Three hour fishing sessions pack excitement!
By Steve Wright
BUFFALO, N.Y. — No one knows what to expect, but everyone is fired up to find out. That would summarize the feelings of the eight Elite Series anglers who will compete in the Bassmaster Classic Bracket Tournament on the Niagara River beginning Tuesday.
The top eight finishers at the Elite Series tournament recently on Cayuga Lake have been seeded and matched up according to their finish in that event. But this format is unlike any other tournament in B.A.S.S. history, and all the action will be carried on “Bassmaster Live.”
|KVD sets his eye on rookie Drew Benton. (Photo: BASS)|
“I think it’s great,” said Dean Rojas, who finished seventh at Cayuga and faces No. 2 seed Jordan Lee. “It’s new. It’s exciting. The people watching on ‘Live’ are going to love it. It’s innovative. There are no negatives to this.”
Rojas and Lee will compete during two three-hour sessions over the first two days, as will No. 1 seed Kevin VanDam vs. No. 8 seed Drew Benton, No. 3 Brett Hite vs. No. 6 Keith Combs and No. 4 Jacob Powroznik vs. No. 5 Koby Kreiger. There’s a five-bass limit (minimum 12 inches) in each three-hour session.
Each angler will be given regular updates on how his competitor is doing, and that adds another unusual element to this format.
“When you know what the other guy is doing, your head starts spinning,” Rojas said. “In other tournaments, you might wait another 10 or 15 minutes before making a move. In this format, you’ll pick up the trolling motor right away. You think, ‘I need to change because I’m getting my ass handed to me right now.’
“That’s what this format does. It causes guys to react.”
Because the format is so new, one big change was made during the anglers’ meeting Monday evening. Originally, the anglers not on the water – there will be two matches in the morning and two matches in the afternoon – were going to be allowed to watch “Bassmaster Live.” But the anglers realized the possibilities of an unfair competitive advantage, so that rule was changed. Competitors can’t watch “Live” when they aren’t on the water.
“I want to make this as good as it can be, and to me that’s a critical aspect,” said Kevin VanDam.
As VanDam noted, it’s not just another angler’s fishing hot spot that could be discovered watching “Live,” but all the particulars it takes to get a bite there.
“On ‘Live’ you don’t miss anything as far as the lures and the subtleties of the presentation,” VanDam said. “It shows everything. That’s what’s great about it for the fans. We want to be able to showcase the eight anglers’ talents and this is the best way to do that.”
The initial four matches over two days boil down to this: two three-hour sessions with a five-bass limit in each session, and the angler with the best two-day, six-hour total wins his match and advances. Competition is limited to an 18-mile section of the Niagara River, which primarily features smallmouth bass, but there are largemouth bass here too.
“If you could catch 11 or 12 pounds in three hours, I think that would be excellent,” said Keith Combs. “But I think you’ll have a chance to advance with a lot less than that. Somebody could catch four pounds and win a match, and somebody could catch 17 pounds and lose a match.”
How all this plays out will become a bit clearer after Tuesday’s competition.
“We’re all very competitive, and we take it seriously,” said VanDam. “It’s something brand new and it’s obviously an experiment for B.A.S.S. to try and create something that’s going to be better for the fans.
“Maybe we create something that we haven’t been able to with a standard Elite Series event.”
The winner receives an automatic berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.