Bassmaster Opens EQ field stacked with established pros and rising stars

The 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series tournaments will feature some of the biggest names in bass fishing as they fight for one of nine coveted invitations to join the Bassmaster Elite Series.

The 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series tournaments will feature some of the biggest names in bass fishing as they fight for one of nine coveted invitations to join the Bassmaster Elite Series.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Enthusiasm reached an all-time high for the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens in 2023 as B.A.S.S. unveiled a new “Elite Qualifiers” division that required anglers to fish all nine events across three divisions to qualify for one of nine spots on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

That momentum shows no signs of slowing down as more than 150 anglers have already signed up for the EQs in 2024, including, once again, some of the biggest names in professional bass fishing.

This all comes on the heels of B.A.S.S. officials announcing increased payouts and widely expanded coverage for 2024.

Live coverage from all nine Bassmaster Opens will be streamed on, with expanded coverage for the 2024 season on FS1, FS2, Tubi and the Fox Sports digital platforms. Also beginning in 2024, Bassmaster Opens EQ anglers will be competing for a combined Angler of the Year purse of $110,000, which includes an increased first-place cash prize of $45,000. The prize payouts for every tournament will also increase, with the top 45 anglers earning a check. Alongside the new AOY purse, that totals a prize purse of more than $3.1 million over the course of the season.

“The field just keeps getting tougher and more impressive for the EQs,” said Chris Bowes, vice president of tournaments for B.A.S.S. “That’s the way it should be for a trail that is the proving ground for the Bassmaster Elite Series. When anglers survive the grind of fishing nine tournaments against this roster, they can feel confident they’re ready for a shot at the top level of professional bass fishing.”

Like last year, the field is an incredible mix of established stars and up-and-coming young talent — with both lists growing even longer than before.

Among the notables are three current Japanese Elite Series pros, Kyoya FujitaKenta Kimura and Masayuki Matsushita. In 2023, Fujita claimed an Elite Series win at Lake Champlain as well as four other Top 10 finishes, while Kimura earned three Top 10s and finished fifth in the Opens EQ points standings.

Mississippi pro Cliff Pace, winner of the 2013 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic, will join this year’s EQs lineup, along with four-time B.A.S.S. winner Randall Tharp. Other former Elite Series pros in the field will include Darold GleasonChad GrigsbyBrett HiteCharlie HartleyMike McClellandIsh MonroeJames NiggemeyerGarrett PaquetteRuss LaneGary ClouseYusuke MiyazakiCasey Scanlon and Shane Lineberger.

Those veteran pros and current Elites, who have an amazing 59 Classic appearances among them, will be joined by talented young anglers like University of Montevallo star Easton Fothergill, who qualified for the 2024 Classic by winning the 2023 Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s, and decorated Auburn University angler and college national champion Tucker Smith

B.A.S.S. Executive Director of Tournaments Hank Weldon, who oversees the Opens trail, says no one should shy away from Opens competition. But he says everyone should enter with their eyes wide open, knowing just how tough this field will be.

“Everywhere you look on this roster of anglers you see guys who are capable of winning major events,” Weldon said. “I thought it was tough last year when we drew 175 guys for the first-ever EQ field. But this list may be even more loaded with big-time talent — and with the schedule we have, it’s going to make for some really exciting events.”

Other recognizable names in the field include Idaho pro Cody Meyer, a former FLW Tour angler with more than $1.4 million in career earnings, and Alabama pro Joey Nania, who won his second Open at Lake Eufaula, Okla., in 2023 — and qualified for his second Classic — before finishing 18th in the EQ standings, less than 100 points from an Elite berth.

“This field is not for the faint of heart,” Weldon said. “Some of the guys who just missed last year — like Keith TumaSam GeorgeKyle Austin — will no doubt be even hungrier this second time around.”

The field is down slightly from last season but loaded with more established names, suggesting many anglers might have decided they need more time to prepare for a shot at fishing all nine events. Those who survived the gauntlet say that could be a wise decision.

During the 2023 season, anglers like JT Thompkins — the very first Opens EQ Angler of the Year — expressed just how difficult it was knowing every event could be the one that made the difference between qualifying for the Elites or being forced to make another round through the Opens. But he also said the rigorous Opens format was the perfect preparation for an Elite Series slate that will be even tougher.

“I think everyone can see clearly that (the EQ format) was a very good thing because it brought the best out of every angler in the field,” Thompkins said. “I think it’s the best thing that we could have done.

“I think this 2024 Elite rookie class will be the best rookie class of all time, and I think that’s all thanks to the format that (B.A.S.S.) put out.”

With the schedule still split into three divisions, winners of all Opens will still earn a spot in the 2025 Classic, provided they fish all three events in that division.

Registration for both boaters and non-boaters remains open for all 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens tournaments at

The complete Elite Qualifiers field is as follows:

Matthew Adams, Oxford
Josh Butler, Hayden
Cody Detweiler, Guntersville
Jacopo Gallelli, Horton
Sam George, Athens
Laker Howell, Guntersville
Connor Jacob, Auburn
Logan Johnson, Jasper
Russ Lane, Prattville
Andrew Loberg, Grant
Joey Nania, Cropwell
Tripp Noojin, Bryant
Tucker Smith, Birmingham
Trey Swindle, Cleveland
Brady Vernon, Sterrett
Garrett Warren, Hoover

Tai Au, Glendale
Brett Hite, Phoenix

Greg Bohannan, Bentonville
Beau Browning, Hot Springs National Park
Scout Echols, Monticello

Seiji Kato, Los Alamitos
Ish Monroe, Oakdale
Christian Ostrander, Turlock

Ty Faber, Pagosa Springs

Bobby Bakewell, Orlando
Tommy Dunaway, Havana
Tim Frederick, Leesburg
Teb Jones, Yalaha
Scott Kerslake, Okeechobee
Chris Kingree, Inverness
Clint Leonard, Saint Cloud
Brandon McMillan, Clewiston
Blake Smith, Lakeland
Mike Surman, Boca Raton
Jackson Swisher, Lake City
Randall Tharp, Port St. Joe

Allen Armour, Cumming
Elijah Benson, Dawsonville
Tony Dumitras, Winston
Paul Marks, Cumming
Cody Stahl, Barnsville
Emil Wagner, Marietta
Kelvin Wilcox, Hazlehurst

Cody Meyer, Eagle
Brent Shores, Boise

Richard Lowitzki, Hampshire
Trevor McKinney, Noble
Bryan Partak, Marseilles
Bart Stanisz, Chicago

Billy McDonald, Greenwood
John Voyles, Petersburg

Chancy Walters, West Des Moines

Chris Beaudrie, Princeton
Lafe Messer, Warfield
Matt Messer, Warfield
Dalton Smith, Taylorsville

Darold Gleason, Many
Alex Heintze, Denham Springs
Alex Murray, Lake Charles
Clark Reehm, Elm Grove

Brian Mullaney, Ijamsville

Chris Hellebuyck, White Lake
Garrett Paquette, Canton
Bo Thomas, Edwardsburg

Easton Fothergill, Grand Rapids
Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove
Brad Leuthner, Victoria
Jim Moynagh, Shakopee
Nathan Thompson, Eagan
Keith Tuma, Brainerd

Keith Brumfield, Vicksburg
Brett Cannon, Kiln
Cliff Pace, Ovett

Mike McClelland, Blue Eye
Andy Newcomb, Camdenton
Casey Scanlon, Eldon
Trey Schroeder, Theodosia
Joe Wieberg, Freeburg
Zachary William, Shell Knob

Brock Belik, Orchard

Cody Steckel, Las Vegas

New York
Billy Gilbert, Hamburg
Zach Goutremout, Chaumont
Phillip Kroll, Otego

North Carolina
Shane Lineberger, Lincolnton
Brayden Rakes, Winston Salem

Charlie Hartley, Grove City
Richard Kaluba, Litchfield
Kyle Weisenburger, Columbus Grv

Austin Cranford, Norman
Kollin Crawford, Broken Bow
Lance Crawford, Broken Bow
Allan Nail, Sand Springs
Matt Pangrac, Shawnee

Jonathan Dietz, Corry
Derrick Sadlowski, Monaca

South Carolina
Sean Anderson, Leesville
Kyle Austin, Ridgeville
Chris Blanchette, Edisto Island
Sean Clayton, Clover
Cole Drummond, Effingham
Derek Lehtonen, Woodruff
Lance Owen, Greer
Jacob Thompkins, Myrtle Beach
Tucker Veronee, Gilbert
Avery Williams, Murrells Inlet

Jason Abram, Piney Flats
Miles Burghoff, Dayton
Gary Clouse, Winchester
Sam Hanggi, Knoxville
Jason Lambert, Savannah
Tristan McCormick, Burns
Freddy Palmer, Estill Springs
Kyle Palmer, Winchester
Jimmy Washam, Stantonville

Jason Borofka, Lavon
Paul Browning, Monahans
Caden Cowan, Stephenville
Kevin Dritschler, Prosper
Bryan Finch, Belton
Joey Hanna, Corsicana
Andrew Hargrove, Moody
Andrew Harp, Linden
Scott Isaacs, Ladonia
Dylan Mayo, Athens
Mike Mayo, Athens
Mike Mitchell, Seven Points
Yusuke Miyazaki, Forney
James Niggemeyer, Van
Danny Ramsey, Trinidad
Blake Schroeder, Whitehouse
Jack Tindel III, Orange
Tim Tyndell, Mineola
Andrew Upshaw, Hemphill
Wyatt Wimberley, Broaddus
Jack York, Emory

Chase Clarke, Virginia Beach
Jack Dice, Lynchburg
Jeremy Radford, Huntly

Andrew Behnke, Fond Du Lac
Jacob Bigelow, Cecil
Bailey Bleser, Burlington
Brian Post, Janesville
Adam Rasmussen, Sturgeon Bay
Nick Trim, Galesville
Josh Wiesner, Fon du Lac

Paul Bouvier, Kingston
Evan Kung, Pickering
Danny McGarry, Newcastle

Yui Aoki, Minamitsurugun
Kyoya Fujita, Yamanashi
Kenta Kimura, Hirakata Osaka
Daisuke Kita, Ostu Shiga
Masayuki Matsushita, Tokoname-Aichi