Southern Open 1
Lake Tohopekaliga, Kissimmee, Fla.
January 20-22, 2011
"Tohopekaliga" is a Native American word that means "sleeping tiger," though how a Native American would know anything about tigers is difficult to explain. Nevertheless, Toho is legendary bass water and the site of two Bassmaster Classics (1977 and 2006).
This will be the 16th professional B.A.S.S. event held on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes (of which Toho is the largest). The most recent Open occurred in March 2007 and was won by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins with a three-day catch weighing 53 pounds, 10 ounces. A substantial part of the bass population was spawning during that event. This year, most of the bass will be prespawn, as they were in 2001 when Dean Rojas broke most of the B.A.S.S. marks for heavy catches, including the record for biggest five-bass limit. Rojas brought 45-2 to the scales on the first day of that event, a mark that has yet to be bested.
In 2001, a "perfect storm" of weather conditions conspired to create incredible fishing. It could happen again 10 years later.
Southern Open 2
Lake Norman, Charlotte, N.C.
March 24-26, 2011
At 32,510 surface acres, Lake Norman is the largest lake entirely within the state of North Carolina. In the early 1990s, it was a frequent stop on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, but B.A.S.S. hasn't been here since 2005 when the Bassmaster Tour (the precursor to the Elite Series) was here in March.
Elite Series pro Edwin Evers won that tournament with a four-day catching weighing 46-6. That's less than 12 pounds a day. Opens anglers will expect a lot better fishing in 2011.
With the bass in a prespawn mode, anglers should see the very best of what Norman has to offer. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs should be the tools of choice, and the winning weight will likely be around 50 pounds ... if the weather cooperates.
Southern Open 3
Douglas Lake, Jefferson County, Tenn.
June 2-4, 2011
Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Douglas Lake was impounded in 1943 and covers more than 30,000 surface acres. B.A.S.S. hasn't been here since 2001, when the legendary Rick Clunn won a Bassmaster Megabucks event.
In early June, the lake should be teeming with aggressive bass that have shaken off the doldrums of the postspawn, and competitors should be able to catch fish in almost any way they like, from dredging offshore structure with deep diving crankbaits, to covering shallow targets with buzzbaits to picking apart thick cover with flipping baits.
Central Open 1
Lake Lewisville, Lewisville, Texas
Feb. 24-26, 2011
Lake Lewisville came into the national spotlight in 2005, when Kevin VanDam won an Elite 50 tournament here and set a new lake record for largemouth bass with a leviathan that weighed better than 12 pounds. Since then, B.A.S.S. has been back three times — all women's events.
At just under 30,000 surface acres, Lewisville is the watery playground of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In the summer, it can get quite crowded with pleasure boaters, skiers and personal watercraft, but in February, it should be anglers-only.
Texas weather can be volatile in the late winter. It could be balmy or very, very cold. Expect jigs and jerkbaits to play a big role in the outcome of this tournament.
Central Open 2
Table Rock Lake, Branson, Mo.
April 28-30, 2011
Table Rock Lake has a long and storied history with B.A.S.S. The first time B.A.S.S. was here (1970) saw Bill Dance win his last professional tournament. Since then, there have been 10 other professional events held on the lake. The last was a 2006 Elite Series tournament won by Todd Faircloth.
Late April should be a boom time on "The Rock." The bass should be shallow and aggressive, and limits should be common for the Opens anglers.
Expect spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits and other horizontal baits to shine. Weights should be up, too. It may take 50 pounds or more to win.
Central Open 3
Arkansas River, Muskogee, Okla.
Sept. 8-10, 2011
The Arkansas River has long been a popular tournament site for B.A.S.S., but the only time B.A.S.S. attempted to fish the section of the river located in Oklahoma was in 2010, when high, dangerous waters forced officials to relocate the tournament.
The late summer and early fall should be safe as far as water levels and navigability are concerned. Expect a winning weight in the 45-pound range with catches coming on a variety of different techniques, from flipping and pitching around shoreline cover and backwater areas to fishing main river structure with deep diving crankbaits and Carolina rigs.
Northern Open 1
James River, Richmond, Va.
July 7-9, 2011
Except for the 2004 Busch Shootout, which featured just 13 anglers, B.A.S.S. hasn't been to the James River since 1995. Before that, it earned bass fishing fame as the only water to host three consecutive Bassmaster Classics (1988-90).
The 410-mile long river runs exclusively through the Commonweath of Virginia and is probably better known for its blue catfish than as a bass fishery.
It took 44-9 over three days to win in 1995, but that was in October. In July, expect the bass to be solidly in their summertime haunts and for the fishing to be a little tougher. All three of the Classics here were held in the summer, and the top catch was 34-5. Look for a pitcher or flipper or perhaps an angler on a shallow cranking pattern to take top honors.
Northern Open 2
Lake Erie, Sandusky, Ohio
Aug. 25-27, 2011
The fourth largest of the Great Lakes is still big, big water by anyone's standards. Named for the Erie tribe of Native Americans, the lake has become a B.A.S.S. favorite in recent years, hosting seven professional tournaments since 2003.
Universally recognized as one of the greatest smallmouth fisheries in the world, Erie shocked even its staunchest supporters in 2008 when Kotaro Kiriyama won an Elite tournament here with 20 bronzebacks weighing better than 93 pounds — nearly a 5-pound average!
Ever since gobies made their appearance on Erie, drop shotting small soft plastics has been the way to cash tournament checks. Expect more of the same in 2011.
Northern Open 3
Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y.
Sept. 22-24, 2011
Oneida Lake is named for the Native American tribe that once occupied the area. At better than 51,000 acres, it's the largest lake located entirely within New York. Since 2003, B.A.S.S. has stopped at Oneida Lake for six tournaments, including three Elite Series events and one major. The last Open to be held here came in 2005 and was won by Joey Rodrigues with 44 pounds, 14 ounces.
That tournament came in September, too, so it's likely that a similar weight will prevail in 2011. Rodrigues drop shotted his way to the win, fishing a 4-inch worm on a submerged hump. All 15 of the bass he weighed in were smallmouths, but Oneida holds largemouths, too, and they may average a little heavier than the bronzebacks. Expect a mixed bag.