Living the Dream

The Arduous Road to a Bassmaster Classic Championship

Brian Wilkins February 10, 2015

Anglers of all ages and skill levels fantasize about competing on the dream tour, but the life of a professional bass angler can at times feel more like a nightmare. For those who find a way to make it work, qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic represents the pinnacle of their bass fishing career.

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Photo: Gary Tramontina

While getting to the Bassmaster Classic is no easy task, anglers from all walks of life have the opportunity to secure a limited spot, with several challenging routes competitors can take to earn an invite. Before we get ahead of ourselves it’s important anglers begin their competitive career with smaller local tournaments. When you are ready to face a tougher field of anglers it’s time you get yourself a B.A.S.S. membership.

…even if you are passionate, dedicated and have the knowledge you still face some tough odds.

With over 500,000 members, the B.A.S.S. Nation is comprised of local clubs in 47 states and nine countries. Anglers in six divisions (North, Mid-Atlantic, Central, Southern, Eastern and Western) compete in numerous local, state and divisional tournaments to determine a B.A.S.S. Nation Champion. In addition to the champion receiving an entry to the Bassmaster Classic, the top anglers from each of six divisions also get an invite.

Another option is to compete in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open. There are three open divisions (South, Central and North) and three events within each division. The winner of each tournament gets an entry to the Classic and if you rank in the top five in points in any one of the divisions you’ll also qualify for the Elite Series.

If you are lucky or good enough to fish on the Bassmaster Elite Series, you’ll need to win one of eight events throughout the season to get a bid to the Classic. If you are consistent enough across the season, the top 29 points leaders also get a berth to the Classic.

In addition to the extremely challenging above-mentioned roads to reach the Classic, the winning angler of the Carhartt College B.A.S.S. National Championship will get an invite, as will one Bassmaster Classic Wildcard champion and the winning angler of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship. Last, but certainly not least, the previous year’s Classic champion gets an automatic entry to defend the title.

With hundreds of amateur and pro anglers competing across dozens of divisions and tournaments nationwide for an estimated 50 spots, the road to the Bassmaster Classic is not for the faint of heart. No one ever said becoming a bass pro would be easy and even if you are passionate, dedicated and have the knowledge you still face some tough odds. However, for a select few anglers in the country the dream does come true. Unfortunately, qualifying for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic is out of the question, but that gives you even more time to prepare for the 2016 season.

Perhaps the most important aspect is for anglers to feel comfortable and confident no matter where they fish. There is no such thing as too much practice and applying what you learn from it. Boyd Duckett, who won the Classic the first time he competed in 2007, said his experience tournament fishing and practicing extensively on Lay Lake, that year’s Classic venue, is what ultimately won the event for him. He employed a strategy of using a flipping stick for six hours per day, knowing he has caught his largest bass this way. His patience paid off and he ultimately beat runner-up Skeet Reese by a mere six ounces.

First time qualifiers will likely be awed by the presence of ESPN and other global media covering the event. No matter how big the event may seem, you are still simply fishing and enjoying one of your favorite pastimes. Sure you’ll be asked to do interviews and participate in press conferences, but the bigger you make the event in your mind the more likely you’ll succumb to all the distractions and make that one fatal mistake that could cost you a championship.

Winner of the Bassmaster Classic in 2006, Luke Clausen insists that having fun is the best way to deal with distractions. “Soak up the event for what it is. Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is something only 50 or so people do every year. The fact you are in a position to compete for a spot may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Enjoy it while you can.” And unless you take home the trophy, you’ll have to do it all over again next year. Visit bassmaster.com for the latest news and updates about the 2015 Bassmaster Classic and information on how to participate in upcoming events.

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