The Elite Series Season is Here

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It’s that time of the year again; the start of the 2012 Elite Series season. Of course, professional bass fishing has already its moments with the Bassmaster Classic and two FLW tour events in the record books. But, the start of the Elite Series means the full season is upon us.

As of yesterday, the 100 competitors on the Bassmaster Elite Series roster will have launched their boats onto the waters if The St. John’s River and begun work for the year. The St. John’s River was the second stop on the 2011 Elite Series schedule and it presented fireworks when Edwin Evers charged from behind on the final day of the tournament to claim victory.

But, having fireworks at an Elite Series event is not unusual occurrence. Whether the winner runs away with it like Mike McClelland did at Grand Lake in 2006 and Timmy Horton did at Champlain in 2007, or in a tight event like Dean Rojas’ one-ounce win at Toledo Bend; the Elite Series provides excitement.
2012 should be no different, and here’s some of the reasons why.

Florida Back to Backs
Say what you want about Florida fishing. It has a reputation for producing giant bass; but, it also has a reputation for being incredibly schizophrenic in its bass fisheries. Take for example the win by Shaw Grigsby at the 2011 Sunshine Showdown at The Harris Chain of Lakes. Shaw had a solid day one with 14 pounds, 7 ounces; then leapt to the lead on day two with a giant 29-pound, 8-ounce day. He followed that up with 18 pounds, 12 ounces on day three; then scraped up 12 pounds, 9 ounces to win with a total of 75 pounds, 4 ounces.

The weights in that Florida event were not exactly a model of consistency from day to day. In fact, the second place finisher, Grant Goldbeck, finished with 67 pounds, 14 ounces; and he recorded that weight with a one fish day on the first day of the event.

Florida will always add excitement to the start of an Elite Series season one way or another.

True Rookie Class
2012 will be the first time that we will witness a true “rookie class” since the 2007 year that brought us Derek Remitz, Casey Ashley, James Niggemeyer, Jason Williamson and Marty Robinson. What that means is that like Remitz in 2007, Billy McCaghren in 2009 and Bradley Roy in 2010, we will have a bona fide Rookie of the year winner in 2012. Former FLW Tour pros Steve Kennedy, Bobby Lane and Ott Defoe winning the award in 2006, 2008 and 2011.

The rookie class looks to have some interesting flavor for 2012; Kevin Ledoux, Jared Miller, Casey Scanlon and Chris Zaldain qualified through the Central Opens, Kyle Fox, Fletcher Shryock and Michael Simonton through the Northern Opens and Brandon Card and Cliff Prince from the Southern Opens. Also, for the second year in a row, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation champion Jamie Horton will join the Elite Series ranks.

Some of these first year Elite pros have already proven that they can compete in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, but we will see what they are able to do in the two and a half practice day format of the Elite Series. It’s a tough format, and it takes a while for newcomers to adjust to the format and the waterways, but it should be an interesting race.

2011 was a tough year for some notably consistent Elite Series competitors. Several of them had uncharacteristically rough years and failed to qualify for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. Skeet Reese (54th), Gary Klein (59th), Tommy Biffle (67th), Scott Rook (74th), Terry Butcher (77th), Boyd Duckett (84th), Mike McClelland (85th) Kotaro Kiriyama (89th) and Derek Remitz (96th) all had off years and are looking to bounce back.

like 2011, the season starting off in Florida could have an effect on the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster angler of the Year Points Series this year. But, the broadness of the waterways, and the fact that the schedule extends into late August certainly provides more opportunity for a consistent angler to make up ground.

I look for several of these anglers to have tremendous rebounds in 2012.

There will be some differences in 2012 as the Elite Series schedule kicks off, and some of them revolve around names that will not be in the field this year. Peter Thliveros, Bernie Schultz, Dave Wolak and Kevin Wirth all elected not to compete in 2012 on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

While Thliveros, Schultz and Wolak are all running the FLW Tour circuit, Wirth chose to effectively retire in 2012. Each of these anglers represent years of experience and excellence on the tour; and will be missed from a story line and competitive position this year.

The return of Byron Velvick following his medical exemption year in 2011 is a welcome sight. Velvick had surgery to his cervical spine to repair impinged nerves in late 2010, causing him to miss last season. Prior to that, the three-time B.A.S.S. winner had career years in 2008 and 2009 and earned an Elite Series victory in 2010 at California’s Clear Lake; hopefully he returns in competitive form.