The 2014 Elite Series Schedule – The Good, The Bad, The Boring
Sep 28th, 2013 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Sep 28th, 2013 at 12:00 AM
The 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is out, and the subject of much discussion. We BassFIRST.com bass geeks live and breathe this stuff – we’ve been waiting for the announcement of the schedule like normal people wait for the cast of “Dancing With The Stars” – so we naturally have our opinions of the upcoming season.
Oh, do we ever have our opinions.
Following are BF’s resident bassaholic editors Dave Landahl and Joel Shangle’s thoughts about the menu that B.A.S.S. will serve up to the Elite anglers and bass-fishing devotees of the world for 2014:
Bassmaster Classic – Lake Guntersville, Birmingham, AL/Feb. 21-23
Landahl: To be fair, the bass world has been there and done that at Guntersville about a jillion times, but its soooo good. The fish should be fat as heck and the potential slugfest will make terrific TV. Also, Birmingham is one rocking bass-fishing town. The several events I’ve been to there over the years have shown the love of the sport and the support that town provides. Plus killer barbecue. I mean seriously good eats.
Shangle: Fish moving to the banks and a potential 5-plus-pound average? Yes please. As Landahl points out, Guntersville is one of the most-fished tournament venues in the country. I guess in this case, we’ll call it a no-brainer instead of a lack of imagination. This Classic has the potential to be a true classic – a tournament along the lines of the 2011 slugfest between Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens on Lake Cataouatche on the Louisiana Delta. And to be totally selfish, yes, there’s Dreamland and Saw’s BBQ …
Stop 1 – Lake Seminole, Bainbridge, GA/March 13-16
Landahl: Come on now. The legendary Jack Wingate built his famous Lunker Lodge there. It’s a cool spot for sure. Plenty of tournament history there as well over the years (there have been 17 B.A.S.S. events there since 1968). I like the idea of starting somewhere other than Florida (although I loves me some Florida).
Shangle: In the not-too-distant past, this 37,000-acre Georgia/Florida border lake was regarded as one of the five best fisheries in the country. There’s certainly a long history here, but it’s been awhile since the Elites competed on Seminole: 2003, when it was the Bassmaster Tour (remember that?). I like this location. I will not be fond of the gators, however.
Stop 2 – St. John’s River, Palatka, FL/March 20-23
Landahl: The St. John’s is a pretty cool fishery, but there’s nothing imaginative here. As previously stated I love Florida, but I’m tired of every major trail going there to start the season almost every year. There are so many other choices throughout the US to try, but this seems to be the easy way out for big-tourney schedule makers.
Shangle: Third year out of four that the Elites have fished the St. John’s, so I guess we can just predict the outcome now: three or four anglers will catch between 71 and 77 pounds, Alton Jones will finish in the top three, and Brandon Palaniuk will do his best to dodge the manatee police. Decent enough fishery, but worthy of a threepeat? Nah.
Stop 3 – Table Rock Lake, Branson, MO/ April 3-6
Landahl: Another terrific lake, but again, not original. Oh, it’ll be a great event, probably with massive crowds. The lodging – think Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge – is excellent. Fishing is world class. The entertainment in Branson is tough to beat. I like it as a fishing destination, just not as a tournament stop again. I’m starting to get bored.
Shangle: I’m slightly more excited about Table Rock in April than Landahl because the last time I was there – early September – the water was hotter than the hubs of Hell and the bite, frankly, sucked. The Elites haven’t been here since 2006, but this will be the fourth B.A.S.S. event held here in two years. The stage shows in Branson aren’t that good.
Stop 4 – Toledo Bend Reservoir, Many, LA/May 1-4
Landahl: For the third time in the last four seasons, the Bassmaster Elite Series will be visiting Toledo Bend. Come on now. Move on. Great fishing aside, there are other locations in Louisiana or Texas where the Elites could be working their magic. I am now bored with this same-ol’ same-ol’ schedule.
Shangle: You know, B.A.S.S. schedule makers, Sam Rayburn is a stone’s throw west of Toledo Bend, is actually a better fishery (some would argue, the best in the country), and there hasn’t been an Elite event there since 2006. I’m going to have to mirror Landahl on the ho-hum factor here: Toledo Bend is a great fishery, but I think it’s time to give the western Louisiana fisheries a rest for awhile.
Stop 5 – Lake Dardanelle, Russellville, AR/May 15-18
Landahl: Ah… sweet relief. Now this is more like it. A location that has previously hosted top-level events, but hasn’t been done to death recently (or ever). Dardanelle is considered by many in the state to be the most productive bass fishery they have. The fans in this neck of the woods should mob the weigh-ins. Let’s hope the Elites get a huge turnout here.
Shangle: The Elites show up at Dardanelle about every two years, and the last time they were here – late March of 2009 – Mark Menendez treated us to one of the most intriguing performances in Elite history when he bushwhacked through a narrow culvert in a borrowed aluminum boat to fish a tiny slough that he had located on the Internet. This is one of the three tournaments I’m looking forward to the most on this schedule.
Stop 6 – Chickamauga Lake, Dayton, TN/June 11-15
Landahl: Possibly the best big-bass-limit lake on the 2014 schedule. Love the lake. Love the region. Fabulous folks. The Elites should be fishing there. Terrific selection, probably the best fishery of the 2014 season. However, allowing the Open anglers to fish it is total BS.
This is the Elite Series. Supposedly the “best of the best”. The Elites have to qualify and re-qualify to stay in the Elites. The Open anglers have not made it to the Elites or if they have qualified in the past have chosen not to fish it. They don’t belong there. I’m not saying they are not top anglers, I’m saying they are not the Elites who bust their collective tails to earn and maintain that status.
I’m certainly not saying they are donkey fishermen (like a legendary pro said a few years back of the newly formed Elite Series anglers he would be fishing against). Funny thing, many of those donkeys have regularly placed ahead of him ever since. I digress. Terrible concept. Total gimmick. Not worthy of a pro sport.
Shangle: B.A.S.S. likes to hang kicky nicknames on its Elite Series events (Lone Star Shootout! Battle on the Border!), so I’d like to propose the following, to suit the organization’s planto allow Open anglers to fish the Chickamauga tournament: Dyspepsia in Dayton! Landahl vocalizes the thought that I’m sure many of the Elite anglers share: it’s an E-L-I-T-E Series tournament. Yes yes, the accompanying BASSFest sounds and feels like a nice weeklong event, but as a tournament, the only way this stunt works for me is if the Open anglers fishing it are named Luke Clausen, Dave Lefebre, Jacob Wheeler, Scott Suggs, etc.
That said, this might be one of the events that I show up two to three days early with a rod tube and gear bag in tow, because Chickamauga should fish like a demon. Casey Martin racked up 103-plus pounds in winning the FLW Tour event held on Chickamauga this past mid-June, and I wouldn’t expect anything less when the Elite show up here next year.
Stop 7 – Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA/Aug. 7-10
Landahl: Give me some cheesesteak baby. Or better yet, a Tony Luke’s roast pork sandwich, awe yeah!!! Plus, this is a really cool venue to have an event: A major city with incredible lodging, our nation’s history and a good fishery. River rats will love this venue. Plus, the Wi-Fi ought to be good, so all of the anglers who use Instagram, Facebook or Twitter can keep their fans informed. Really excellent choice.
Shangle: I’ll mirror Philadelphia native Mike Iaconelli’s enthusiasm for this stop on the Elite schedule: it’s an interesting, diverse, honest-to-God river fishery (current and everything!) that will take the 99 Elites out of the torpor of six months of Southern largemouth lakes and reservoirs.
Stop 8 – Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, NY/Aug. 21-24
Landahl: A solid choice to wrap the regular season. One of the famed Finger Lakes, Cayuga has both largemouth and smallmouth bass, though many anglers claim the largemouth are what this lake is about. Now, this lake is no stranger to tournaments. Cayuga has had its share of events at various levels over the years, but this will be a first for the Elite Series. Here’s hoping for crowds similar to Waddington, NY.
Shangle: I’m just a little disappointed to see the Elites pull away from the St. Lawrence River and the Woodstocky party we saw in little Waddington, NY this year, but Cayuga is an interesting choice simply because it’s brand-spankin’-new to virtually all of the Elite anglers. This fishery fits its “Finger Lakes” description well: it’s long and narrow, and seems to be more of a “spot” fishery than a pattern fishery because of the physical layout. It’s seemingly set up better for northern smallie specialists, but don’t be surprised if some of the Southern grass-rats do well here.
AOY Championship – TBA
Landahl: I like the concept. Top 50 in the AOY points fish one more event. Big money payouts have been hinted at. Let’s hope the location is a brave and new spot. Something that will bring the best in the game to a new audience and truly show pro bass fishing as a national sport.
Shangle: Ray Scott was a master at generating spectacle, and his “mystery lake” concept was one of his best. Jerry McKinnis and B.A.S.S. are borrowing from a good source there with the “TBA” mystery-lake arrangement of the new AOY Championship. Not that I want this event to take away from the importance of the Classic (it won’t), but the AOY Championship concept feels more like an honest-to-God baseball/football/basketball/hockey post-season championship to me than a tournament held five months after the regular season.
Landahl: Frankly, the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series season schedule for me is so-so at best. Sure, the anglers will like it. Places they are all familiar with, except for the Delaware River. Iaconelli can expect a ton of phone calls.
I understand site selection has everything to do with money. I get that. It is just too bad that so many of the bass fishing fans around the country are constantly ignored by the Elite scheduling.
The Western states are ignored again, although there are several pros from the “Left Coast”. So many terrific bodies of water in California, but other places too like Arizona, or even an urban fishery like Lake Washington in Seattle. Talk about a cool spot to hold an event. There are also many northern states that offer so much, too. I know the culling rules are not popular, but Minnesota has tremendous fisheries. Imagine an Elite on Lake of the Woods or Rainy Lake. Think bass boats parked where bears and wolves roam.
The schedule will produce excellent TV, lots of local fans, but will do zip to help grow the sport. It keeps playing to the same audience over and over.
Shangle: B.A.S.S. has made clear in recent years that the Southeast is its primary tournament focus, with occasional stops in the Great Lakes (and occasionally the Northeast) throw in for variety. The 2014 schedule reflects that.
Money talks, and site selection boils down to host cities generating suitable bang for B.A.S.S.’s buck, so to speak. All of the fisheries above are excellent, and they’ll produce excellent Elite events with strong local support. However, wouldn’t it be interesting (and downright fun!) to challenge the sport’s best anglers to figure out some new waypoints on their GPSs, and to tackle new, unknown water like that of the Columbia River in Washington or Diamond Valley Lake in California? Or, at the very least, return to some of the legendary Yankee fisheries like Clear Lake, CA?
We can always hope.