Falcon Rods AOY race heats up

LEWISVILLE, Texas — Up for grabs this week are three coveted prizes at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open at Lewisville Lake. Those are the overall winner titles for the top boater and co-angler; an invitation for the boater to the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk; and four invitations to the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series. Those will come from the restructured format of the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year.

What all that means is this is the last shot for Central Opens anglers to achieve any of those goals. The Central Open this week at Lewisville is the final event of the season; the season finale Eastern Open is in early December at Lay Lake in Alabama.

The overall Opens AOY title will be determined by combined points for anglers competing in both the Central and Eastern Opens. Falcon Rods will award a $10,000 prize to the overall points winner in the pro division. The top co-angler will earn paid entry fees into the 2021 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens division of his or her choice.

This season, each Opens division has four tournaments, and there are now three ways to qualify for the 12 available Elite Series invitations. The top four from both the Central and Eastern Divisions get invites, along with the top four overall anglers in the point standings. That explains why more than 50 boater anglers signed up for both divisions, up from just 16 in 2019.

At Lewisville Lake, everyone is gunning for the winner’s trophy, while others are also drilling down on the Elite Series invitations. Going into the tournament, Jason Christie leads the Central Opens AOY race with 547 points; Darold Gleason is second with 540 points; Lee Livesay has 539 points for third place; Marc Frazier is fourth with 533 points and Brandon Palaniuk is fifth with 531 points.

Livesay failed to qualify for the Classic through the Elite Series. His goal this week is to win the tournament to make it in. He gets another shot at the Eastern Opens finale next month at Lay Lake.

Livesay and Palaniuk are both double qualified as Elite Series pros. That potentially leaves the door open for sixth place Central Opens AOY angler Kenta Kimura, the Japanese pro regularly competing in the Opens since 2013.

Christie, also second overall in the overall AOY race, is only two points out of the lead held by Justin Atkins.

“I’d really like to win it, obviously, and Falcon Rods is also one of my sponsors, and I’d like to win it for them,” Christie said. “The goal though is to qualify for the Classic.”

In the overall AOY race, Atkins has 1009 points and Frazier is third with 1003 points. In fourth place is Matt Robertson with 964 points. The Kentucky angler plans to pursue sponsors for an Elite Series move should he receive the invitation.

Of keen interest is the AOY campaign of Scott Martin. The high-profile Florida pro started the year strong after a posting a fifth-place finish at the season opener at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. He sank after low finishes in June and September at the Arkansas River and Sam Rayburn, respectively. After a rebound and fifth-place finish at Lake Hartwell, he finished poorly at the next two events at Neely Henry Lake and Cherokee Lake.

The sum of the whole is a current overall AOY ranking of seventh place going into this week. Given there are two more events, Martin has the opportunity to improve on his ranking and gain the Elite Series invite that he set forth as his goal for this year.

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