And now for something completely different.
The revised Bassmaster Elite Series schedule will have the anglers doing something many haven’t done in years, or ever, and that’s compete in the fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed spring events, forcing B.A.S.S. to shuffle things up. The announcement of new tournament dates, which get under way June 10-13 at Lake Eufaula, has the anticipation growing. Second-year Elite Patrick Walters sums up the prevalent feeling of anglers.
“Excited. Ready to fish,” he said. “Just ready to get in the truck, put the camper on there, hook the boat up and roll. I’m looking forward to it.
“I don’t care where we’re fishing; I don’t care if it’s a mud hole. I don’t care what time of year. I’m happy we’re finishing the season out. That’s the biggest thing, with sponsor obligations, you plan on fishing eight more, and it’s good we’re going to.”
Most Elites say the hiatus since the St. Johns in February has been much too long. After Eufaula, the Elites must again bide their time until back-to-back-to-back July events in New York then Lake St. Clair in August, which electrifies smallmouth aficionados like Brandon Palaniuk.
“I’m super excited about it. I think that it shakes things up and offers a lot of new opportunities,” Palaniuk said. “I think it’s really cool that our season is going to kind of start in a lot of smallmouth heavy events. The fall stuff, that’s going to be a huge learning curve.”
After September off, the Elites compete on Santee Cooper Lakes then Chickamauga Lake in October before the season finale in early November in the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest on Lake Fork.
“That’s going to be something new for me, because I’ve never fished in the fall, or in the South during the fall, not competitively,” Palaniuk said. “I’ve very rarely even fished because by the time the season is over, I just head home.
“Even if we’re going to bodies of water I’ve been to before, I’m going to them at a different time of year than I’ve ever fished them.”
Originally, the spring events at Chickamauga, Eufaula, Santee Cooper and Lake Fork had anglers dreaming of reaching 100 pounds and earning Century Belts, but the time switch thwarts expectations. Nonetheless, Keith Combs is pleased with the changes.
“I loved it the moment I saw it,” Combs said. “It was great schedule before, but I’m just as excited about the new schedule.
“I think you’re going to see your best fisherman on tour rise to the top this year, because it’s going to be difficult and there’s going to be a variety of different ways to approach a tournament. You’re not going to able to pick up an Ocho and sling it around for spawners. You’re going to have to do a lot of different things to win AOY this year. I’m pumped about that.”
This schedule pushes the Elites beyond prevalent spawning events. St. Johns and the Classic on Guntersville were around the spawn, Combs said, but he’s happy to expand fishing horizons.