At 16, Kent Cella of Shreveport, La., is one of the youngest anglers ever to compete in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens. But it didn’t take experience to know that the Harris Chain of Lakes wasn’t producing on Monday, the first official practice day for the first event of the 2012 Bassmaster season, a Southern Open.
“It’s pretty tough out here,” he said from the water. “But the next couple days, it’s supposed to warm up, and there’s a really good chance sight fishing will come into play in the tournament. I expect to see some big sacks.”
Low water temps and wind busted Cella’s practice day.
“I’ve spent a lot of time running in and out of dead water,” he said. “The water needs to warm up. Still, I’m excited about the rest of the week.”
Out of Tavares, Fla., the tournament will begin Thursday, Jan. 19, and run through Saturday, Jan. 21. Pros are competing for prizes and a ticket to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Under Bassmaster rules initiated in 2011, the winner of an event earns a Classic entry as long as he or she completes the season.
Anglers in pro and co-angler divisions will weigh their catches Thursday and Friday starting at 3 p.m. ET at Tavares’ Wooten Park. The final Top 12 weigh-in on Saturday will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET at the Orlando location of Bass Pro Shops on International Drive. All weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Cella wants to be among the pros on that Saturday stage. That would mean he earned a significant number of points toward a Bassmaster Elite Series qualification. At the end of the season, the Top 5 in points are invited to move up.
Cella started in the Opens just last season. He stepped it up for 2012 by entering not only the Southern Open, but also the Central Open. He’s also set to compete in Louisiana Federation events beginning at the end of March. He’s still in high school, and entering a university with a good bass-fishing team is his tentative plan after he graduates this spring, but an Elite qualification might put that off.
“If I can make the Elite Series this year, I’d definitely do it,” he said. “I also want to go to college. I’ll just see how it goes.”
A Classic qualification is another goal. He can easily attend this year’s Classic, set for his hometown of Shreveport-Bossier City, Feb. 24-26 on the Red River. But he isn’t content with being a spectator when big-time bass competition is happening.
“I want to be the youngest angler to qualify for the Elite Series — and the Classic,” Cella said.