2024 Bassmaster Elite Series and Classic invitations at stake; St. Croix Rewards also up for grabs
The 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series kicks off this week in Division 1 action at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, where a field of 225 boats, pros, and accompanying co-anglers will compete for a total payout of over $250,000. Also at stake is an invitation for the pro-division tournament winner to the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic, as well as EQ points that could result in an invitation to fish the coveted 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series. Competition will take place out of Lakepoint State Park Marina, March 2-4.
Current forecasts for Eufaula call for water temperatures in the low 60’s by tournament time, which should play well for a strong pre-spawn / spawn shallow-water pattern and heavy bags.
St. Croix Rewards Program
St. Croix Rod wishes to remind all pros and co-anglers fishing in any 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Open event that they can win even more with St. Croix Rewards, as long as they are fishing at least one St. Croix rod.
The St. Croix Rod Rewards Program pays an extra $1,000 to any registered pro angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods, OR $500 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 pro angler fishing St. Croix rods.
Similarly, the program awards an extra $500 to any registered co-angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods, OR $250 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 co-angler fishing St. Croix rods.
Anglers must register during the on-site registration prior to the tournament to be eligible to win St. Croix Rewards.
Anglers to Watch
A variety of St. Croix staffers are expected to fish the Division 1 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens event at Lake Eufaula this week, including Hunter Bland, Chad Grigsby, Bobby Lanham, Trey McKinney, Kenny Mittelstaed, Ron Ryals, and Dawson Wisner.
Kenny Mittelstaed of Minnetonka, Minnesota has been fishing the Opens since 2018 and has committed to fishing all nine events this season in hopes of qualifying for the 2024 Elites. “My wife and I live full-time in our RV and travel all across the nation for bass tournaments,” Mittelstaed says. “I’m super excited to kick off the season at Eufaula Lake in Alabama. I’ve never fished there before, which I think is really exciting. My favorite thing in the world is launching my boat somewhere completely new and figuring out how to catch a bass in waters I’m not familiar with.” Mittelstaed says he expects dirty water and a lot of power fishing in less than 10 feet of water at Eufaula. “I know my chatterbaits will get a workout on my 7’2″ HM Mojo Bass Glass rod,” he says. “I’m super excited for this journey of a season and all the ups and downs that go along with it!”
Maple Grove, Minnesota angler, Chad Grigsby, is a familiar face and talent in bass circles. He’s been fishing full-time on the national level for 20 years – 18 on the FLW/MLF tour and two seasons in the Bassmaster Elites. Grigsby says he has two basic goals fishing the Opens this season. “I’m fishing all nine events in hopes I can finish in the top nine in points and re-qualify for the Elites,” he says. “The other goal would be to win one of the nine events to get into the Bassmaster Classic.” Grigsby is optimistic about the event at Eufaula this week. “I Think it’s going to be really good. The water is stable and warming and it looks like we’re going to have pretty good weather throughout the week. I expect to have my favorite St. Croix rod in my hand all week – the 7’6” Legend-X MHMF, flippin’ and pitching at every tree stump or piece of cover that gets in my way! It should be a good time.”
Originally from Westminster, Maryland, Dawson Wisner joined the United States Army in 2017 and shipped out to Colorado Springs, Colorado where he found his love and passion for tournament bass fishing. “After my time in the service, with 500 dollars in my pocket, I packed up my Jeep and took off down the road to Palatka, Florida to live out my bass fishing dream,” Wisner says.
Entering his fourth season on the Bassmaster Opens trail as a co-angler, Wisner has made multiple top-tens and been close to winning more than a few times. “My main goal is to keep a positive mental attitude and come out of this year with a win,” says Wisner, who plans to fish all three Division 1 events this season. “I tend to do my best when I’m challenged with a body of water I have never been on, so I always look forward to fishing new places. I really need to catch them this week, I’m late on my rent and don’t want to come home to an angry landlord!” he adds.
Wisner faces some unique challenges as a co-angler. Primarily, he has no control over where he’s fishing out of the back of the boat. “There’s a few different techniques I think will play out well for me this week but the main player will be a jerkbait,” Wisner says. If my boater is fishing stumps or brush piles, I can cast a jerkbait behind the boat and connect on cruising or suspended fish. I like a jerkbait rod with a little bit of backbone so my number one choice is a St. Croix Legend Elite casting 6’10” medium power, extra-fast action. The sensitivity of that rod is another key feature for detecting subtle bites on slack line.”
Hunter Bland, a St. Croix staffer and National Safe Boating Ambassador from Williston, Florida, is starting his sixth season in the Bassmaster Opens. He plans to fish all three Division 1 events this season, hopefully winning one and punching his ticket to the 2024 Bassmaster Classic. “I’m excited to get the year kicked off in Alabama with beautiful warm weather ahead,” he says. “The fish should be in multiple stages, so I’m looking to keep an open mind this week. The fish are on the move and it’s going to be important to make key adjustments to stay with the fish as the week progresses.” In addition to winning an event, Bland says his goals this season are to fish clean, stay positive, and work hard. “Each day is a blessing and a gift, so no matter how the cards fall, I’m just extremely thankful to be here competing at Lake Eufaula this week,” Bland says. “I’ve never been to Lake Eufaula, but I’m looking to fish my strengths. I expect to be swimming a Missile Mini Swim Jig on a Legend Tournament Bass 7’3” MH WORKHORSE rod or casting a chatterbait around on the 7’2” HM RIP-N-CHATTER” rod.
Follow all of the action of the 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series at https://www.bassmaster.com/bass-pro-shops-bassmaster-opens.
2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Schedule
March 2-4, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Ala.
May 18-20, Wheeler Lake, Decatur, Ala.
Oct. 12-14, Harris Chain of Lakes, Leesburg, Fla.
April 13-15, Toledo Bend, Many, La.
June 15-17, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Okla.
Sept. 22-24, Lake of the Ozarks, Osage, Mo.
May 3-5, Buggs Island Reservoir, Clarksville, Va.
July 20-22, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, N.Y.
Sept. 14-16, Watts Bar Reservoir, Kingston, Tenn.
About St. Croix Rod
Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.
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