Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers field once again stacked with established pros and rising stars

Date:

November 16, 2023

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 Bassmaster.com, 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 Fujita, Kenta 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 Gleason, Chad Grigsby, Brett Hite, Charlie Hartley, Mike McClelland, Ish Monroe, James Niggemeyer, Garrett Paquette, Russ Lane, Gary Clouse, Yusuke Miyazaki, Casey 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 173 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 Tuma, Sam George, Kyle 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 nonboaters remains open for all 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens tournaments at Bassmaster.com/Opens

The complete Elite Qualifiers field is as follows:

Alabama

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, White    

Trey Swindle, Cleveland          

Brady Vernon, Sterrett  

Garrett Warren, Hoover

Arizona

Tai Au, Glendale

Brett Hite, Phoenix

Arkansas

Greg Bohannan, Bentonville     

Beau Browning, Hot Springs National Park

Scout Echols, Monticello

California

Seiji Kato, Los Alamitos

Ish Monroe, Oakdale

Christian Ostrander, Turlock

Colorado

Ty Faber, Pagosa Springs

Florida

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

Georgia

Allen Armour, Cumming

Elijah Benson, Dawsonville

Tony Dumitras, Winston

Paul Marks, Cumming

Cody Stahl, Barnsville

Emil Wagner, Marietta

Kelvin Wilcox, Hazlehurst

Idaho

Cody Meyer, Eagle

Brent Shores, Boise

Illinois

Richard Lowitzki, Hampshire

Trevor McKinney, Noble

Ryan Partake, Marseilles

Bart Stanisz, Chicago

Indiana

Billy McDonald, Greenwood

John Voyles, Petersburg

Iowa

Chancy Walters, West Des Moines

Kentucky

Chris Beaudrie, Princeton

Lafe Messer, Warfield

Matt Messer, Warfield

Dalton Smith, Taylorsville

Louisiana

Darold Gleason, Many

Alex Heintze, Denham Springs

Alex Murray, Lake Charles

Clark Reehm, Elm Grove

Maryland

Brian Mullaney, Ijamsville

Michigan

Chris Hellebuyck, White Lake

Garrett Paquette, Canton

Bo Thomas, Edwardsburg

Minnesota

Easton Fothergill, Grand Rapids

Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove

Brad Leuthner, Victoria

Jim Moynagh, Shakopee

Nathan Thompson, Eagan

Keith Tuma, Brainerd

Mississippi

Keith Brumfield, Vicksburg

Brett Cannon, Kiln

Cliff Pace, Ovett

Missouri

Mike McClelland, Blue Eye

Andy Newcomb, Camdenton

Casey Scanlon, Eldon

Trey Schroeder, Theodosia

Joe Wieberg, Freeburg
Zachry Williams, Shell Knob

Nebraska

Brock Belik, Orchard

Nevada

Cody Steckel, Las Vegas

New York

Billy Gilbert, Hamburg

Zach Goutremout, Chaumont    

Phillip Kroll, Otego

North Carolina

Shane Lineberger, Lincolnton

Brayden Rakes, Winston-Salem

Ohio

Charlie Hartley, Grove City

Richard Kaluba, Litchfield

Kyle Weisenburger, Columbus Grove

Oklahoma

Austin Cranford, Norman

Kollin Crawford, Broken Bow

Lance Crawford, Broken Bow

Allan Nail, Sand Springs

Matt Pangrac, Shawnee

Pennsylvania

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

Tennessee

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

Texas

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

Virginia

Chase Clarke, Virginia Beach

Jack Dice, Lynchburg

Jeremy Radford, Huntly

Wisconsin

Andrew Behnke, Fond du Lac

Jacob Bigelow, Cecil

Bailey Bleser, Burlington

Brian Post, Janesville

Adam Rasmussen, Sturgeon Bay

Nick Trim, Galesville

Josh Wiesner, Fond du Lac

Canada

Paul Bouvier, Kingston

Evan Kung, Pickering

Danny McGarry, Newcastle

Japan

Yui Aoki, Minamitsurugun

Kyoya Fujita, Yamanashi

Kenta Kimura, Hirakata Osaka

Daisuke Kita, Otsu Shiga

Masayuki Matsushita, Tokoname-Aichi

Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: St. Croix
Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC

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