BASS announced Monday a new qualifying structure for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Elite Series, expanding the Classic field to include an enhanced cross section of anglers and putting an increased emphasis on performance in single events.
While the overall number of Classic spots (36) awarded through the Elite Series will remain unchanged, in 2011 each Bassmaster Elite Series regular-season event winner will receive an automatic berth into the 2012 Classic. The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings will still determine the majority of the Classic qualifiers as the top 28 in those rankings will also advance to the Classic.
Following the Elite format, each of the nine Open event winners will receive automatic spots in the 2012 Classic. With each pro-level event winner receiving a Classic berth, BASS has upped the cache of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens by allocating nine Classic berths, up from six, to the Series. The traditional points system used in the Opens will only determine future Elite Series qualifiers and will have no bearing on Classic berths.
The Classic field will increase to 54 — assuming all competitors are in good standing — clearing the way for a guaranteed entry for the 2011 College Bass champion. The entire qualifying structure, for both the Elites and the Classic, can be found below.
Providing a dedicated avenue for the College Bass Championship, again to be held in Little Rock, Ark., in 2011 and aired on ESPNU, will enhance the profile of college bass fishing and represent an added, youth component to the Classic. There are currently 220 colleges registered to compete to qualify for the 2011 College Championship. The qualification process for college anglers can be found at www.collegebass.com.
The defending Classic champion will automatically qualify as in years past. Additionally, six Bassmaster Federation Nation anglers will continue to qualify as well as the champion of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers. In the case of double-qualifiers, BASS will work down the Elite Series AOY list.
The 2011 Classic and Elite Series qualifying implications will remain as previously released. In 2012, the Elite Series field will encompass 90 competitors. BASS has a renewed emphasis on restricting the Elites to smaller fields, putting more focus on individual anglers and creating increased brand-building opportunities for the best anglers in the world.
As such, the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings will advance 73 anglers into the 2012 Elite Series. The top five in points standings in each of the three Opens series will also receive 2012 Elite qualifying berths, and, if any of those competitors decline, BASS will work down the Opens standings to fill the five berths. Additionally, the 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion and the 2011 Federation Nation Champion can elect to fish the Elites. All double-qualifiers will work down the Elite Series AOY standings.
As BASS previously laid out, only active Elite anglers have three exemptions — former Bassmaster Classic champions, former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year winners and anglers with 10 or more Classic experiences — that can be applied if an angler fails to qualify through the outlined avenues.
With the revamp of the qualifying structure, the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open payout has also been revised. In addition to the Classic qualifying berth, the winner of each event will receive $10,000 and a $45,000 boat package. The total prize package — including the Classic berth — reflects the prestige of scoring an Open victory.
Each event will pay through 40th place with a more even distribution toward the lower rung. Additionally, with the allure of increased Classic berths, the potential of sustained full fields throughout each division increases.
Entry fees will be slightly upped — $1,250 per event on the professional side and $350 per event on the co-angler side — but BASS has raised the stakes for Opens anglers.
The Opens will only feature the top 12 pros and co-anglers on the final day of competition, which at each event will be held at a conveniently located Bass Pro Shops. BASS members can sign up by calling 1-877-BASS-USA.