Ultimate Bass

Bassmaster Classic Hopes Still Alive for a Few More Bassmaster Elite Series Pros

Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky.While 37 Bassmaster Elite Series pros have their 2009 Bassmaster Classic berths locked up by way of their position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year rankings, a few Elite pros have a nail-biting wait of about eight weeks to find out if they will compete in the Feb. 20-22 event on Louisiana’s Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City.

Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky.While 37 Bassmaster Elite Series pros have their 2009 Bassmaster Classic berths locked up by way of their position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year rankings, a few Elite pros have a nail-biting wait of about eight weeks to find out if they will compete in the Feb. 20-22 event on Louisiana’s Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City.

The three closest to earning berths — four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn of Ava., Mo.; Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky. — narrowly missed the cut for the Classic through the Elite season, which ended Aug. 10.

They’ll have to wait on the outcome of the Bassmaster Southern Opens circuit, which will wrap up Oct. 16-18 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. Classic berths will be awarded to the three pros at the top of the Southern Open standings.

But Clunn, Morris and Menendez aren’t betting on winning the Southern Open points race. Their Classic chances hinge on what other Elite pros will do.

It just so happens that three pros who qualified for the Classic through the Elite Series are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the Southern Open standings: Peter Thliveros of St. Augustine, Fla.; Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.; and Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala. If the three score Classic spots through the Southern Open circuit, then BASS would award their Elite-earned Classic berths to the pros in 38th, 39th and 40th place in the Elite standings: Clunn, Morris and Menendez, respectively.

“That’s two years in a row for me,” Menendez said of just missing the cut for what would have been — or will be — his fifth Classic. “There’s an outside chance there in the top three for me, and another if you look deeper in the (Southern Open) points, to Bobby Lane in ninth place. Guntersville is exactly his style of fishing.”

Clunn has another angle on the 2009 Classic, which would be his 32nd. He’s now 17th in the Bassmaster Central Opens standings. With two more events in the season (Kentucky Lake, Sept. 25-27; and Lake Texoma, Oct. 30-Nov. 1), the veteran could pull up into the top three.

Default qualification for the Classic is unlikely to happen through the Central Open. No Elite pro who has qualified for the 2009 Classic is near the top of the Central Open standings.

CLASSIC CHAMP TO VISIT 2009 CLASSIC SITE.CLASSIC CHAMP TO VISIT 2009 CLASSIC SITE. Alton Jones, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion, will be the keynote speaker at an October dinner in Shreveport-Bossier City, site of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.

The event will celebrate the upcoming Classic on the Red River, where 51 pros will compete Feb. 20-22 for a top prize of $500,000.

About 600 people are expected to attend an Oct. 3 dinner at the Bossier City Holiday Inn, according to Larry Lott, one of the event’s organizers and co-owner of the Red River South Marina, site of the 2009 Classic’s daily launches.

Lott said Bossier City is a sponsor of the dinner, along with a group of the city’s churches, including First Baptist Church, where Jones will speak during two services Oct. 5.

“Alton impressed a lot of people here, not only for winning the Classic, but because he has a great ministry,” Lott said. “Alton was going to come and pre-fish, so we asked him to speak to the city as a prelude to the Classic.”

Tickets for the Oct. 3 dinner are expected to be available soon. Fishing fans can contact First Baptist Church, (318) 746-7940.

MENENDEZ TAKES TIME FOR MILITARY. Elite pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., decided to thank soldiers in the one way he could say it best: share the fun of fishing.

He plans to participate in an Oct. 25 Fort Campbell Fishing Club event on Kentucky Lake.

“This fishing club is not necessarily a bass club, it’s more of a recreational venture of Fort Campbell, but it’s for civilians as well as active and retired members of the military,” Menendez said.

“This all stemmed from the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Kentucky Lake, when members of the club volunteered to help BASS with the weigh-in,” he said. “I didn’t make the cut in that tournament, but that gave me the chance to meet the club members. I asked, ‘What can I do to help you guys?’

“I just decided I’d love to be able to give whatever I could back to the military and put a smile on their faces. What they do allows me to do what I do for a living. It’s their blood, sweat and tears that allows us to have the luxury of an organization called BASS. I thought, you know, I’m going to get off my duff and go spend some time with these folks.

“We should have some soldiers there who have just returned home from Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s a competition, but low-key, more of a fellowship type of deal than anything else.”

FOR THE RECORD. After an investigation by BASS officials, it was determined that on Day 2 (Aug. 8) of the Champion’s Choice on New York’s Oneida Lake, Rick Ash exceeded a 5 mph zone. His catch for that day has been disqualified. His standings in the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament and the year-end points have been adjusted.

STARKS LIVING THE DREAM. “I’m living out a dream. I’m on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour, and that means I fish for a living. That, for me, is living a really good dream.” – Jeremy Starks on his website, http://www.jeremystarks.com. Starks was quoted in The Newark Star Ledger.



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