ATHENS—We’re into the final stretch for anglers to qualify for this year’s Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Conroe October 28—30, and it’s going to be a showdown on all three tours.
This month has three major tournaments on the three tours that send pros to the annual TTBC: the Professional Anglers Association Tournament Series, the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Walmart FLW Tour. It’s getting to be crunch time!
Before we take a look at the tours and current standings, let’s look at the TTBC and qualification process. The event is set this year the final week of October on Lake Conroe northwest of Houston. It is the only unification event in professional bass fishing and brings together 50 of the best anglers from the PAA, B.A.S.S. and FLW circuits.
The tournament is the world championship of professional bass fishing. No other tournament combines the top pros from the top circuits. After the PAA, B.A.S.S. and FLW tour-level seasons are over, the top 15 anglers in each league’s point standings receive invitations to compete. If invitations are declined or there are double-qualifiers—many B.A.S.S. and FLW pros compete in the PAA events—the positions will be filled until 45 anglers are confirmed. The defending champion, Brian Snowden of Missouri, receives an automatic invitation, and four other anglers are invited through special TTBC exemptions.
These 50 pros compete for two full days before the field is cut to the top 10 for the final day. This format ensures high-caliber competition with every pro working hard to make it to the final day, and then a final-day shootout for the TTBC world championship title.
Going into the final events of the three leagues’ seasons, the point standings chases are tight with just a few tournaments remaining to determine Angler of the Year titles and TTBC qualification.
The Bassmaster Elite Series wrapped up its season on Wheeler Lake in north Alabama on June 20 and was the first to establish its final points list.
The Walmart FLW Tour just completed a slamfest at Kentucky Lake, which meant bass out on deep ledges. FLW had to reschedule an event from earlier in the year due to weather and will wrap up its season in mid-July on Pickwick Lake in Alabama. That will be an incredible tournament. So there’s still some shuffling to come in the FLW points chase.
Also this month, the PAA Tournament Series is on Table Rock Lake in Missouri for its second event of the year. Its opener was in late March and, with scheduling amenable to the pros so they don’t overlap with the Elite and FLW seasons, the second event and the final tournament in August on Neely Henry Lake in Alabama, give the anglers two final opportunities in summer to qualify for the TTBC.
Here’s a look at the current point standings, in order from 1-15, in each league, with the top 15 and “bubble” (15-25) pros listed. Anglers on the bubble, in 15th-25th places, could move into qualifying contention in the next two tournaments in each league.
The Bassmaster Elite Series season wrapped up June 20 on Wheeler Lake in Alabama, so the top 15 pros are set in that league. Depending on who accepts their invitations, the names listed below are those who automatically receive invitations to the TTBC.
- Elite Series: Kevin VanDam, Edwin Evers, Gerald Swindle, Ott Defoe, Steve Kennedy, Terry Scroggins, Casey Ashley, Davy Hite, Alton Jones, Keith Poche, Greg Vinson, Chris Lane, Randy Howell, Dean Rojas and Keith Combs
- FLW Tour: Brent Ehrler, Tom Monsoor, Mark Rose, Jason Christie, Stacey King, Wes Strader, Andy Morgan, Mike Reynolds, Bryan Thrift, Scott Martin, Darrell Robertson, Stetson Blaylock, Dave Lefebre and Jay Yelas
- Bubble pros: Shin Fukae, Shad Schenck, Rob Kilby, Koby Kreiger, Luke Clausen, Mike Auten, Cody Meyer, Brett Hite, Cody Bird, Terry Bolton
- PAA Tournament Series: Paul Marks, Derek Remitz, Todd Auten, Aaron Martens, Tom Mann Jr., John Murray, David Hendrick, Nick Larson, Takahiro Omori, Doc Seger, Shin Fukae, Chris Brasher, Tommy Biffle, Troy Morrow and Brett Hite
- Bubble pros: Douglas Jones, Lance Vick, Mike McClelland, Cody Bird, Kevin Hawk, Gary Clouse, Rusty Saleswke, Jared Lintner, David Smith and Joey Nania.
A minimum of $250,000 from the event will go toward a donation to benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department programs. In the past four years the Toyota Texas Bass Classic has provided $1 million to help fund TPWD programs like the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program, the Texas State-Fish Art Contest and other youth and urban fishing and outreach efforts.