This year has certainly been one of the most unusual years in many of our lives, and the correlating tournament schedules are no different.
As we get deep into October, many Bassmaster events are still in full swing, and our Bassmaster Open schedule is officially at the halfway point after our last event on Lake Hartwell.
As a Central and Eastern Open competitor, like many, my focus is to requalify for the Bassmaster Elite Series and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
So far at the season’s midway point, that focus is still within a possible reality for me, as I am sitting in ninth place in the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Open Angler of the Year standings.
As I predicted in one of my early blog columns, in order to qualify for the 2021 Elite Series, you cannot even have one bad day all year. So far this season, I have had two top-20 finishes and have weighed a limit in each day of competition.
It is a monumental challenge to qualify for the Elites through the massive Open fields. It is not just the fact that you have to catch a limit each competition day, but you have to get a kicker or two each day to even have a shot a getting a check and a significant number of points.
Thirty years ago on the B.A.S.S. circuits, limits were considered the goal of each angler … even if it was just a limit of keepers.
In 2020, limits of keepers will get you nothing but a 100th-plus place finish and a long drive home.
The sport’s overall skill level has risen off the charts since 1990. In today’s world, regardless of the fishery or time of year, there are going to be 50-plus anglers catching limits with at least one kicker each and every day.
It is safe to say, not another competitive sport in this country has seen the talent, competition and skillsets increase across the board among its competitors like professional bass fishing has.
For me, I am laser-focused on the last four events. At this point, I’d say anyone in the top 20 in the combined Open points standings has a legitimate shot at qualifying. But those who are not in the top 10 right now will have to have four excellent events with no missteps.
One of the main things I have seen in the Opens this year is the effect fishing pressure has on the events. With the huge Open fields, there is no stone unturned on any lake we go to.
You must factor in fishing pressure and fishing around other anglers as much as you do — or more than you do — weather, techniques and patterns.
For example, in my first two events on Lake Toho and the Arkansas River, I had much of the area I was fishing to myself. I finished in the top 20 in both of those events.
At the last two tournaments on Rayburn and Hartwell, the areas I was fishing were covered up with boats. I failed to make the top 50 in those events. The fish to finish high in those events were in the areas I was fishing at Rayburn and Hartwell, but the fishing pressure neutralized the areas. The kicker bites never materialized as a result.
So my analysis of the season this far, and the reality of fishing the Bassmaster Opens, is the fact you have to be able to find areas that are not receiving a lot of pressure. Or you must figure out how to generate quality bites around other anglers.
The obvious reality of the situation is, on the Open circuit, you not only have to find bass, but you have to find bass that other anglers have not found or figured out how to catch.
This makes staying at the top of the Open points standings one of the most difficult challenges in professional bass fishing.
Once an angler has earned an Elite Series qualification through the Open tours in today’s world, they can rest on the fact it is one of the greatest accomplishments of any angler’s career.
Thanks for reading everyone, and I will keep you all updated as the season goes on.
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