Interesting storylines are developing after just two events of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open Series. Those tournaments were held in January at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and more recently on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma.
The reason why is the first-ever Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year race. North Carolinian Bryan New leads the race after his win at the first Eastern Open held in Florida. New finished 25th at the Central Open on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma.
New has 376 points, while B.A.S.S. veteran pro Randy Blaukat is next with 371 points. KJ Queen, formerly of the Bethel University fishing team, is third with 359 points. The 2019 Carhartt Bassmaster Series Team of the Year angler earned a 15th-place finish at the Arkansas River. Jason Christie is fourth with 351 points, and Gerald Swindle holds down fifth place with 349 points. Also notable with 341 points is sixth-place angler Scott Martin, whose goal after leaving the FLW Tour is qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series. Cody Huff, a Bethel University student and winner of the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket, is seventh with 333 points. The title came with paid entry fees for the 2020 Central Opens Series.
The 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 have 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 are fishing both divisions, up from just 16 in 2019.
Blaukat is another former FLW Tour angler seeking to qualify for the Elite Series. Before joining that tour, the Missouri pro fished 200 B.A.S.S. events beginning in 1985. Blaukat competed in eight Bassmaster Classics and scored two regular season wins.
How Blaukat plans to rejoin bass fishing’s most prestigious tour is a story in itself. The plan is fishing from a 2017 model year 19-foot aluminum boat powered by a 150-horsepower outboard. The boat is rigged with throwback electronics, a 24-volt trolling motor and 30-gallon fuel tank.
“My plan for 2020 was to simplify my fishing, return more to primal instincts and intuition, and to hopefully set an example to anglers out there with limited financial resources that you can achieve your dreams of fishing for a living on a tight budget.”
So far so good. Blaukat also realizes that certain large bodies of water might require sidelining the tin boat. Even so, the fundamental theme of his season remains the same.
“For me, this season so far has been an affirmation that you do not have to have the most expensive and latest equipment to compete at the top level,” he added.
Next on the schedule is the Eastern Open at Oneida Lake in New York, Aug. 6-8. Central Opens are scheduled for Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Sept. 10-12 and Oct. 22-24 at Lake Neely Henry. The division wraps up on Lewisville Lake, Nov. 19-21. Eastern Opens are scheduled for Lake Hartwell, Sept. 23-25 and Oct. 29-31 at Cherokee Lake.