Friday, April 12, 2024

A Look Back at BASSFest 2014 by Bruce Callis



The Inaugural Bassmaster BASSfest at Chickamauga Lake is in the books. What is BASSfest? BASSfest, a 5 day event of the top 140 anglers, 107 Elite regulars and 33 qualifiers through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series competing for the championship. All 140 anglers compete on days 1 & 2, and then the twist. On day 3, the top 50 take the day off and appear at the BASSfest Expo, meeting fans, giving seminars, and signing autographs. The remaining 90 anglers would start from scratch in a one day shootout on a totally different lake, with the top 10 advancing to compete on day 4 with the top 50 qualifiers from days 1 & 2. And for the final day 5, the top 12 anglers would compete for the $125,000 grand prize and a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Day 1 started off great with Michael Iaconelli having the hot hand. But on Day 2, the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup winner, Jacob Wheeler came alive with a whopping 29 pounds 13 ounce limit that propelled him into the lead. A lead he never gave up, despite having a 4 fish limit of 16-2 on day 4. He finished up day 5 with a 22-1 limit and won by 5 pounds 10 ounces over top Elite pro Kevin VanDam. Jacob averaged 4.768 pounds per fish over the four days of fishing with 19 fish caught, while Kevin averaged 4.427 pounds per fish for his 19 fish caught. Yes, both first and second place missed a limit of fish on day 4 and still managed to place ahead of their competitors.
Jacob now must complete the 2014 season of the Northern Open in order to claim his berth at the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. A small price to pay to earn a chance at becoming the Bassmaster Classic Champion, a dream so many kids share. But it does make you wonder, does an Elite angler, who wins an event; must he fish every tournament to claim his berth? I couldn’t find out if he must or not.
Does this win by FLW Angler Jacob Wheeler mean that the FLW has the best anglers? Does it put a thorn in the side of the Bassmaster Elite series? It does enflame the question as to which series has the title of best anglers. Or does it show that they both are on equal footing? What do you think, FLW or Elites? Wheeler, Martin, Dudley or VanDam, Crews, Horton?

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