Last week, we looked into the revised and refigured 2020 FLW Pro Circuit and how it may change the careers of many involved. This time, let’s check in on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Here the field stays the same, but the fishing will be anything but routine.
First, a recap. Originally, B.A.S.S. scheduled nine Elite tournaments, a whopper of a tour starting in Florida, coasting through the mid-South and Texas, and finishing with a major Northern swing. The revision pushes out the Sabine River event (rescheduled for 2021) and instead imports a tournament at Cayuga Lake. Cayuga’s event falls on the front end of what now becomes a four-stop schedule up North, followed by three Southern tournaments this fall.
A lot to follow, I know. But to sum up, what we will see is a tournament schedule sure to have a completely unique outcome due entirely to the seasonal change.
Think about it. Gone are the chances of the spawn playing any role whatsoever. Yeah! But also removed will be the tradition of an Angler of the Year hopeful climbing out front with the lead, praying his smallmouth skills will hold for a shot at the title. In the 2020 format, the Great Lakes fisheries will be paramount to establishing a spot at the top in the first place.
Before all of that gets off the ground, however, the Elites will stop at Lake Eufaula in mid June. Such should make for a supreme ledge-fishing shootout. Eufaula is absolutely loaded with Hall of Fame history (I have to admit, I can’t say the word Eufaula without thinking of David Fritts winning the FLW event there nearly 25 years ago), and it was at Eufaula that Ray Scott held one of his very first tournaments. Recent B.A.S.S. events there, however, have been non-existent, leading to competition in the purest form.
From Eufaula, the Elite Series will head north, where the season will really get up and running, as will the hunt for AOY. What we’ll see, I believe, is an angler or two who will wield a deadly dropshot program through the summer and come out way ahead of the pack. Don’t be surprised if it’s not one of the household names on the circuit, as many of them still struggle on the big waters.
Such will take us in to fall, with Elite stops at Santee Copper, Chickamauga and Lake Fork in October and November. Here, we’ll finally get to see some real bass fishing. By this, I’m remembering when many of the sport’s biggest events were fished in the later months of the year, including those taking place in Dixie. This truly separates the men from the boys, and these upcoming events excite me more than any tournaments in recent memory.
Fall reservoir fishing is different than any other type. It’s tough. The weather can be relentless. The fish are beat up from summer and a season of escape. All that matters is the transition from extreme heat to a welcomed cool-down and chasing baitfish that are adapting.
Under these conditions, anything can work and everyone has a chance. The winning pattern will be anyone’s guess; a topwater bait has as much of a chance as the deepest-running crankbait. Flippers can win, as can square-bill crankers. Spinnerbaits will make an appearance; the flashier the better. And don’t count out a 10-inch worm.
It’s crazy to think that summer is here and we only have one Elite event under our belt. There’s so much left to do, so many triumphs to follow and stories to tell. Most importantly, there will be something for all of us to learn. Something we can take home with us and apply on our lakes during the best times of the year. New faces are sure to grab the spotlight and a few cagey veterans – many of whom made their names when the sport competed all year – will show the youngsters a thing or two.
Yes, the deer and duck hunters on the tour will be sad, as they’ll be forced to keep the boat hooked up and entertain us all throughout the fall.
And I’m okay with that.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)