Fishing & Boating News

Rookies Join Bass Fishing Legends In 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Field

by: JamieDay Matthews,

(Dec 1, 2016 - Birmingham, AL) The 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series roster has been set at 111 and will include at least 13 newcomers to the prestigious bass fishing circuit, B.A.S.S. announced today. The new tournament year, which begins in February, also marks the return of legendary angler David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., to B.A.S.S. competition.

“We have seen less attrition among the current Elite anglers and a higher rate of acceptance from Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens qualifiers than ever before,” said Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director.

B.A.S.S. guidelines permit up to 15 top Opens competitors — five each from the three divisions — to join the Elite Series each year. This year, 13 of the 15 accepted invitations, compared to 12 in 2015.

In addition to the two declines from the Opens, two Elite Series anglers dropped out after the 2016 season’s end. Former GEICO Bassmaster Classic champion and Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Davy Hite is retiring to become a commentator on Bassmaster TV and “LIVE” programs, and rookie Fabian Rodriguez chose not to return.

Those spots were filled from the current Elite Series roster based on final Angler of the Year points standings.

According to B.A.S.S. tournament rules, the Top 70 in AOY points automatically requalify for the following season. They are joined by up to 15 from the Opens and one qualifier from the B.A.S.S. Nation. Newcomers to the Elites are given a “grace season” should they fail to requalify after the first year. The remaining spots needed to achieve a full field of 108 are awarded based on AOY rankings for each year of an angler’s career, after dropping the lowest score.

“Unfortunately, demand for berths in the Elite Series is greater than the number of spots available, so nine of our Elite anglers were unable to requalify,” Weldon said. “The anglers were offered priority entry into 2017 Bassmaster Opens, in the event they wished to try to qualify for the Elites again.”

Special exemptions added three to the field, bringing the total to 111. One Elite angler, Nate Wellman, is returning from a medical exemption, and two former Classic winners — Paul Elias and Fritts — are taking advantage of a new “Legend Exemption” offered to icons of the sport. Elias, the 1982 Classic winner, has fished the Elite Series since its inception in 2006. Fritts left B.A.S.S. competition in 2005 but expressed elation at being able to return next year.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to B.A.S.S. and fishing the Elites,” Fritts said. “I used to fish the Top 100s, but when they started the Elites I, ‘semiretired.’ Now, every time I attend the Classic, it brings back memories. It’s a way of life for me, and something I’ve missed out on.”

After winning the Bassmaster Classic in 1993, Fritts, who will be 60 when the 2017 series gets under way, was Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 1994. He also won the Forrest Wood Cup in 1997.

In addition to the legends and veterans, 11 rookies will compete on the 11-event Elite Series trail, including 10 from the Opens and one, Darrell Ocamica of Fruitland, Idaho, who accepted the invitation offered to one of the three top finishers in the 2016 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan.

Two of the Opens qualifiers, Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., and Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Ind., were highly successful competitors on the FLW circuit and are considered “newcomers” instead of rookies. Another non-rookie, Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., requalified for the Elites as one of the Top 5 in performance points on the Northern Opens circuit.

The 2017 Elite Series kicks off with the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Cherokee in Knoxville and Jefferson County, Tenn., Feb. 9-12. Anglers will compete again two weeks later at Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and then take a break for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic in Houston, Texas, March 24-26. The Classic and two other marquee tournaments in the Series — Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship — each offers a purse of at least $1 million.

Following are the anglers registered to compete in the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series:

2017 Elite Series Anglers
Casey Ashley
Adrian Avena
Drew Benton
Josh Bertrand
Tommy Biffle
Stetson Blaylock
Jay Brainard
Stephen Browning
Brandon Card
Tyler Carriere*
Brent Chapman
Hank Cherry Jr.
Jason Christie
Luke Clausen
Rick Clunn
Keith Combs
Dustin Connell*
Clanton, AL
Brandon Coulter
John Crews Jr.
Cliff Croch
Mark Daniels Jr.*
Clent Davis
Mark Davis
Ott DeFoe
Boyd Duckett
Brent Ehrler
James Elam
Paul Elias
Edwin Evers
Todd Faircloth
Seth Feider
Micah Frazier
David Fritts
Chad Grigsby
Shaw Grigsby Jr
Greg Hackney
Skylar Hamilton*
Jamie Hartman*
Matt Herren
Brett Hite
Tim Horton
Randy Howell
Guntersville, AL
John Hunter
Michael Iaconelli
Kelley Jaye
Alton Jones Jr.*
Alton Jones Sr.
Kelly Jordon
Steve Kennedy
Gary Klein
Weatherford, TX
Koby Kreiger
Jeff Kriet
Bobby Lane
Chris Lane
Russ Lane
Robbie Latuso*
Jordan Lee
Matt Lee
Dave Lefebre
Brandon Lester
Shane Lineberger
Jared Lintner
Bill Lowen
Justin Lucas
Aaron Martens
Mike McClelland
Mark Menendez
Ish Monroe
Andy Montgomery
Chad Morgenthaler
Brock Mosley
Paul Mueller
David Mullins
John Murray
Phoenix, AZ
Britt Myers
James Niggemeyer
Darrell Ocamica
Takahiro Omori
Emory, TX
Cliff Pace
Brandon Palaniuk
Hayden, ID
Chad Pipkens
Clifford Pirch
Keith Poche
Jacob Powroznik
Brett Preuett
Cliff Prince
Skeet Reese
Marty Robinson
Dean Rojas
Scott Rook
Fred Roumbanis
Bradley Roy
Bernie Schultz
Terry Scroggins
San Mateo, FL
Morizo Shimizu
Fletcher Shryock
Brian Snowden
Reeds Spring, MO
Gerald Spohrer*
Gerald Swindle
Jesse Tacoronte*
Randall Tharp
Jonathon VanDam
Kevin VanDam
Greg Vinson
David Walker
Nate Wellman
Jacob Wheeler
Jesse Wiggins*
David Williams
Jason Williamson
Chris Zaldain

(*—denotes Elite Series rookie)
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: T-H Marine, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines,  Bassmaster website, television show (The Bassmasters), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.