BassFan spoke with a handful of Bassmaster Elite Series pros Wednesday, shortly after B.A.S.S. released the 2013 Elite Series schedule. They were all on the water at Oneida Lake wrapping up practice for the final event of this season and some weren’t aware the schedule was due to come out.
On first glance, the reaction to the schedule was positive. Most noted the season opener at the Sabine River will be a question mark as it’ll be new water for just about everyone. B.A.S.S. has never held an event there before. Others are anxious to get a look at the Alabama River in the spring rather than late summer or fall, which is when the most recent Elite events have been held there.
The Westerners hoping to see a California swing will have to wait at least another year, but Falcon Lake is back on the slate for the first time since 2008, when Paul Elias set the 4-day B.A.S.S. weight record with 132-08 in an event that saw everyone in the Top 12 crack the 100-pound mark.
The season will wrap up with three Northern summer events, including the St. Lawrence River with Ogdensburg, N.Y., serving as the host. The St. Lawrence was the site of the 1980 Classic (held in late September), which was won by Bo Dowden. It was a regular host for the New York Invitational back in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s and hasn’t hosted a B.A.S.S. event since 2003.
The pay-in/pay-out structure hasn’t been released yet and there’s no word whether the post-season event(s) will be continued. Following is a look at the schedule and brief summaries of the thoughts of the pros we spoke with:
2013 Elite Series Schedule
> Feb. 22-24 – Bassmaster Classic – Grand Lake – Tulsa, Okla.
> March 14-17 – Sabine River – Orange, Texas
> March 21-24 – Falcon Lake – Zapata, Texas
> April 18-21 – Bull Shoals Lake – Bull Shoals, Ark.
> May 2-5 – West Point Lake – LaGrange, Ga.
> May 9-12 – Alabama River – Montgomery, Ala.
> June 20-23 – Mississippi River – La Crosse, Wis.
> Aug. 8-11 – St. Lawrence River – Ogdensburg, N.Y.
> Aug. 22-25 – Lake St. Clair – Detroit, Mich.
Classic Champ Was Hoping For More
When told what the schedule was, Chris Lane’s immediate reaction was, “Hmmm.”
That was because he heard a few names of fisheries that he’s not been to in the past. Not that that worries him, but
“There are a few I haven’t been to yet,” he said. “It looks like a completely different schedule than what we’ve been fishing. We’ve fished a lot of grass lakes recently and this schedule has a lot of deep water and river systems on it. I just wish we had more (events).”
Going back to Falcon intrigues him because of the size potential that exists there.
“I don’t know anything about the St. Lawrence,” he said, “but most of them from what I know and the ones I’ve fished before, we’ll catch a lot of fish, so it’ll be fun from that standpoint.”
Faircloth Cool With It
There were a couple eyebrow-raisers for Todd Faircloth – in a good way – on the schedule, which will take him back to La Crosse, Wis., where he notched his third career Elite victory this year at the Mississippi River.
“It doesn’t sound too bad,” he said. “I don’t know much about the Sabine River. That’ll be a new one for everybody. It’s not really known for its bass fishing. I live an hour from there, but I’ve never fished down there.”
He said Falcon is really low right now and it’s going to take a wet winter to bring the water back up. Otherwise, it could be a question mark come next March.
He’s amped up to get back to Bull Shoals, but not so much for the Alabama River.
“Bull Shoals is a really good fishery,” he said. “We caught a lot of fish there. From what we had heard, we fished it at the best time of year, but at that time the lake can be flooded an can make for some tougher fishing.
“I’m not looking forward to (the Alabama River). It’s not one of my favorite venues. Maybe it’ll be better in May because we’ve always fished there later in the summer.”
Menendez Signs Off
Mark Menendez likes the look of the schedule with the mix of old and new venues. Among them is West Point Lake, where he won a Southern Open in 2005 and finished 18th in the 2011 Elite event.
“There are some great venues, some challenging venues and an unknown,” he said. “I’d heard some rumbling about the Sabine River, but nobody fishes it so either we’re going to go there and it’ll be great or it’ll be a complete bust.”
He was expecting a tournament to be placed somewhere up north, but the St. Lawrence could prove challenging based on where they’re launching.
“I figured it was time to head back north, but being stuck that far up the river, it might take the mouth of the river and (Lake Ontario) out of play,” he added. “Bull Shoals is so good. I probably caught 300 fish in 4 days there. It’s just fun to go there and catch a lot of fish. On the Alabama River, we’ve always been restricted to the Montgomery pool. It’ll be nice to be able to lock through and spread out some. The lower pool doesn’t get as much (fishing) pressure. It’s good to see we’re going back to the Mississippi. I just wish Wisconsin and Minnesota would get their acts together with all of their rules and restrictions.”
Two Close To Home For Vinson
The closest Elite Series event to Greg Vinson’s home this year was a 6 1/2-hour drive. Next year will be a little easier on the travel budget as the Alabama River (25 minutes) and West Point Lake (an hour) are both an easy drive from his house in Wetumpka, Ala.
“It looks like a good variety and everybody will get a fishery that suits their style,” he said. “(The Alabama River) is a really good fishery. It’s a good time of year, too, and we should see some good weights. It’ll more conducive to a variety of patterns. In the late summer, you’re limited to what you can do. The catch rates will definitely be higher. There’s good largemouth fishing and the spots are always biting. I’m looking forward to it. I know it well, but have fished that pool once in the last 2 years. I’ll be able get some homework done there in the offseason.”