The conclusion of the Central and Eastern Divisions of the Bassmaster Opens means 10 anglers (five from each division) have earned an invitation to join the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2020 Ė and a few of them are no strangers to top-level competition.
When the dust settled after Grae Buckís victory at the Oneida Lake Eastern Open in central New York two weeks ago, Bryan Schmitt found himself atop the points standings, giving the Maryland pro and past FLW Tour champion a ticket to the Elite Series next year.
Also receiving invites will be veteran Opens angler Destin DeMarion, two-time FLW Tour winner Buddy Gross, 2014 FLW College Fishing champion and four-year FLW Tour veteran Austin Felix and Kyle Welcher, who has one year of FLW Tour experience and competed in the BFL All-American in 2016.
B.A.S.S. rules state the top five finishers in points in each Open division who are not already qualified for the Elite Series will earn invitations. Brandon Lester finished third and Patrick Walters finished sixth in points, but they are already exempt for the 2020 Elite Series.
The Central Division wrapped up last weekend at Grand Lake with Wisconsin native Bob Downey capturing the victory and also clinching an Elite Series invite. Wes Logan, an FLW Tour regular the past couple of years, took home the points title while 2016 FLW Cup champion and three-time FLW Tour winner John Cox continued his stellar year with a runner-up finish, earning double-qualifier status for the Elite Series (he finished fourth in Eastern Division points). Cox was deemed a qualifier via the Central Division because itís the division in which he finished highest in points.
Caleb Kuphall, another Wisconsin resident, along with Japanese angler Taku Ito were the other Central Opens anglers to collect Elite Series bids.
In addition to the above-mentioned anglers, a 2020 Elite Series invitation will also be extended to the winner of the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, which would bring the field size for the 2020 Elite Series up to 86.