B.A.S.S. today released the Bassmaster Elite Series roster for 2012, which consists of 100 anglers. The list includes 10 true rookies who qualified through the Bassmaster Opens or Federation Nation Championship, and several notable veterans are absent.
For the first time since the series' inception in 2006, there will be no crossovers from the FLW Tour, meaning that the circuit's Rookie of the Year will go to a first-year tour pro. The Elite Series actually lost two anglers to the FLW side this year, as Ranger pros Peter Thliveros and Dave Wolak have joined that circuit.
The other big-name absentee is Kevin Wirth, who's qualified for the last 11 Classics (including this year's edition at the Red River, which he plans to compete in). He told BassFan today that he's opted to focus on his equine dentistry practice and a couple of other businesses that he's recently opened after losing his primary sponsorship (Early Times Whisky) at the end of 2011. More on Wirth's situation will be published soon.
Three anglers – Byron Velvick, B.J. Haseotes and Jeremy Starks – are back after taking medical exemptions in 2011. Nate Wellman, winner of last August's Erie Northern Open who gave up the accompanying Classic slot in an agreement with B.A.S.S. after he allegedly tried to buy a fish from his co-angler, is also on the roster.
Bradley Hallman and Jeff Connella are two other veterans who've chosen not to return. In addition, six 2011 rookies have opted out: Dean Alexander, Ben Parker, Ryan Said, Craig Schuff, Lee Sisson and James Stricklin.
Dennis Tietje, who fished the past 2 seasons, will take a medical exemption this year due to a back issue.
The 2012 rookie crop consists of Kevin Ledoux, Jared Miller, Casey Scanlon and Chris Zaldain from the Central Opens; Kyle Fox, Fletcher Shryock and Michael Simonton from the Northern Opens; Brandon Card and Cliff Prince from the Southern Opens; and Federation Nation champion Jamie Horton.
The eight-event Elite circuit gets under way March 15-18 at the St. Johns River in Florida.
Here's a look at the complete roster in alphabetical order.
Casey Ashley -- Donalds, S.C.
Scott Ashmore -- Broken Arrow, Okla.
Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, Okla.
Denny Brauer -- Camdenton, Mo.
Brent Broderick -- Oregonia, Ohio
Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, Ark.
Terry Butcher -- Talala, Okla.
Brandon Card -- Caryville, Tenn.
Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, Kan.
Rick Clunn -- Ava, Mo.
Keith Combs -- Del Rio, Texas
John Crews -- Salem, Va.
Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, La.
Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, Ark.
Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, Tenn.
Boyd Duckett -- Demopolis, Ala.
Paul Elias -- Laurel, Miss.
Edwin Evers -- Talala, Okla.
Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, Texas
Kyle Fox -- Lakeland, Fla.
Jami Fralick -- Martin, S.D.
Grant Goldbeck -- Boerne, Texas
Pat Golden -- High Point, N.C.
Matt Greenblatt -- Tequesta, Fla.
Chad Griffin -- Cresson, Texas
Shaw Grigsby -- Gainesville, Fla.
Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La.
Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, Ohio
Byron “B.J.” Haseotes -- Centerville, Mass.
Matt Herren -- Trussville, Ala.
Kenyon Hill -- Norman, Okla.
Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, S.C.
Jamie Horton -- Centerville, Ala.
Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Randy Howell -- Springville, Ala.
Michael Iaconelli -- Pittsgrove, N.J.
Alton Jones -- Waco, Texas
Kelly Jordon -- Mineola, Texas
Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Ala.
Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, Ala.
Gary Klein -- Weatherford, Texas
Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, Okla.
Bobby Lane -- Lakeland, Fla.
Chris Lane -- Guntersville, Ala.
Russ Lane -- Prattville, Ala.
Kevin Ledoux -- Choctaw, Okla.
Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Bill Lowen -- Brookville, Ind.
Travis Manson -- Green Bay, Wis.
Aaron Martens -- Leeds, Ala.
Billy McCaghren -- Mayflower, Ark.
Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, Ark.
Mark Menendez -- Paducah, Ky.
Jared Miller -- Norman, Okla.
Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, Texas
Ish Monroe -- Hughson, Calif.
Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, S.C.
Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, Va.
John Murray -- Phoenix, Ariz.
Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, N.C.
James Niggemeyer -- Van, Texas
Takahiro Omori -- Emory, Texas
Cliff Pace -- Petal, Miss.
Brandon Palaniuk -- Rathdrum, Idaho
Russell Parrish -- Riesel, Texas
Keith Poche -- Troy, Ala.
Pete Ponds -- Madison, Miss.
Cliff Prince -- Palatka, Fla.
Jason Quinn -- York, S.C.
Matt Reed -- Madisonville, Texas
Clark Reehm -- Russellville, Ark.
Skeet Reese -- Auburn, Calif.
Derek Remitz -- Grant, Ala.
Marty Robinson -- Lyman, S.C.
Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Scott Rook -- Little Rock, Ark.
Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, Okla.
Zell Rowland -- Austin, Texas
Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, Ky.
Casey Scanlon -- Lenexa, Kan.
Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, Fla.
Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, Fla.
Morizo Shimizu -- Suita, Japan
Kevin Short -- Mayflower, Ark.
Fletcher Shryock -- Newcomerstown, Ohio
Michael Simonton -- Fremont, Ohio
David Smith, Edmond -- Okla.
Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, Mo.
Jeremy Starks -- Charleston, W.Va.
Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, Ala.
J. Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, Ga.
Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, Mich.
Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, Mich.
Byron Velvick -- Del Rio, Texas
Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, Ala.
David Walker -- Sevierville, Tenn.
Nate Wellman -- Newaygo, Mich.
Dustin Wilks -- Rocky Mount, N.C.
Jason Williamson -- Wagener, S.C.
Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, Calif.