This is an exciting time for many of the Bassmaster Open anglers as they have qualified or are getting close to qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series. Fishing at this level is a long-time dream for most and is the reason many even chose to fish the Opens. The current structure invites the Top 5 from each of the three regions to fish the Elites.
10 have already qualified and there are five more to go once the Central Division wraps up next month. There are definitely some good stories that are starting to come out of the season and 2012's Elite Series Rookie class looks pretty good. Unlike last year where many of the new rookies were just FLW Tour veterans crossing over, this season has some great story lines, including:
- Brandon Card, the first ever college angler making the switch to the Elites
- Fletcher Shryock, the motocross turned pro bass angler.
- Kyle Fox, the young Florida pro who fished the Northern Division to try to qualify.
Once the Central Division wraps up, two more great stories might surface:
Chris Zaldain is currently leading the points and made a long trek from California to chase his dream. With B.A.S.S. not having a presence in the West, he was forced to travel much further than most of the field to go for his goals.
And perhaps the biggest story is the possible qualification of Janet Parker, who would be the first woman to make the Elites.
All of these anglers have either informally or completely agreed to making the jump, but for many others it comes down to a case of making it a reality and even more crucial: making it possible due to the costs involved.
Fishing at the Elite level requires a minimum of $50-75,000 just to compete and cover all of the expenses. That doesn't include daily household costs and the fact that it is nearly impossible to hold down a regular job and still fish the tour That's a large figure and gaining the sponsor support is crucial and realistically the only way to make it happen if the angler's don't have a huge savings account or a wealthy family.
Plenty of anglers have qualified but chose not to accept. The reason almost always comes down to money. I was watching the Northern finale on Oneida last weekend and heard Michael Simonton, newly crowned AOY, basically just ask for money from anyone watching. He is no doubt a great fisherman after winning the points, and would be competitive at the top level. He mentioned that he qualified last year as well but couldn't find the sponsor support.
It's an interesting situation, and brings about a question I have heard many ask. Is it the "Elite Fisherman Series" or the "Financially Elite Series"?
What are your thoughts on the costs associated with fishing at the top level?