MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Bassmaster Elite Series has never been to Montgomery for a regular-season event, but the May 9-12 Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite will be like a homecoming.
Elite Series owner B.A.S.S., now based in Birmingham, Ala., was founded in Montgomery in 1968 by Ray Scott, a lifelong resident of the Capital City. The birthplace of modern bass fishing, Montgomery has been the site of several top-tier Bassmaster competitions, including the Bassmaster Classic in 1981 and 1982. Most recently, Montgomery hosted three consecutive Elite Series postseasons, from 2009 to 2011.
But Montgomery has never seen a regular-season Elite Series event, when 100 of the world’s best bass pros launch their high-tech, wrapped rigs and put on a four-day show that attracts thousands of fans. At the March 2013 season opener in Orange, Texas, 33,650 people turned out over four days, setting a new Elite Series attendance record.
“Montgomery area fans have a chance to challenge Texas for the record,” said Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director and native of Montgomery.
“We’ve always had super fan interest for Bassmaster tournaments in Alabama, and Montgomery has the perfect setting for a big event like the Alabama River Charge,” Weldon said.
This week the Elite pros are on West Point Lake in LaGrange, Ga., for the season’s fourth event. As soon as it’s over, they’ll head to Montgomery for their May 6-8 practice time for the May 9-12 competition days.
Several of the newer Elite pros have never been to the Alabama River, but many of the others are veterans of the fishery known for feisty spotted bass as well as largemouth bass. Elite pro Paul Elias won the 1982 Classic on the Alabama, and he placed seventh in the 1981 Classic, also on the Alabama. Seven-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam won each of the final two postseason events in 2009 and 2010 on the Alabama River, clinching the Toyota Trucks Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles for those years in the process.
The most recent Elite pro to win on the Alabama River was Ott DeFoe, the postseason champ of 2011. He bested Edwin Evers by 5 ounces in a head-to-head final round of a three-day elimination competition.
“I have not been back since I won, and I’m definitely looking forward to it,” DeFoe said. “I have good memories of the time I spent there, and I’m ready to get back and do it again.”
By “it” he means hook more of the spotted bass he weighed in for his first Elite title.
“Where I live, we have Kentucky spots,” said DeFoe, 27, who calls Knoxville, Tenn., home. “The spots on the Alabama River are definitely a lot meaner, no doubt about it. They’re very aggressive and strong.”
He said he’ll be looking for one key condition: “If you have current, they bite. If you don’t, they don’t.”
DeFoe noted that a May trip to the river vs. the late July 2011 postseason means that the bass might have more tricks up their fins. “Like always, we will have to adjust to the conditions we find when we get there,” DeFoe said.
The Elite field will compete for a first-place prize of $100,000, an instant-in for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, and points that count toward a Classic qualification and the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
Fans are invited to watch the pros kick off the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite each day at 6:30 a.m. CT at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park (200 Coosa St., Montgomery, AL 36104). Anglers return to the park to weigh their catches beginning at 3:15 p.m. CT at the Riverfront Park Amphitheatre on Thursday and Friday and at the Riverfront Park Union Station Train Shed on Saturday and Sunday.
While the pros are on the river, fans can enjoy the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo, which will open at noon Thursday-Sunday. All Bassmaster fan activities are free and open to the public.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive online coverage. Features include live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards during the weigh-ins; blogs and videos from the water; the Lowrance War Room, which features data and analysis from the BASSTrakk catch reports; daily results; photo galleries; news stories and much more.
ESPN2 will air coverage of the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite on June 2 from 8-9 a.m. ET on The Bassmasters TV show.
The local host of the event is the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.