Dropping each angler’s worst finish because of a COVID stipulation has jumbled the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year standings (only as it relates to the Classic cut), some for better, some worse.
Jeff Gustafson and Chad Pipkens were among those whose chances of making the Classic improved, while Bill Lowen moved the other way. Each was coming off the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, and now it’s back to the business of trying to qualify for next year’s championship in the final two Elite events.
Gustafson is adamant he gets back for his third Classic.
“Dude, you have no idea, especially after you fish in it, you never want to miss that,” he said. “It’s so awesome, the rock star treatment all week and the chance to fish for that trophy. There’s just a lot of perks. I love all the events, the Classic Night dress-up dinner. I love all that stuff. Yeah, you don’t want to miss it.”
A majority of the Elites requested and voted in the ability to drop their worst tournament if someone were to miss one for a COVID-related illness. It happened when David Fritts fell ill for the first tournament.
B.A.S.S. recently sent out an updated Angler of the Year point standings with each angler’s worst event excluded. It doesn’t affect the AOY race or requalification to the Elites, only Classic berths. Those berths are awarded to the top 39 Elites and move down the standings with each double qualifier.
Brandon Palaniuk, who stands fifth in the AOY hunt, won an Open to double qualify. Hank Cherry, 14th in the points, earned another automatic berth when he repeated as Classic champ last month. (He will be going for an unprecedented three-peat next year at Lake Hartwell.)
“It helped me out a little bit,” said Pipkens, who moves from first man out of the Classic cut to 39th. “I think it was a great rule in case somebody got (COVID) who was in the mix. Hopefully it won’t make a big difference. If it shuffles, it’s going to shuffle one or two people in or out.”
While results of early season events count the same, the Guaranteed Rate Elite on Lake Champlain and the season-finale on the St. Lawrence River, where the winner receives an automatic Classic berth and could create another double qualifier, will loom large in deciding the berths.