Path to the Elites

Many paths can lead aspiring anglers to the Bassmaster Elite Series.

Whether you start fishing in local jackpot derbies, regional team circuits or a B.A.S.S. Nation club, you should pick a route that gives you the best opportunity to succeed and gain confidence.

As you progress along the path to the pros, you should look for tournaments that expand your horizons. “Try to fish a bunch of different types of water and fish with a bunch of different anglers and pick up one or two things from every place you fish and every person you fish with,” said Elite pro John Crews.

Fishing in tournaments as often as possible and on every body of water he could find in Arkansas eventually propelled Kevin Short to the Elite Series level. “People are looking for shortcuts, but there is no easy way,” he said. “The only thing you can do is fish — a lot.” journeys down the paths the following pros took to reach the Elite Series.

John Crews

The Virginia pro started fishing competitively in local buddy tournaments with his cousin. “We were both very green,” Crews recalled. “We caught fish every event, but we never scared anybody. We had a good time though and met a lot of people.”

During his freshman year in college, Crews helped form the Sandy River Bassmasters because he wanted to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic through the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation. He recalls finishing in eighth place in the Virginia Nation six-man team tournament, but only the top six anglers in that event qualified for the state team and the chance to advance towards the Classic.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews has come a long way from the buddy tournaments he fished with his cousin.

Crews also fished as a co-angler in the Red Man circuit as a freshman and switched to the boater side of that circuit in his sophomore year. Crews admits he was unsuccessful as a co-angler, but he always caught some fish and “learned a ton.” When he moved to the front of the boat he qualified for the Red Man regional every year.

After graduating from college, Crews tried the co-angler side of the FLW Tour and competed in his first Bassmaster Invitational in 2000 at Old Hickory Lake where he finished in 175th place. He earned a check in his next invitational finishing 53rd at Lake Martin in Alabama, and in the 2001 Eastern Invitational at Lake Okeechobee, Crews took third place. In 2002, Crews competed in Bassmaster Southern and Eastern Opens and started fishing the Bassmaster Tour (the prelude to the Elite Series) in 2003.

Kevin Short

“I basically fished everything that I could,” Short said. “There were some years that I would fish between 35 and 40 tournaments a year in Central Arkansas between the first of February and the first of September.”

The Arkansas pro started fishing local jackpot derbies and team circuits with his wife Kerry and advanced to the Red Man and Mr. Bass of Arkansas draw tournaments. His successes in those two circuits included three Red Man wins and a regional championship and four Mr. Bass victories and an angler of the year title.

Short fished his first Bassmaster event, the 1998 Megabucks tournament, at Old Hickory Lake and finished 35th. In the ensuing years Short entered invitationals, a Top 150 and Central Opens and won a 2003 Central Open on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway that gave him the financial boost to begin fishing the Bassmaster Tour in 2004.

Russ Lane

This Alabama pro recalls he was 14 when he fished his first tournament, a team event that he won with his best friend Chris Rutland. “Over the course of 10 years, we won about 110 or 112 tournaments,” Lane said.

Elite pro Russ Lane started young and was motivated by the success of his friends.

Lane and Rutland fished team trails and pro-am circuits in Central Alabama until fellow competitor Jamie Horton made the 2002 Bassmaster Classic through the B.A.S.S. Nation. “I remember it tore me up that one of my buddies was fishing the Bassmaster Classic,” Lane said. “So I had to go try and do it.”

After helping form the Coosa River Anglers B.A.S.S. Nation club, Lane competed in an Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation state qualifier on Lay Lake and won the event which earned him a spot on the state team. Then he won the B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional to qualify for the 2004 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship where he finished second and earned a berth in the 2004 Bassmaster Classic. Lane competed in the fall of 2004 in the Southern Opens and qualified for the 2005 Bassmaster Tour.