PELL CITY, Ala. — Saturday closes the season for the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens. In the past that meant all eyes were on the point standings for anglers seeking to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
This year will be different. Performance points are more valuable, because there is more at stake than ever before. The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship is the reason why. The inaugural championship is Oct. 18-20 at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
The championship field will include the winners of the four Central Opens, winners from the four Eastern Opens and the Top 10 in season point standings from each division.
The Opens Championship winner and the Top 5 in performance points from each division — determined by an angler’s finish in all four divisional tournaments and the championship — will be invited to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series. The winner of the championship and the Top 3 anglers in points from each division following the championship will be invited to the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
What all of the above means is the Central Opens season really doesn’t end tomorrow at Logan Martin. For some anglers it actually begins all over again, albeit with only one event. Between the lines are these two notable factors that make the championship even more important.
First, points accrued at the championship are calculated into the sum of total points for the year. So gaining even more points at Table Rock could make or break the chances of entering the Elite Series.
What went away this season was the “win and you’re in” Classic berth for the winners of last year’s Opens. The championship is the exception. All 28 anglers, regardless of where they fall in the point standings, have a shot at qualifying for the Classic. What makes that berth so valuable is having a less than stellar regular season can be resurrected with a win—and Classic berth—at just one tournament.
This week the spotlight is on the Central Opens point standings. As of Friday, here were the point standings, including total weight for the season thus far.
Baton Rouge, La.
New Iberia, La.
Panama City, Fla.
La Vergne, Tenn.
As a comparison here are the point standings prior to the Logan Martin tournament.
Of the above anglers here are some notables worth knowing about.
Whatley, of Bivins, Texas, is in his fourth season of competing in the Central Opens. Qualifying for the Elite Series is his goal, and he came closest in 2015 after finishing 11th in the point standings.
In the same boat as Whatley is Derek Hudnall, of Baton Rouge, La. Hudnall also began fishing the Opens in 2015. Twice he’s been inside the top 10 going into the season finale. Both times he missed the cut for the Elite Series. This time he stands a greater chance, also having a strong sponsorship relationship with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Fund-raising for the hospital is Hudnall’s focus and he’s been successful in raising thousands of dollars for the facility specializing in pediatric healthcare.
Caleb Sumrall just completed his Elite Series rookie season after winning the 2017 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship and accepting the contingency for the tour. He finished outside the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, ending his 2018 Elite Series season. However, as defending Nation champion he gets to fish at the 2018 event in November on Pickwick Lake. That gives him another shot at the Classic, should he win or finish in the top three of the overall standings.
The Elite Series season, and a final chance to qualify for the Classic at the AOY championship, has also ended for Brock Mosley. Even so, he now has a chance for redemption should he stay inside the top 10 of points in the Central Opens.
And next week much of the above plays out all over again at the Eastern Opens finale on Douglas Lake in east Tennessee.