(Sep 21, 2017 - GRAND RAPIDS, Mn.)
When the Bassmaster Elite Series season began, 110 of the best pro fishermen in the world had a chance to qualify for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Now, after eight months and thousands of miles traveled on the nation’s interstates and waterways, that race for a last-chance berth is down to two.
California pro Ish Monroe and Virginia pro Jacob Powroznik both won their matches during Thursday’s semifinal round of the Bassmaster Classic Bracket event on Pokegama Lake, Minnesota. That means they’ll battle head-to-head Friday from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. CT for an automatic Classic berth.
The Classic Bracket started Tuesday with the Top 8 anglers from the final Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings who failed to qualify for the Classic. All of the action from the catch-weigh-release event has been carried by Bassmaster LIVE online at Bassmaster.com.
Here’s a look at how the semifinals played out.
Ish Monroe vs. Michael Iaconelli
The two anglers, who are close friends and frequent roommates on the Elite Series, were close in the standings most of the day, with Monroe using a plastic frog to catch largemouth around shallow grass and Iaconelli relying heavily on a jerkbait to catch offshore smallmouth.
But one frenetic stretch provided separation just after noon.
After Iaconelli had taken a slim lead with a largemouth that weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, Monroe jumped back ahead with a 3-0 smallmouth that was weighed and released just seconds later.
Then Monroe had the moment of the week so far, landing a monster smallmouth that tipped the scales at a whopping 5-1. The biggest bass caught from Pokegama this week provided Monroe a cull of more than 2 pounds and gave him a hefty lead of 16-7 to 13-3.
“I think I caught that same fish in practice, roughly about 30 feet from where it was today,” Monroe said. “That was definitely the one I needed today.
“I think those fish stay out in deep water a lot of the time. But then when they want to feed, they move up onto a shallow flat — and that’s where that big one was.”
Iaconelli made one small upgrade during the final 10 minutes, but Monroe still triumphed 16-7 to 13-5.
For Monroe, the victory means he still has a shot at his 11th career Classic appearance. For Iaconelli, the loss ended his chances of earning a 17th consecutive Classic berth and the 19th overall for his career.
“It looks easy, but it isn’t,” Monroe said. “It’s tough having a Classic berth on the line against one of your best friends — and there’s still one more day.”
Jacob Powroznik vs. Dave Lefebre
At one point, Powroznik seemed to be catching bass at will off a short stretch of shoreline filled with boat docks. He landed a 2-12 and a 2-5 largemouth off the same dock on back-to-back casts around 9:15 a.m., and then followed with a 2-7, a 2-2 and a 2-4 in the span of about 15 minutes.
His biggest fish of the day was a 3-4 largemouth that also came off a dock just before noon.
“When you’re fishing a good stretch of docks, it can happen just that fast,” said Powroznik, who has qualified for the Classic three straight years.
Powroznik won the match 13-6 to 12-7 — and that slim margin is likely to haunt Lefebre, who had numerous chances to surpass the veteran Virginia pro.
Using a green pumpkin Terminator jig to fish around docks and offshore pencil reeds, Lefebre nearly matched Powroznik fish for fish. But he lost a bass that he believed to be a 3-plus-pounder before noon and another one in that range just before the round ended.
“That’s the really tough thing about our sport,” Lefebre said. “You can make the right decision, make a great cast, get the right bite — and things still just don’t work out.”
Powroznik was happy with the victory, but well aware there is work left to be done.
“I feel really good, but I’m also stressed out again,” he said. “There were a lot of fish caught today, but a lot of 2-pounders. You know the big ones are in here because Ish caught the 5-pounder. That’s what it’s going to take.”
The local host for this event is Visit Grand Rapids.
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Minn Kota, Power-Pole, Shell Rotella, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk, Humminbird, Nitro Boats, Mercury
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, T-H Marine, Shimano, Advance Auto Parts
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), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), 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 Outdoors, 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 presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
2017 Bassmaster Classic Bracket 9/19-9/22
Pokegama Lake, Grand Rapids, Minn.
Standings Day 3
Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz
Ish Monroe Hughson, Calif. 5/16-7
Michael Iaconelli Pittsgrove, N.J. 5/13-5
Jacob Powroznik Port Haywood, Va. 5/13-6
Dave Lefebre Erie, Pa. 5/12-7