JASPER, Ala. — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Steve Kennedy isn't at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #3. Even so, his fate for securing the most important career goal of the year happens tomorrow at Lewis Smith Lake.
Kennedy is the first man out in qualifying for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. Qualifying is based where Elite Series pros finish in points for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Kennedy missed the cut, even though he won an Elite Series title at Lake Dardanelle.
Here's how he can get in. As fate would have it, double qualifying is one criterion for getting in by default. Kennedy can do that if Jesse Wiggins, Jordan Lee or Brandon Lester wins the tournament. All three anglers are fishing Championship Saturday and already qualified for the Classic through AOY points.
Another double qualifier is Rick Morris. The veteran B.A.S.S. pro won the Northern Open last month on the James River. Should he win again that opens up the Classic berth for Kennedy.
Wiggins leads the tournament and won here in 2016. In January he won the Southern Open at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. Wiggins double qualified after finishing 37th in AOY points.
Lee is defending Classic champion and also finished fourth in the standings for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Lester finished 38th in AOY points.
With the weights tight all week the chances of any of the above anglers winning is possible. Greater odds are in play due to the tournament history of Wiggins and Lee, both of whom call Smith Lake their home water.
The spoiler factor is also huge. Any one of the remaining eight anglers can qualify by winning if they fished the previous two Southern Opens. The most dangerous of them all is David Kilgore. The local favorite is in 7th place and won the Open here in 2014.
Wiggins and John Cox, who won at Lake Chickamauga, are the two other qualifiers from the Southern Opens.
Kennedy, an avid fan of Auburn University football, will be watching his favorite team play Mississippi State University. Kickoff is at 5 p.m., or about the same time a winner is declared for Southern Open #3.
For once, instead of watching Auburn football on TV, Kennedy might have both eyes on Bassmaster.com to see who wins.