As we prepare for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic this month, it’s easy to overlook how the landscape for professional anglers from the western United States has changed over the past few decades. The full-time pros in this year’s Classic field include Brett Hite (Arizona), Jared Lintner (California), Justin Lucas (Alabama, but originally from California), Aaron Martens (same as Lucas), James Niggemeyer (Texas, but originally from California), Brandon Palaniuk (Idaho), Clifford Pirch (Arizona), Dean Rojas (California) and Skeet Reese (California). While Brian Snowden is typically associated with the Ozarks region, he too cut his bass-fishing teeth in California.
In the past, most western pros who wanted to make a run at the mostly-southeastern Bassmaster Tour moved to the east, like Gary Klein and Jay Yelas. There were a few holdouts, like Rich Tauber, Dave Gliebe, and Mike Folkestad, but they never approached the numbers that compete on the tours today.
That seemed to have changed when B.A.S.S. introduced the Western Invitationals beginning with the 1997 season. The new series would give western anglers not only the opportunity to qualify for the predecessors of the Elite Series via tournaments comparatively close to home, but also provided berths into the Bassmaster Classic. The “Westerns” continued in one form or another through 2005, at which point B.A.S.S. – under the ownership of ESPN — apparently decided that the investment and hassles necessary to run the tournaments wasn’t warranted given the comparatively light rate of participation.
In 2002, Bass West Magazine ran a cover story entitled “The Final Four?” showing the last four anglers to qualify for the Classic directly from the Western Opens. The cover is pictured above.
In order to win this week’s trivia contest, be the first person to correctly answer the following four questions correctly in the comments section below:
- Who are the four pictured anglers?
- Who was the 5th place finisher in the Western points standings that year?
- Who was the title sponsor for the angler in the top left during his one Elite Series season?
- Which eastward locale did the angler in the bottom right move to in order to further his tournament career?
The answers and winner will be announced Thursday. Good Luck!
[Hint: All the answers can be found via some smart internet searches.]