Classic qualification made easy … sort of
You need a scorecard, calculator and some scratch paper to figure out the 2015 Bassmaster Classic field … or you could read this
With the completion of the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, 48 of the 56 Bassmaster Classic berths for Lake Hartwell, Feb. 20-22, 2015, are in the books. Remaining are one spot from the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate (to be decided on Oct. 4), six spots from the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (Nov. 8) and one spot from the Bassmaster Team Series (Dec. 13).
Classic qualifiers come from seven sources.
Ordinarily, only one defending Classic champ has a berth in the Classic, and it would be Randy Howell, who won earlier this year. The 2013 champ, Cliff Pace, however, was unable to defend his title after suffering a hunting injury that forced him to sit out the Elite Series season. As a result, he’ll be back in the Classic in 2015. What’s more, Pace finished second to Alton Jones at the 2008 Classic on Hartwell, so he’ll certainly be one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Wheeler isn’t fishing the Elite Series, but he won BASSfest on Chickamauga Lake and fished the full season of Northern Opens to earn his spot.
Top-Ranking Anglers in the AOY Standings
The top 29 anglers in the AOY race all earn a berth in the Classic. You’ve seen some of these names already above.
Six of the anglers who won Elite events (Hackney, Powroznik, Chris Lane, Christie, Iaconelli and McClelland) were also in the top 29 of the AOY race. Thus they “double qualify,” earning a spot via their wins and on points. Howell also double qualifies on points and as defending Classic champion. That opens up seven more spots for Elite anglers, as follows.
But wait! Hite was also an Elite winner, so that’s another double qualifier, and we can move down the list one more place to pick up …
But don’t stop there! DeFoe won a Northern Open so he’s also double qualified (see below). Let’s move down the list another spot to add …
And don’t forget that one of the Opens winners (former Elite pro Mark Tyler) didn’t fish the full Open season and so did not earn a Classic berth with his win. Instead of that spot going unused, though, it shifts to the next angler on the AOY points list, which is …
And that completes the field of Elite qualifiers … for now.
Mark Tyler also won an Open, but didn’t fish them all in that division, so he didn’t get a Classic berth with the win. The final Open of 2014 is on North Carolina’s Lake Norman, Oct. 2-4. The winner will earn a Classic berth if he fished all the Southern Opens this year. If he didn’t, that spot will go to the next ranking angler in Elite AOY points — Cliff Prince. Interestingly, Prince will be fishing the event even though he didn’t fish the other Southern Opens this year. If he wins, the victory itself will not earn him a Classic berth. Instead, the win opens the door for the next Elite pro —Cliff Prince! As a practical matter, it’s inconsequential. But it is interesting. Prince can play both Classic spoiler and benefactor with a win. That’s never happened before.
Six spots are up for grabs and will be decided at the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 6-8, on the Ouachita River in Louisiana.
Bassmaster Team Series
One Classic spot to be determined at the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship on DeGray Lake, Ark., Dec. 9-13.
Now you’re up to speed.