JASPER, Ala. — Very unofficially, the points standings in the Bass Pro Shops Southern Opens have changed after Day One on Lewis Smith Lake.
As you’d expect, Kevin Hawk jumped to the top of the standings after taking the lead in the tournament and after previous leader Clifford Pirch struggled and ended the day tied for 64th.
Of course, that’s terrific news for Hawk. If he can hang on to win the tournament, not only will he be Bassmaster Classic bound, but he’ll earn an invitation to join the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series. Hawk’s a real talent, the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup champion, and he’d make a fine addition the Elite field.
Three of the other four anglers currently in line to earn invitations to join the Elites are already fishing the Elites. If they hold onto their positions, the invitations of Greg Vinson (currently 2nd), Jason Williamson (3rd) and Chris Lane (5th) will pass to lower ranked Elites and give them an opportunity to stay in the league despite a poor performance in 2012. North Carolina’s Hank Cherry (currently 4th in the season standings and second in the Smith Lake tournament) would earn the other invitation.
As for the Smith Lake tournament specifically, five of the top eight anglers after the first day have a chance to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic if they can hang on to win. In addition to Hawk and Cherry, Drew Benton (3rd), Gerald Swindle (4th) and Rodney Jones (6th) have each fished all three Southern Opens and can therefore make the Classic with a win here. Of course, Swindle is already in through his Elite Series performance this year.
Brent Crow (5th), Craig Daniel (7th) and Bruce Holcombe (8th) are fishing their first Southern Open of the year. If they win, they get a great prize package, but no golden ticket to the Classic.
And speaking of the Classic, California's Jared Lintner is celebrating today. When defending Classic champ Chris Lane launched his boat and officially went out to compete on Smith Lake, he tied up the last loose end of qualifying through the Southern Opens after his January win on the Harris Chain in Florida. That opened up another spot in the Classic that just went to Lintner.
Now, somewhere in Little Rock, Ark., Elite pro Scott Rook is quietly — or maybe not so quietly — rooting for Gerald Swindle to win this tournament. If the G-Man can pull it off, he’ll double-qualify for the Bassmaster Classic through the Elites and the Opens, opening up one final spot to an Elite angler that would go to Rook.
And Rook’s hopes aren’t pinned exclusively on Swindle. There are three other Elite pros with a chance to double-qualify in the top 18 — Lane (10th), David Walker (15th) and Cliff Prince (18th). Day 2 will refocus Rook’s hopes and chances of getting to the Classic in 2013.