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BASS Report

Bass boats leaving harbor

The St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing have grown exponentially in popularity over the past few years. But the buzz has never been louder than it’s been since the announcement of the new Opens EQ (Elite Qualifiers) format in July — and now B.A.S.S. has officially announced where all of the excitement will take place in 2023.

On Tuesday, B.A.S.S. unveiled a slate of nine Opens — three each in three divisions — covering eight states from March into late October. Anglers fishing all nine events will be vying for an invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Top 9 anglers in the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers standings will earn an invitation to join the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024. Individual event winners — including those who only fish one, three-event division — will be eligible for a berth in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.

“We’re so excited about this new format,” said Executive Director of Tournaments Hank Weldon, who oversees the Bassmaster Opens. “With the Opens EQ format, there is a clear path forward for those who want to make fishing a full-time career and prepare as much as possible while progressing toward the Elites. Those anglers’ abilities will be tested throughout the year on a variety of fisheries and prepare them for the cross-country rigors of the Elite Series. At the same time, those who only fish three events in one division will still be fishing for a dream chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic.

“That excitement, plus the great fisheries we have on our schedule, will make 2023 so much fun for anglers and fans of the sport.”

Division 1 will serve as the starting point for the Opens season with an event March 2-4 on world-famous Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Ala. Known as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World” and the hometown of late fishing industry legend Tom Mann, the brushpile-laden Chattahoochee River fishery has hosted 17 major B.A.S.S. events since 1968.

The organization hadn’t visited Eufaula since 2006 before returning in the summer of 2020 for an Elite Series event that was won by Tennessee pro Buddy Gross. It was one of the first professional bass fishing events televised live.

MLF Report

Major League Fishing (MLF) announced its schedule, rules and entry dates for the 2023 MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI and 2023 High School Fishing Presented by Favorite Fishing seasons.

Both circuits include advancement opportunities to compete in the 2023 Toyota Series Championship, and for college anglers, enhanced payouts with a shot to compete against the world’s best pros for a $300,000 top prize at REDCREST 2024. 

The winning team at the 2023 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship Presented by Lowrance will receive $43,500, including a $33,500 Phoenix 518 Pro powered by a 115-horsepower Mercury and $10,000. The winning team also advances to the 2023 Toyota Series Championship to compete as pros for a shot at winning as much as $235,000. The highest finishing team member at the Toyota Series Championship advances to REDCREST 2024. The runner-up at the 2023 College Fishing National Championship will receive a $33,500 Phoenix 518 Pro powered by Mercury. The team will also advance to the 2023 Toyota Series Championship to compete as pros. Third place at the 2023 National Championship will receive $4,000 and advance to the 2023 Toyota Series Championship to compete as co-anglers for the chance to win a $33,500 Phoenix 518 Pro powered by a 115-horsepower Mercury. Fourth and fifth place will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, with sixth through 10th receiving $1,000 each.

Casting Couples Report

Lavon and Jennifer Raber - 1st Place

Lavon and Jennifer Raber won the Casting Couples season finale at Klinger Lake last weekend.

It was the Rabers’ first-ever event with Casting Couples. They used drop-shot rigs to catch five fish totaling 9.11 pounds. They won $255.

Ryan and Alissa Yoder - 2nd Place

Ryan and Alissa Yoder were second ($130) with five bass totaling 8.44 pounds.  The Yoders fished Spark Shads in 10 feet of water.

SW Kayak League Report

Kevin Hopson of Crooked Creek, Ind. - 1st Place

Kevin Hopson of Crooked Creek, Ind. outpaced 10 other kayak anglers to win the SW Kayak League tournament at Magician Lake Sunday afternoon.

It was an encore performance for Hopson who took first at Corey Lake seven days earlier.

In fact, we could run pretty much the same story we did after the Corey-Harwood season opener, as Corey Breseman of Union, Mich., took second place and big fish, a repeat of his accomplishment at Corey in the league opener. In third was Steve Boekhout, Fremont, Ind.

Hopson, who won $170, focused on boat docks and pontoons, also similar to his approach at Corey, where he won with a Missile Ned Bomb on a 1/8-ounce jighead. At Magician, that lure wasn’t working nearly as well.

Arjays Report

Timothy Eicher and Jeremiah Yoder - 1st Place

Timothy Eicher and Jeremiah Yoder won the Arjay’s weeknight season finale on Klinger Lake.

The winners had five fish weighing 9.44 pounds.

Gary Butcher and Scott Smith - 2nd Place

Gary Butcher and Scott Smith were second with an 8.52-pound limit.

Ryan Hershberger and Dale Raber - 3rd Place

Amy and Steve Martin - 4th Place

Ryan Hershberger and Dale Raber were third with four weighing 8.20 pounds while Steve and Amy Martin finished fourth with a 7.86-pound limit.

The Jaywalker Restaurant Junk Fish Prize went to Justin and Hunter Kosmerick with a pike weighing in at 2.40 pounds.

The Tackle Shack LLC Big Bass honor went to Ryan Hershberger and Dale Raber with a 3.30-pound smallmouth.