Nine Bassmaster Opens tournaments will be held in eight different states in 2017, ranging from the lakes of central Florida to the Ozark Plateau in Oklahoma.
According to B.A.S.S., opens are divided into three separate divisions of three events each, and are the primary qualifying events for the Elite Series. The Top 5 anglers from each division (excluding any Elite anglers who are already qualified) are invited to step up to the pinnacle of professional angling.
“The … Bassmaster Opens is not only a great way for an angler to make his mark in professional bass fishing, but these are also fun and rewarding tournaments in their own right,” Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO, said. “We’re especially proud of being able to offer events on some of the most outstanding bass fisheries in the world, including three that have hosted the … Bassmaster Classic.”
Anglers in each Opens tournament will compete for a portion of more than $250,000 in cash and prizes, including a boat and motor package in each division, to be awarded at each event. The winning pro gets more than $50,000 in cash and prizes, including a chance to compete in the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
“Many of the most competitive Elite Series pros fishing today qualified through the Bassmaster Opens,” Chris Bowes, Opens tournament director, said “There’s not a better way to prove you’re ready to fish on the national stage.”
It all begins on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla., on Jan. 19-21 with the first of three 2017 Southern Opens. The last tournament of the year will be the final Central Open, scheduled for Oct. 5-7 on the famed Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Grove, Okla.
Deadlines for registration and other details about participation will be posted later this month on Bassmaster.com.
No. 1 — Harris Chain of Lakes, Leesburg, Fla., Jan. 19-21
The Harris Chain is one of the more popular stops for B.A.S.S. The chain is made up of nine lakes connected by a system of canals, and it covers approximately 80,000 acres in central Florida just north of Orlando. Chris Lane won this event in 2012 with a whopping three-day total of 72 pounds, 11 ounces.
No. 2 — Lake Chickamauga, Dayton, Tenn., Apr. 20-22
Lake Chickamauga is a reservoir covering just more than 36,000 acres along the Tennessee River, and was completed in 1940 as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. BASSfest was held here in 2014, with Jacob Wheeler holding off Kevin VanDam and Matt Herren for the title. Chickamauga was also the site of the 1986 Classic, and it ranks third in the Southeastern division of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list for 2016.
No. 3 — Smith Lake, Jasper, Ala., Sept. 28-30
A Bassmaster Southern Open returns to Smith Lake in 2017, after the lake was home to a rain-shortened tournament earlier this year. The 21,000-acre lake in north-central Alabama produced a $53,000 payday in cash and prizes to winner Jesse Wiggins. It is noted for its giant spotted bass and ranks 23rd in the Southeast on the 100 Best Bass Lakes list.
No. 1 — Table Rock Lake, Branson, Mo., March 2-4
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike McClelland broke a six-year drought by winning a tour stop here in 2014. Table Rock, which at 43,000 acres is plenty big enough for Open anglers to spread out, also was host to a Central Open in 2015. The fishery offers some compelling side trips for visitors, including the popular tourist destinations in Branson and the flagship Bass Pro Shops store in Springfield. The massive Wonders of Wildlife museum and aquarium at Bass Pro Shops should be open by tournament time. Host organizations are Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau.
No. 2 — Sabine River, Orange, Texas, June 15-17
This river forming the southern portion of the border between Texas and Louisiana is a playground for Elite Series anglers, and it will welcome competitors in the second Central Open in 2017. Just navigating the network of bayous, sloughs, canals and backwaters is a challenge. Catching the heaviest limits of black bass can be tricky as well. Opens anglers will want to study the tactics of Elite Series standouts Chris Lane (who won in 2015) and Todd Faircloth (winner in 2013). The Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.
No. 3 — Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Grove, Okla., Oct. 5-7
Grand Lake has been home to not one, but two Bassmaster Classics (in 2013 and again in 2016). In 2013, Cliff Pace won the Classic with a three-day total of 54 pounds, 12 ounces. Earlier this year, it was Oklahoma’s own Edwin Evers earning a Classic win with a 60-pound, 7-ounce total. Kevin VanDam and Mike McClelland have won previous Elite Series events on this 46,500-acre impoundment, which ranks eighth in the central divisions of Bassmaster’s Best 100 Lakes listing. Hosting the tournament is the City of Grove, Okla.
No. 1 — Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y., June 29-July 1
B.A.S.S. heads to upstate New York for the first Northern Division Open of the 2017 season. Elite Series pro Randy Howell won an Open on Oneida in 2015 with a three-day haul of 49 pounds, 2 ounces, and this July, Wil Hardy won there with 53-13 over three days of fishing. At more than 50,000 acres, Oneida is the largest lake located entirely in New York, and this will be the 13th Bassmaster event on the fishery. It ranks 11th among bass fishing in the Northeast. Visit Syracuse is hosting the event.
No. 2 — James River, Richmond, Va., Aug. 3-5
The James River has hosted an even dozen Bassmaster events through the years, including a three-year string of Classics from 1988-1990. Guido Hibdon won the first Classic held here in 1988, and Hank Parker claimed the title in 1989. The legendary Rick Clunn won his fourth Classic on this river in 1990. In 2013, Randy Howell won an Open on the James to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, which he won, and former Elite angler Charlie Hartley earned a return trip to the Classic with his James River win in August. Host is the Richmond CVB.
No. 3 — Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tenn., Sept. 7-9
The final Northern Open stop of 2017 will be on this reservoir in eastern Tennessee. Douglas was home to an Open tournament in May 2016, and in 2012, pro Jeremy Starks boated a four-day total of 81 pounds, 2 ounces to win the Elite Series Douglas Lake Challenge and a $100,000 check. The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is host.