The dust has settled from the 2021 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens season, but the repercussions will be felt for some time.
Twelve of the 677 competitors in the nine Opens received invitations to fish the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series while five earned berths to the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, La., won the ninth and final Open of the year on Saturday. Bringing in the biggest bag on Championship Saturday at 17 pounds, 3 ounces, LeBrun totaled 50-2 to win the Central Open on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. He earned $47,833 and, by fishing all three events in that division, qualified for the Classic.
“The money spends, but going to the Classic is a childhood, manhood, everything dream,” LeBrun said. “It’s going to take a while for that to sink in.”
On Friday, Jacob Powroznik, the 2014 Elite Rookie of the Year, secured his return to the top B.A.S.S. circuit. The pro from North Prince George, Va., finished 25th on Grand to complete his run to the Falcon Rods Opens Angler of the Year title. His steady season, in which he won at Smith Lake to earn a Classic berth and finished no worse than 59th, gave him 1,547 points.
For a seasoned pro who has five B.A.S.S. wins and several top finishes in the Elite AOY races, Powroznik, like Greg Hackney and Jason Christie the year before, said re-qualifying through the Opens caused major stress.
“It was the most nerve-wracking, emotional ride … There have been many mornings when I thought I was going to throw up,” he told Steve Wright for this post.
Powroznik leads the dozen anglers invited to the Elites, three from the overall standings and three each from the Central, Southern and Northern divisions.
Two Japanese anglers followed Powroznik in the overall, Masayuki Matsushita (1,446 points) and Daisuke Aoki (1,433). Matsushita, who won the Sam Rayburn Open in 2020 and fished the Ray Roberts Classic, continued his progression with a stellar season that included four top 20 finishes. Aoki, who finished in the money six times, won on Douglas Lake in April to earn a spot in the Lake Hartwell Classic, March 4-6.
Aoki was among those who needed a comeback after a poor first day on Grand. He fell three points behind Sam George in the overall AOY standings after Day 1, but he climbed nine places while George fell four spots on Day 2.
There were several others with dramatic moves on Grand Lake. Cody Huff of Ava, Mo., finished eighth on Grand to climb from sixth and end up atop the Central Open standings with 565 points. Jay Przekurat of Stevens Points, Wis., started the final tournament second in the AOY standings, fell to 11th after a subpar first day, then climbed 56 spots to 21st on Day 2 to finish second in points with 558.