Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Bass’n plan: national tournament preview 2020

Gary's Picks

By Joe Albert
Contributing Writer

 

They’ll be catching giant largemouth bass in Florida while anglers in the northern United States peer through holes in the ice, and fishing some of the best bodies of water the nation has to offer for bass. They’ll be targeting largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass – sometimes all three during the same tournament – and they’ll likely need to weigh limits of bass with an average weight that the average angler would consider a trophy.

 

The two major national bass tours – Major League Fishing’s Pro Bass Tour and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s Bassmaster Elite Series – will crisscross the central and eastern United States between February and August of 2020, setting free some of the world’s best anglers on lakes, reservoirs and rivers with deep roots in bass-fishing lore. Other bodies of water they’ll visit have drawn increased attention in recent years thanks to an overall smallmouth bass fishery that’s producing fish big and healthy as ever before.

 

“Fans will have an opportunity to see our anglers compete on some of the best big-bass lakes in America,” said B.A.S.S CEO Bruce Akin.

 

In recent months, Major League Fishing acquired Fishing League Worldwide, which also had operated a national bass-fishing tournament trail. The most successful anglers on the FLW tour will qualify to fish on the Bass Pro Tour.

 

“This announcement marks a thrilling new chapter in FLW’s history as we join Major League Fishing and begin a new era in the sport of competitive bass fishing,” said Kathy Fennel, FLW president of operations.

 

Here’s a look at what’s to come on the national bass-fishing level in 2020:

Bass Pro Tour 

The Bass Pro Tour, which includes 80 anglers, again will feature a format in which all bass over 1 pound count toward the overall weight and fish are released immediately after they’re caught and weighed. 

 

“All of these lakes at different times over the years have been known to be some of the best in the country,” said Michael Mulone, senior director of events and partnerships for MLF. “Okeechobee, Fork, Toho, the St. Lawrence … these are fabled fisheries and they’re all on the same schedule. Top to bottom, this is the most inclusive schedule for smallmouth, largemouth – for both quality and quantity – that I’ve ever seen.”

 

Feb. 7-12: Lake Eufaula (Alabama): Bass inhabit this Chattahoochee River impoundment that’s located on the border of Alabama and Georgia. Lake Eufaula spans 45,131 acres should be in the pre-spawn mode when the first stage of the Bass Pro Tour makes its stop. Anglers who find females moving from wintering areas to spawning areas could connect with big bags of bass. 

 

Feb. 21-26: Lake Okeechobee (Florida): The massive Florida body of water has a reputation for producing equally massive fish, especially during this time of year. At an event in February 2017 on the lake, the winner on one day weighed in a limit of fish that averaged more than 6 pounds apiece.

 

March 13-18: Lake Fork (Texas): It’s possible this impoundment of Lake Fork Creek is the best in the nation when it comes to producing big bass. Over the years, it has produced 261 entries into a Texas program that records caught-and-released bass that weigh 13 pounds or more.

 

April 3-8: Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, Shearon Harris Reservoir (North Carolina): Perhaps not as well-known as the other water bodies on the tour, the pros who fished it in 2019 enjoyed solid fishing and caught 140 bass that weighed at least 5 pounds.

 

May 15-20: Kissimmee Chain (Florida): The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which includes well-known bodies of water like lakes Toho and Kissimmee, provides outstanding fishing. But it’s rare for a national event to visit the chain following the bass spawn. “If we have hydrilla offshore in Toho, there’ll be plenty of fish offshore, but there’s always resident fish that stay inshore in the Kissimmee grass,” said Marty Mann, a biologist for the Florida Wildlife Commission. “I’ve been fishing for 20 years and I’ve never seen a major tour fish here in May. I think it’ll be a pretty cool event.”

 

June 5-10: Lake Winnebago, Lake Butte des Morts, Green Lake (Wisconsin): The beginning of a northern swing in the schedule starts with these Wisconsin lakes. While largemouth bass will be a target, especially since they’ll likely be grouped up and readily accessible in the shallows, smallmouth bass might be the winning ticket. “Edwin Evers (the top pro during the 2019 MLF season) looked me in the eye while he was on our stage and told me that his best day of smallmouth bass fishing in his life happened in June on Lake Winnebago,” said Marty Stone, an analyst for MLF.

 

June 26-July 1: St. Lawrence River (New York): Considered one of the best overall bass lakes in the nation, the St. Lawrence River produces bruiser smallmouth and largemouth bass alike. “The St. Lawrence River is just an unbelievable fishery,” said pro angler Josh Bertrand, who won there in 2018. “We’ve never been there at that time of year, so we’ll have to figure out what the fishery is like in late June, but the smallmouth there will just blow your mind.”

 

July 21-26: Lake Champlain (Vermont): Its location in the northeastern United States screams smallmouth bass, but the reality is Lake Champlain also holds a strong population of stout largemouth bass. During a tournament there a couple of years ago, one angler caught 40 pounds of smallmouth bass in a day, while another caught 62 pounds of largemouth bass. And still another angler caught 28 pounds of fish in less than two hours.

Bassmaster Elite Series

Elite Series anglers will hit water bodies in six states, continuing the venerable tour’s history of matching the nation’s top anglers with its top fisheries. As usual, weigh-ins are held on shore at the end of every competition day, providing folks an opportunity to see their favorite anglers up close and learn how they caught their fish.

 

Feb. 6-9: St. Johns River (Florida): It’ll be the 21st time there’s been a B.A.S.S. competition on the St. Johns River, which produces big bass this time of year. Consider that during last year’s event, the eventual winner – legendary bass angler Rick Clunn – caught a five-fish bag weighing 34 pounds, 14 ounces on the final day. Included were two bass weighing in excess of 9 pounds apiece.

 

Feb. 14-17: Chickamauga Lake (Tennessee): Consistently ranked as one of the best bass-fishing lakes in the nation, Chickamauga produces good numbers of fish, and plenty of heavy fish to boot. It’s a reservoir along the Tennessee River.

 

March 6-8: Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville in Alabama: The Elite Series is on hiatus while anglers who qualified during the 2019 season take part in what’s known as the “Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.” 

 

April 2-5: Lake Eufaula (Alabama): It’s been more than a decade since there was a B.A.S.S. event at this historic lake, but the tour has visited there 18 times since the late 1960s. There are more fishing options on the lake today than there were in previous years, when it was known primarily as a ledge fishery. “Anyone who follows professional bass fishing is familiar with Lake Eufala’s reputation for producing big bass,” said Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director. “As an organization, B.A.S.S. has had some great events there through the years, and it’ll be a lot of fun going back.” 

 

April 16-19: Santee Cooper Lakes (South Carolina): The last B.A.S.S. event at Santee Cooper, which includes lakes Marion (110,000 acres) and Moultrie (60,000 acres), was held in 2009. The lakes have been on an upswing of late, and anglers in recent tournaments there have weighed limits of fish averaging more than 6 pounds apiece.

 

May 29-June 1: Sabine River (Texas): A visit to the Sabine River has been a theme of recent B.A.S.S. seasons. Anglers this time around will have more river miles to fish, though it remains to be seen if weights will be higher. Fish don’t grow to huge proportions in the river, and catching them can be a challenge. During a 2018 Elite Series event there, the winning four-day weight was just less than 49 pounds.

 

June 5-9: Texas Fest – site to be announced later: This event benefits Texas Parks and Wildlife. The location is to be determined, but the event marks the final in the south before the tour takes a northern swing.

 

July 23-26: St. Lawrence River (New York): The St. Lawrence River is “smallmouth bass fishing’s holy country,” according to B.A.S.S. And Bassmaster magazine named it the top bass-fishing destination in America. “It is hands-down, out of every place I’ve personally been to, the best smallmouth fishery I’ve ever experienced,” Minnesota pro Seth Feider, a noted smallmouth bass expert, said in a video on Bassmaster.com. “It’s the most pristine place I’ve ever fished.”

 

July 30-Aug. 2: Lake Champlain (New York): As noted earlier, Lake Champlain is a good largemouth and smallmouth bass fishery. With the Bass Pro Tour leaving town now long before this event kicks off, it remains to be seen how the anglers and fish alike adapt to that much pressure.

 

Aug. 20-23: Lake St. Clair (Michigan): Lake St. Clair has been a B.A.S.S. favorite in recent years. This will be the fourth time since 2014 a tour-level event has been held there. In the past three events, it has taken a daily average weight of more than 20 pounds to win.

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