Posted by Matt on 09/06/2017

Lead photo courtesy of B.A.S.S. Communications

Moore OK – On August 31st, B.A.S.S. unveiled the schedule and format for the 2018 Bassmaster Opens.   

The new format consists of two divisions (East and Central) with four tournaments in each division.  B.A.S.S. also opted to bring back the Open Championship that will include the winner of each Open and the top 10 in the point standings in each division.  

Invitations for the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series will earned by winning the Open Championship or  finishing in the top five of the points in each division.  

To read the entire story and view the 2018 Bassmaster Open schedule, CLICK HERE.  

All that kicks in next year, but as of now, there are some tightly contested races in the three Bassmaster Open divisions with some intriguing names at the top of the point standings.   The final Bassmaster Northern Open begins tomorrow (Thursday) on Douglas Lake in Tennessee.  The Final Southern Open takes place on Smith Lake September 28-30, and the final Central Open takes place on Grand Lake October 5-7.  

At the conclusion of the Opens, the top five anglers in each division (not currently qualified Elite Series pros), will earn an invitation to fish on the Elite Series in 2018.  

In the Northern Open standings, Wesley Strader (383) currently leads JT Kenny by a single point.  Considering that Kenny is not on the B.A.S.S. roster to fish the final Northern Open this week on Douglas, he will not have a decision to make between the FLW Tour and the Elite Series next season.   

Strader was recently interviewed on BASS TALK LIVE (BTL), and talked about leading the Northern Open points heading into the final event.  To listen to the BLT replay, CLICK HERE

Current Elite Series pro Chad Pipkens isin 4th place in the Northern Open point standings with 364 points.  Since he finished in 72nd place in the TOAY standings on the Elite Series this past season (the top 70 earn automatic invites back), he’ll need to catch them on Douglas and remain inside the top 5 in the points to secure his spot on the Elite Series next season.  

Eight points behind Pipkens in 5th place in Shin Fukae with 356 points.  With a long and successful track record on FLW, it will be interesting to see what Shin does if he is able to maintain his place in the Northern Open point standings.  

In 7th place in the Northern Open point standings with 352 points in Jake Whitaker.  If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Whitaker was on the college team from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte that won the 2014 Carhartt College Bass Series National Championship.  

In 2015, Whitaker and his college team partner Andrew Helms also won the 2015 College Classic that was held on Lake Keowee at the same time as the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.  

In 18th place in the Northern Opens point standings is another familiar name – Matt Sphar.  Sphar fished the Elite Series from 2007 – 2009, and would be one of the few anglers to qualify multiple times for the Elite Series through the Opens if he is able to jump in the standings at the final Northern Open this week.  

Another former Elite Series pro looking to make a jump into the Top 5 in the point standings this week at Douglas is Ken Iyobe, who fished the Elites Series in 2015 and 2016.  He is currently sitting in 22nd place with 310 points.