Texas’ Michael Burns, Bassmaster Elite Series Pros Rick Clunn, Jami Fralick Qualify for 2009 Bassmaster Classic Through Central Open Division; 10 Open Pros Score Elite Series Invitations

Category: press release

 Nov 2nd, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Nov 2nd, 2008 at 12:00 AM

DENISON, Texas – Michael Burns of Plano, Texas, and Bassmaster Elite Series pros Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., and Jami Fralick of Martin, S.D., qualified Saturday for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic through the Bassmaster Central Open circuit.

Burns, Clunn and Fralick Classic Bound (Photo BASS Communications)

A field of 51 anglers will compete Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., for the Classic’s top prize of $500,000 and the prestigious title.

The three pros also led the list of 10 anglers who earned this season’s Central Open invitations to compete in the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series, BASS’ premier level of tournament fishing.

Burns and Fralick became Classic contenders after scoring two of the top three places in the 2008 Bassmaster Central Open standings at the final Central Open of the season on Lake Texoma. Clunn, who will fish a record 32nd Classic, already had received qualification when fellow Elite pro Bobby Lane earned a second berth through the Southern Open circuit, which wrapped up in October. Lane’s double-qualification made room for Clunn, who was one slot out of the Classic qualifications in the Elite Series’ Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

Burns, who finished first in the Central Open division standings, was in sixth place coming into the Texoma tournament and had favorable odds in qualifying for the Elite Series, but not necessarily a bona fide shot at his first Bassmaster Classic.

“The Classic was all bonus, I really am out here fishing for fun,” Burns said. “For somebody like Rick Clunn or Jami Fralick, that’s they’re living and it’s real important for them to make the Classic, but for me, it really was just fun.”

Burns, who finished 20th this season at the Red River in another Central Open tournament, said that because he’ll face no pressure in February he expects the Classic to be just as fun as his Central Open season has proved to be.

“Red River, same attitude,” he said. “I expect to finish last – anything above that will be great.”

Burns said that he likely won’t fish the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series. Other pros who are first-time qualifiers for the Elite Series: Billy McCaghren of Mayflower, Ark.; Jerry Williams of Conway, Ark.; Vince Fulks of Purcell, Okla.; Roger Boler of Slidell, La.; and Mark Smith of West Monroe, La.

McCaghren, who just missed qualifying for the Classic by finishing fifth in the Central Open standings, said it felt good to think about fishing with the likes of Rick Clunn.

“Just being in the top five, and to have a chance, I’m excited,” McCaghren said. “My main goal was to make the Classic. You never know, I’ve had a good year. I’m going to sit down and do some figuring and calling and try to fish the Elites this year.”

Five of the pros who earned Elite spots Saturday had already qualified through the 2008 Elite Series’ AOY standings: Butcher, Clunn, Fralick, Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., and Brian Clark of Haltom City, Texas.

As with dual-tour Classic qualifiers, the five must take their 2009 Elite spots through the Central Opens. BASS will work down the AOY points standings to award the five spots to pros who competed on the Elite level in the 2008 season but did not qualify for 2009.

The 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series season will kick off March 12-15 on Lake Amistad out of Del Rio, Texas.

With Clunn’s Central Open division qualification for the Classic, the door swung open for Elite Series pro Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va. This will be Morris’ fourth career Classic.

Clunn has made it clear since the Elite Series season ended in August that he wanted to qualify for the Classic based on the strength of his own fishing, and preferably not via the “back door” after Lane double-qualified through the Opens. And while he was proud to have accomplished his goal for the Classic, Clunn, who placed seventh at the weekend’s event, said he had hoped to finish higher.

“If you’re fishing the way you’re supposed to, you don’t have the energy to appreciate it the day it happens,” Clunn said. “It’s usually tomorrow or the next day that you really start to appreciate it.”

Clunn added that this qualification was bittersweet, because he is fond of fellow Elite Series pro Terry Butcher of Talala, Okla., who, despite winning the Central Open tournament Saturday, missed qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic by just two points.

“But you should never play the game of who you want to win, who you want to get in,” said Clunn, who competed in his first Classic in 1973. “It’s like I always tell everybody: All you can do is just fish as hard as you can. How it turns out is how it’s supposed to turn out.”

How it turned out for Fralick was somewhat unexpected. On Day One at Texoma, his boat broke down and he had to use a loaner boat. When his boat was repaired, his girlfriend got a call from Butcher, who had trouble of his own. Fralick’s family brought Jami’s boat to Butcher about 15 miles from the launch site at Highport Marina and Resort, and Butcher went on to bag the biggest catch of the tournament Thursday, a five-fish limit of 17 pounds, 1 ounce, and then took the win Saturday.

Fralick’s boat broke down again Friday and Saturday, but he was able to use a loaner boat both days and finish the tournament. He placed 17th, with 21 pounds, 1 ounce for the three-day tournament, but it was enough, ironically, to edge Butcher for the third and final Classic qualifying spot via the Central Open standings.

“Terry is one of my really good friends,” Fralick said. “There was no question about loaning him my boat – if he needed it, it was his. But you know, things have to go your way in order to make the Classic or win a tournament, and I was thinking things weren’t going my way, but once I got to fishing it was just fishing.”

Fralick said his goal in the Central Opens this season was just to fish with his father, Monty, who finished 44th among the pros at Texoma.

“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 13, fishing tournaments with Dad,” Fralick said. “I asked him what circuit he wanted to fish and he said the Centrals. He’s been not only my dad, but my fishing buddy my whole life. So I fished them mainly to hang out with Dad – to make the Classic is just a bonus. And he’s as excited as I am.”

The three Central Open pros are the latest additions to the Classic field, joining 41 other qualifiers: defending champion Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, and 40 other pros, including Kim Bain-Moore, the 2008 Toyota Tundra Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year and the first woman to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.

Six more Classic berths will be filled Nov. 7, when the BASS Federation Nation Championship winner will be named in Junction City, Kan., and the final 2009 Classic competitor will be known Nov. 15. That person will be the winner of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers.

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