Travelocity's Roaming Gnome has nothing on a bass tour pro. On the surface, tour pros appear to have a pretty cool life. Of course it's cool to them, because they're passionate about what they do, and they go the distance to do it.
And if you look at the geography of just one circuit this season, you'll gain a better insight into the commitment that passion spawns.
Specifically, a dissection of the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, with the aid of an atlas and calculator, reveals some interesting geographical statistics. Here's a look.
Going The Distance
State of the Field
For the largest number of the 2008 field, based on home state, the real traveling won't start until late April, when the field heads to Clarks Hill on the Georgia/South Carolina border for competition May 1-4.
Although 24 states, one Canadian province (Ontario) and Japan are represented by the 110 qualifiers, six states combine to provide 55% (61 of 110) of the field. Texas leads with 16 qualifiers, followed by Oklahoma (11), Alabama and Florida (nine each), and Arkansas and South Carolina (eight each).
The Lonestar State also provides 30% of the rookies in the field (three of 10). Louisiana and Oklahoma each contribute two, and the other three Elite rookies come from are Arkansas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
How might the geographic breakdown affect competition? It's tough to say. But purely by state boundaries, the 16 Texans will be "home" at Lakes Falcon and Amistad. Nine Florida anglers will be on familiar waters to open the season, since the first two stops are at the Harris and Kissimmee Chains.
Sixteen (or about 15%) of the 110 Elite Series pros live in Texas.
Nine Alabamans will fish "home waters" in early June at Wheeler Lake. Just before that event, eight South Carolinians will be "at home" for back-to-back stops at Clarks Hill and Lake Murray. Two Kentucky residents will be on home water at Kentucky Lake, and Empire Stater Matthew Sphar of Pavilion, N.Y. will be the only "home boy" on hand for the final two stops at Erie and Oneida.
Only the Mississippi River stop at Fort Madison, Iowa won't have a home-stater in the field.
What About the Weather?
Weather always plays a role in fishing tournaments. It's almost never average, but those mean numbers do provide an idea of what these 110 anglers can expect.
During the months of competition, the average highs and lows vary from 76 and 52, respectively, for the Harris Chain of Lakes in early March, to 90 and 66, respectively, for Kentucky Lake in mid-June. Across the season, the overall average highs and lows will be 83.2 and 60.1.
Wheeler Lake sees average rainfall of 4.5 inches in June. That's the highest average the field will face. Across the entire season, the average of monthly rainfall totals is 3.375 inches.
If you swear by moon phase, the Elite Series season could make or break your resolve.
Anglers will fish three waters – the Harris Chain, Wheeler Lake and Erie – under a new moon. A fourth, Lake Falcon, will be waning but almost new during the tournament there. Two other stops, at Clarks Hill and the Mississippi, will occur under a waning moon.
The pros fish Lake Murray under a waxing moon that's as close to full (about 85%) as they'll have during the Elite Series season. The other four stops fall under waxing moons. It'll be about at first quarter when they fish the Kissimmee Chain, Amistad and Oneida. When they fish Kentucky Lake, the moon will be about two-thirds full.
> For bass anglers around the country, the Harris Chain was a dream destination throughout the 1980s thanks to Larry Nixon and The Nashville Network (now Spike TV). Back then, The Bassmasters TV program aired weekly on TNN, and its opening included a shot of Nixon, fishing a Megabucks tournament, coming unglued when he hooked a monster largemouth in some lily pads. For bass fishermen everywhere, the Harris Chain of Lakes became synonymous with Nixon's "Oh my gosh!" and big bass.
> Nixon won the 1998 Harris Chain Megabucks with an all-time heavy weight for a BASS stop on that water of 88-05. Just 4 years later, Californian Mike Folkestad won the 3-day Bassmaster Florida Invitational with a total of 14-01 – the lowest winning BASS weight ever. Sixty-two anglers zeroed for the entire tournament, including the likes of Randy Blaukat, Mickey Bruce, Fish Fishburne, Greg Hines and Jimmy Houston.
> According to BASS records, the heaviest tournament-winning total for the 11 lakes on the 2008 Elite Series schedule was Derek Remitz's 111-07 at Amistad in 2007.