Open: Astonishing options

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Shane Durrance

You might think the big prize this week at the season finale Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open is the winner’s trophy. Overall, everyone wants to claim it, but there is much more at stake. Here is what else matters this week.

At stake are 12 invitations to the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series for the boaters. First, here is how they are divided up. The Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year 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. As well, 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 three ways to qualify for the 12 available Elite Series invitations. The top four anglers from the overall AOY standings get the first round of invites. Next, the top four anglers from each division get invites. Anglers from the overall points that are also in the top four of either the Central or Eastern points come off that list, opening the door for anglers below them.

That happened at the final Central Opens event at Lewisville Lake. Jason Christie, the current overall AOY leader, also finished first in Central Opens points. Marc Frazier is fourth overall and finished fourth in the Central Opens. In that scenario, both come off the Central points, likely inviting Darold Gleason (fifth place) and Paul Browning (sixth place), which moves them up to third and fourth place, respectively. Kenta Kimura gets an invite by qualifying on his own.

This week at Lay Lake, the scenarios are mind boggling in the Eastern points race. Patrick Walters is the leader, however he already qualified through the Bassmaster Elite Series. So, he comes off the list. Josh Stracner is up next with a 30-point lead over Pat Schlapper. However, Schlapper won the recent TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. With it comes an Elite Series invitation, so he comes off the list. Today, that would put Stracner in first place and Scott Martin in second (he is currently officially in fourth place without the contingencies). Timmy Thompkins and Justin Atkins are both players for invitations. Atkins is also fifth in overall points, so that could trigger another shakeup should he shine this week.

Lastly, the winner of this tournament gets an automatic berth in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, but only if he fished the previous three Eastern Opens. That is a very likely scenario this week, as many of the Coosa River hot sticks will be jackpotting this event.

If one of those anglers wins, and did not compete in the other Eastern Opens, the Classic invite goes to the last man outside the Elite Series AOY cut. That man is Keith Combs. 

Confused? It’s all about to begin falling in place, and will be fun to watch shake out.