seminole, which to him is shaping up to fish much like the green, green grass of his home waters in Florida.
He predicts success for anyone with an arsenal of tactics. "I expect to see a lot of flipping going on, some frogging, some spinnerbaiting, some caught on a big 10-inch or 12-inch worm," said Lane. "There will be a lot of different techniques used this week." He estimated that a pro will need 10 to 12 pounds a day to be above the top-30 cutline for the final day, and 14 to 15 pounds a day to win the tournament.
Lane already owns a Classic berth, earned through the Elite Series. But his performance in the Seminole event could help fellow pro Jared Lintner into the Classic (see Lintner story, above). Tharp is in Georgia this week for one reason: In his four years as a full-time pro, he has fished against the best anglers and in all the top events the sport offers — all except one, that is. "There's only one Bassmaster Classic. I've fished every championship there is but the Classic," he said. "It would mean a lot to me — or to anyone, for that matter — to get to the Classic. There's no other tournament that compares to it."
Tharp, who has scored two Open-level victories, said he found a few decent bass during the first practice day. "It's typical fall fishing, the fish are scattered," Tharp said. "The lake is full of grass. There aren't a lot of fish in here, but the fish that are in here are good-sized. I think we're going to see some 7- and 8-pounders (weighed-in)." To make the top-30 cut, a pro will need at least 10 pounds a day, he said.
The winning weight, he estimated, could be close to 50 pounds. Also competing to qualify for his first Classic, points leader Montgomery has a tough defensive play to execute. With 550 points, he's crowded by Lane (546 points), Tharp (538 points), and by just about every other angler in the top 10; the spread between No. 1 and No. 10 is 92 points If only Montgomery felt at home on Lake Seminole … but he doesn't. He first saw the lake about two weeks ago, but only for one day. Then he left to compete in an event in Texas.
He was back Monday for the first official day of practice. "It's brutally tough," he said Monday afternoon. "I've had two bites all day. Today's post-frontal, bluebird skies aren't helping. Seminole is historically tough in the fall — but I didn't expect it to be this bad." Results and photo galleries from the Open will be available daily at Bassmaster.com beginning Thursday with the 3:30 p.m. ET weigh-in.
Arnie Lane hasn't given up on joining his brothers, Chris Lane and Bobby Lane, in the Bassmaster Elite Series. He still has a shot at it this season — albeit a very long shot — through the Southern Open circuit on Seminole. Here's how it sets up for Arnie: At 43rd place in the points standings going into the third of three tournaments, he is on shaky ground for an Elite invitation.
Only the top seven Open pros get an automatic offer to turn Elite in 2011. But if an Open pro doesn't accept the invite, BASS works down the points list, stopping at 12th place. Arnie now sits 135 points out of 12th place. But most anything can happen in an Open. "Probably not this year," he said of his chances. "I'll try next year through the Southern Opens again.
If it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I always have my family business to fall back on." Arnie said he and his brothers are entered in the Seminole event, and he likes their chances for good tournament weights. Seminole — an impoundment on the southwestern corner of the Florida-Georgia border — fishes much like the Florida lakes on which the brothers cut their angling teeth.
Give 'em grass, they win tournaments. That's what Chris did in the Southern's season opener on Lake Okeechobee, where Bobby was runner-up to his brother. "All three of us have had success on Seminole, so I look for Bobby to win the points this year," Arnie said. "He's had a great year. It's almost like he can do no wrong." If Arnie gets to the Elite Series, he'd create the first triple-sibling act in the upper echelon of fishing.
Heavy ink and air time would be likely to come their way, much like what Bobby and Chris received as brothers against each other in the 2008 Classic. Separated in age by just over a year, Arnie (37), Bobby (36) and Chris (35) are close in more ways than one. Whatever happens this week, the brothers will compete together — and against each other — again in the 2011 Opens, according to Arnie. "It's a lot of fun, we have a good time together," he said.
Bill Lowen, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro who loves duck hunting as much as he loves bass fishing, has his name on a new limited-edition duck call made by one of his sponsors, Flambeau Outdoors.
Ten percent of sales of the new Lowen signature call will be donated to Delta Waterfowl, an organization that works to protect waterfowl populations across the United States. Lowen hand-tuned each of the 500 cherrywood calls. Instead of a natural stain, 25 of them have the same camo finish as on Lowen's bass boat wrap, Ducks in a Row by Feather 'Flage. Lowen. From North Bend, Ohio, has been an Elite Series pro since the tour's 2006 inaugural season. His strong 2010 season earned him a berth in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, coming up Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans. It will be his third championship appearance.