Bassmaster released the Elite Series 2017 schedule today, which includes an April stop at Toledo Bend and a new stop on the circuit, the Bassmaster Texas Fest in May.
The Fest replaces the Texas Bass Classic, and is scheduled for May 17-21 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
“… Bassmaster Texas Fest will combine the best features of the … Texas Bass Classic and our own BASSfest tournament — both of which have become immensely popular among anglers and fishing fans,” Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO, said. “Texas Fest will host a special Fan Appreciation Day offering anglers and their families opportunities to meet, greet and learn from the world’s best professional anglers.”
Also for the first time, the Elite Series schedule will include two events prior to the Classic, which is slated for March 24-26 at Lake Conroe outside of Houston.
Things get started with the Elite Series’ first-ever visit to Tennessee’s Lake Cherokee, Feb. 9-12.
After that, the touring pros will get a second Classic warm-up, Feb. 23-26, when the schedule shifts to Florida’s famed Lake Okeechobee.
That fishery, nationally known for producing gigantic Florida-strain largemouth bass, last hosted an Elite Series event in 2012, when California pro Ish Monroe won with a four-day weight of 108 pounds, 5 ounces — the fifth-largest catch in trail history.
Anglers will then have a month to prepare for the Bassmaster Classic’s historic 47th renewal. Weigh-ins will be held in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
Once the excitement of the Classic is done, the Elite Series schedule will resume April 6-9 with a return trip to Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Superstar pro Kevin VanDam won there in May for the first of his three victories so far on the 2016 Elite Series circuit.
Toledo Bend is currently ranked as America’s No. 1 bass lake for the second year in a row, according to Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list.
Next up is the trail’s first stop in Mississippi. Elite No. 4 is scheduled for April 27-30 on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Ridgeland. The 30,000-acre fishery was ranked ninth in the Southeastern Division by Bassmaster this year.
After leaving Mississippi and completing the Bassmaster Texas Fest at Sam Rayburn, the Elite Series will visit Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark., June 2-5.
Unlike other Elite events, this one runs Friday through Monday to accommodate anglers’ travel plans over the Memorial Day weekend. The Elite Series’ last visit to Dardanelle produced Oklahoma pro Jason Christie’s fourth career B.A.S.S. victory.
“I don’t know how you can look at this schedule and not be excited,” Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. Tournament Director, said. “We’ve got a good mix of familiar fisheries — places we’ve visited several times the past few years — and some lakes that we haven’t been to in a while.
“We’re even going to a couple of new spots. That’s especially exciting.”
From Arkansas — with the July heat starting to take hold — the Elite Series will swing north, with back-to-back events in New York.
The first will be July 20-23 on the smallmouth-rich waters of the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y., host city for the tournament.
It will be the third trip for the Elite Series to the river that separates the eastern United States and Canada, and the first two were overwhelmingly popular with fans in that region. The first event there in 2013 drew an all-time Elite Series record of 34,100 fans, and the second trip in 2015 drew 31,600 — a total that ranks fourth all-time on the trail.
Immediately afterward, the Elites move east to Plattsburgh, N.Y., for an event on Lake Champlain, July 27-30. Though Champlain has been a regular stop for Bassmaster Opens, it hasn’t played host to an Elite Series tournament since 2007, when Alabama pro Tim Horton won with 83-10.
The Elite Series will complete its northern swing — and its regular-season slate — by traveling to Lake St. Clair, Aug. 24-27.
Macomb County, just north of Detroit, Mich., will host the Elite event on the 430-square-mile fishery. St. Clair was ranked No. 1 in the nation on Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes in 2013, and was last visited by the Elite Series in 2015.
For more information on the 2017 schedule, click here.