BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 5:54 AM
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They are billed as 53 of the best anglers in the world but maybe "53 of the best and luckiest" is more accurate.
The 2013 Bassmaster Classic field is made up of top-scoring pros and tournament winners on the top pro circuit in BASS (the Elite Series), tournament winners in the regional Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, regional BASS Nation series champs, the BASS College series champions, and the Weekend series winner. Of course the defending Bassmaster Classic champion also has a spot in the field.
The number 53 comes by chance but it's the second-highest number of anglers ever to compete in a Classic. More, or less, could qualify year-to-year.
The difference in line-ups comes because some top anglers double-qualify as both tournament winners and as Angler of the Year points earners in the Elite Series. The 100 anglers in that top pro circuit fish eight tournaments and earn cumulative points based on their placement in each tournament.
This year angler Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., provides a good example of how the system works. Chapman won Angler of the Year in 2012 as the top points-earner on the Elite tour. He won an Elite tournament and also won a Central Open tournament in February. Those accomplishments made him a triple-qualifier for the 2013 Classic. He technically is in the tournament as an Open Series winner.
Another big name on the list is a triple-qualifier, defending champ Chris Lane. He also won a Southern Open Series tournament and was 14th in angler of the year points.
The Classic takes the top 28 points earners on the Elite tour, but thanks to Chapman, Lane and other double-qualifiers among the top 28 scoring Elite pros the list of Elites in the 2013 Classic actually includes those ranked down to No. 33. Because Lane and Chapman triple-qualified two more points earners were allowed in the mix, bringing the actual number to 30.
It's no cakewalk making it into the Bassmaster Classic, and those top 100 Elite pros enter each season knowing the field is limited. It's a simple fact: not everyone in that top 100 can make it.
Needing a little luck along the way can be the only explanation why guys like Rick Clunn, four-time Classic champ and unquestionably one of the best in the world, didn't qualify this year. He simply fell short on Angler of the Year points. Had he caught just one more fish in the last tournament of the year he could easily have covered the seven points between himself and No. 33, Jared Lintner, the last points-qualifier.
In that same last tournament, 2007 Classic champ Boyd Duckett did as well as he could but still fell just two points behind Lintner. The catch is he won the tournament and is in by virtue of the victory, not points earned.
Open Series anglers also enjoy a "win and you're in" chance in three tournaments held regionally in the South, Central and Northern series. It is an avenue for both pro and semi-pro anglers to compete head-to-head for winnings, plus a coveted Classic berth. Technically, Chris Lane is in the Classic by virtue of a Southern Open win, but he will be recognized as the defending champ.
Oklahoma's Jason Christie, who fished only FLW Tour events before learning the Classic was coming to his home lake, made time to compete in the Bassmaster Northern Open Series in 2012. He would have to win one of the tournaments but also had to enter and compete in all three tournaments of the Northern series to officially qualify. It was a big travel and time commitment, but it paid off when he eclipsed 147 other anglers on Lake St. Clair out of Detroit, Mich., in July.
BASS Nation and Weekend series anglers compete in local, regional and national tournaments to work their way to the brass ring, a Classic berth. The top six finishing regional anglers in the BASS Nation championship get Classic berths. A single Weekend Series angler makes it in by qualifying locally and regionally and then winning the Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship Tournament.
College anglers do the same as teams and then compete as individuals in a bracketed tournament after the national team championship.
The 2012 Carhartt College Series Bassmaster Classic Bracket came down to a pair of brothers this year, Jordan and Matt Lee of Auburn University. Brothers and teammates, they faced each other in a showdown to see who would make the Classic. Matt Lee emerged the victor, acknowledging his good fortune to BASS writers at the time. "If we fished 20 times, he'd win 18," Matt said. "I hate it for him, but I'm happy for me."
Happy and, perhaps, just a little bit lucky.
2013 Bassmaster Classic Qualifiers by the numbers
1 Defending Bassmaster Classic Champion
7 Elite Series Tournament Champions
7 Bassmaster Opens Series Champions
6 BASS Nation Champions
1 Bassmaster Weekend Series Champion
1 Bassmaster College Champion
30 Elite Series Angler of The Year Points qualifiers
53 Total anglers in this year's Bassmaster Classic
2012: Chris Lane (Guntersville, Ala.)
2011: Kevin VanDam (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
2010: Kevin VanDam (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
2009: Skeet Reese (Auburn, Calif.)
2008: Alton Jones (Waco, Texas)
2007: Boyd Duckett (Demopolis, Ala.)
2006: Luke Clausen (Spokane Valley, Wash.)
2005: Kevin VanDam (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
2004: Takahiro Omori (Emory, Texas)
2003: Michael Iaconelli (Woodbury Heights, N.J.)
2002: Jay Yelas (Tyler, Texas)
2001: Kevin VanDam (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
2000: Woo Daves (Spring Grove, Va.)
1999: Davy Hite (Prosperity, S.C.)
1998: Denny Brauer (Camdenton, Mo.)
1997: Dion Hibdon (Stover, Mo.)
1996: George Cochran (Hot Springs, Ark.)
1995: Mark Davis (Mount Ida, Ark.)
1994: Bryan Kerchel (Newtown, Conn.)
1993: David Fritts (Lexington, N.C.)
1992: Robert Hamilton Jr. (Nashville, Tenn.)
1991: Ken Cook (Meeks)
1990: Rick Clunn (Montgomery, Texas)
1989: Hank Parker (Denver, N.C.)
1988: Guido Hibdon (Gravois Mills, Mo.)
1987: George Cochran (N. Little Rock, Ark.)
1986: Charlie Reed (Broken Bow)
1985: Jack Chancellor (Phenix City, Ala.)
1984: Rick Clunn (Montgomery, Texas)
1983: Larry Nixon (Hemphill, Texas)
1982: Paul Elias (Laurel, Miss.)
1981: Stanley Mitchell (Fitzgerald, Ga.)
1980: Bo Dowden (Natchitoches, La.)
1979: Hank Parker (Clover, S.C.)
1978: Bobby Murray (Hot Springs, Ark.)
1977: Rick Clunn (Montgomery, Texas)
1976: Rick Clunn (Montgomery, Texas)
1975: Jack Hains (Rayne, Louisiana)
1974: Tommy Martin (Decatur, Ala.)
1973: Rayo Breckenridge (Paragould, Ark.)
1972: Don Butler (Tulsa)
1971: Bobby Murray (Hot Springs, Ark.)
Kelly Bostian 918-581-8357
Boyd Duckett won the year's last event to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. BUTCH DILL/AP file