Get ready Texas.
The B.A.S.S. Elite Series schedule has been released and Texas will have two stops — one for the first time ever.
The coming year marks the eighth anniversary of the Elite Series and the 46th of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. The organization will be commemorating the milestones with a new Bassmaster Classic venue, some water the Bassmaster circuit has never visited and a few historic fisheries on which anglers will pit their skills against the fish and one another.
It all begins with the 43rd Bassmaster Classic — “the Super Bowl of bass fishing” — on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees out of Tulsa, Okla. (Feb. 22-24). It will be the first time for Tulsa and Grand Lake to host a Classic — and the farthest west the championship has been held since 1979.
The 2013 Classic will feature 36 Elite pros, including winners from each of the 2012 Elite tournaments. Other qualifiers include champions from the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, six talented amateurs from the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, the Weekend Series champion and the Carhartt College Series qualifier, Matt Lee of Auburn University.
After the Classic, the Elites head south to Orange, Texas, and the Sabine River system for the Sabine River Challenge (March 14-17). It’ll be the first time B.A.S.S. has ever held a professional level event on the river, which flows out of the historic waters of Toledo Bend Reservoir. In early spring, bass on the river should be fat and plentiful.
From the Sabine River, the Elite anglers will drive southwest to Zapata, Texas, for the Falcon Slam (March 21-24) and a much-anticipated return to Falcon Lake. When they were last here in 2008, it was nothing short of historic. Paul Elias won the tournament with a record catch weighing 132 pounds, 8 ounces. The event also produced the biggest bass in Elite history (13-2), the second heaviest five bass limit in B.A.S.S. history (44-4) and 12 catches weighing better than 108 pounds. Not surprisingly, Falcon was selected as No. 1 on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes for 2012. The pros and fishing fans everywhere have been waiting for this one!
With another round of record-breaking catches expected to come from Falcon, the Elites will have, and probably need, a short break before the third event, the Bull Shoals Quest on Bull Shoals Lake (April 18-21). This will be B.A.S.S.’s eighth visit to the historic impoundment where flippin’ first came to national prominence in 1975. In April, Elite pro Brandon Palaniuk needed more than 78 pounds of bass over four days to win here. And while largemouth bass will likely dominate catches in the tournament, Bull Shoals has produced smallmouth and spotted bass weighing better than 7 pounds.
Other events include West Point Lake in LaGrange, Ga.; the Alabama River and the Mississippi River Rumble in Wisconsin.