The other tournament

This morning began the final event of the 2019 Bassmaster Eastern Opens series. Next week, a similar scenario will pan out in Oklahoma at the Central Open.

Back in New York, the competition just began with the 6:30 a.m. takeoff at Oneida Shores Park at Oneida Lake. Prior to the Wednesday tournament briefing in talking with some of the anglers, all expressed the same sentiment. That is there will less of a constant in the standings and more daily shifting around on the scoreboard. Nobody really elaborated, but I have a hunch after covering all of the Opens held here during this time of the year. 

For one, the offshore bite in play means the community holes will see heavy pressure, as they do during the short bass season. With 170 boats in the tournament that means the sustainable population of bass will diminish each day. The edge could go to the angler that chooses to avoid the community holes, and find something different, away from the crowd. 

Meanwhile, another tournament is silently playing out on another scoreboard. It is the angler of the year standings that produce the prospects for the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series. Five anglers will receive invitations, and then have until a deadline date, to be determined, to decide if they want to make the big move. 

The top five get invites, but it always takes going beyond fifth place in the final standings. This year it could take going way deeper to lock in those invites, and here is why. Among the top anglers, the following are FLW Tour pros. John Cox (leader), Bryan Schmitt (third), Austin Felix (fifth) and Buddy Gross (sixth).

Rumors are swirling about the future of FLW, and that certainly will give those anglers incentive to make the move to B.A.S.S. For the FLW loyalists like Cox, they will be doing some hard thinking about what to do next.

Elsewhere on the list is the only current Elite Series angler. He is Brandon Lester, in fourth place as of Thursday. Lester is exempt so his spot will be opened up to another Eastern Opens angler. 

With exception of the FLW guys, the current prospects include Destin DeMarion (second), Craig Chambers (eighth), and Whitney Stephens (10th). Should they say yes to the invite, the window of opportunity for making pitches to potential sponsors will be narrow. Normally, that deadline is in early November, leaving them them about eight weeks to seal the deals. 

Stay tuned on this one. It will be worth watching to see who moves up, both in the final standings on Saturday, and who decides to move on to the Elite Series.