Mark it: Sept. 16-18, Upper Chesapeake Bay out of Maryland’s Cecil County, the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open of 2010. It’s a tournament that could make or break many an angler’s season.
A few are new to the BASS scene like Open rookies and points leaders Ryan Said of Michigan and Travis Manson of Wisconsin, and Indiana’s Chip Harrison. Others include a boatload of veteran Bassmaster Elite Series pros: Jeremy Starks, Kevin Short, Ish Monroe, Jason Quinn and Randy Howell, to name a few.
All are frontrunners for the Bassmaster Classic entries to be awarded to the top two points-earners from the three-event Northern season. The two winners will make it into the field for the Feb. 18-20 Classic on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.
Anglers will also be competing in Maryland for prize money. First place on the pro side will be $45,000 based on a pro field of 175. In the co-angler division, the big prize is a Triton 18XS boat with a Mercury 150 Optimax engine.
For pros, Elite qualifications for the 2011 season are also on the line. Wisconsin’s Manson has said he will go to the Elite level if he qualifies. Michigan’s Said, a Chrysler mechanical engineer who designs steering wheels and airbags, hasn’t made a decision.
“I’m looking at going full-time if I can find a way to do it,” was as far as Said would commit. “I’ve been working at it pretty hard. When I was 16, I got my first Bassmaster magazine, I opened it up and read about a tournament where a guy earned money. I’d never heard of that. By 18, I started fishing tournaments; I’m 29 now, and I fish 10 to 15 tournaments a year.”
Leading in points going into the Chesapeake event, Said has his eye on a Classic ticket. “I’ve got a good chance here,” he said. “I’ve never been to the Chesapeake, so it will definitely be a challenge.”
He has 585 points, a solid head start of 73 points over Wisconsin angler Manson, whose tally is 512. The full standings can be found below.
Manson has his work cut out for him in defending his No. 2 spot. His first move will be to stave off Indiana’s Harrison; Harrison trails Manson by just one point. Manson must also protect his status from Starks and Short, each less than 10 points back. The top 10 in points, in fact, are within 64 ticks of Manson.
The top 12 includes not only Short and Starks, but three other experienced Elite pros — Monroe, Quinn, and Howell — who plan to compete in the Chesapeake event.
Manson can’t fall back on his Chesapeake background; like Said, he doesn’t have any.
“Just like for the last two events, I’ve never been on that body of water (Chesapeake),” Manson said. “From what I hear, it’s going to be mostly largemouth. I probably will dabble in smallmouth, but realistically, it’s going to be a largemouth bite.”
The largemouth vs. smallmouth question is just one of the event’s built-in trip wires. Others are tidal waters, pinpointing productive water within a very big playing field, and fishing at the tail end of a hot summer.
Manson is already in Maryland so he can hit the water for a long practice. He’s likely finding that the bass bite’s steady, according to a spokeswoman at Herb’s Tackle Shop in North East, Md., at the northernmost tip of the bay.
Dave Mansue is the pro who won the April 2009 Chesapeake Open. He’s not planning to compete in this year’s event, but he’s been keeping an eye on the bay.
“It’s a great fishery, yet September is a tricky time of year,” he said. “The water could be starting to cool a bit. Although there’s a lot of grass in the upper Chesapeake right now, and they’ve had a lot of good weights come in this summer, it appears the bass are starting to transition a bit.”
He expects this year’s winning weight to surpass his of 47-6. The April 2009 tournament was after a cold front and in rain that stalled the spawn, factors that Mansue said helped him while it hurt others. This year, with more favorable conditions in the forecast, he estimated 13 to 14 pounds a day will be needed to make the top-30 cut and compete the final day; to win will take 50 to 55 pounds.
“Anyone who gets on the right grassbed — one with some quality fish — will do well,” he said.
The public is invited to attend the Thursday-Saturday launches and weigh-ins at Anchor Boats Marina, 36 Iroquois Drive, North East, MD 21901. Launches are set for 6:30 a.m. ET; weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. All events are free and open to the public.
Daily results and photo galleries will be available at Bassmaster.com.
The event host is the Cecil County Office of Economic Development & Tourism, http://www.ccgov.org/tourism.
Bassmaster Open Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
Bassmaster Open Official Sponsors: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Skeeter Boats and Yamaha
Bassmaster Supporting Sponsors: Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats and Triton Boats
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