Jake Whitaker is the answer to the trivia question of who was the last man to reach the 2020 Classic.
Whitaker and Garrette Paquette finished with 611 points in the 2019 Angler of the Year standings, but Whitaker moved on to fish his second Classic via the tiebreaker. Whitaker had more weight than Paquette on full field days, so he took 42nd in the standings and the last berth to the 50th Classic.
This season is shaping up to be similar. First, there will 54 anglers in the field for the 2021 Academy Sport + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic on Lake Ray Roberts out of Fort Worth, Texas. Qualifiers include 39 via the Elite Series AOY point standings, eight potentially from the Bassmaster Opens, three from the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship and one each from the Bassmaster Classic, Texas Fest, College Classic, Team Classic and (maybe) an honorary legend angler.
The eight from the Opens are noteworthy as each unfilled slot goes back to the Elite AOY standings. Opens winners only get the Classic berth if they fish each of that division’s four events. One berth has already gone back to the standings, with Patrick Walters winning on Lake Hartwell.
That pushes Classic berths in the AOY points to 40th. Hank Cherry was next at 41st and if he moves up he would double qualify as defending Classic champion. If Walters wins on Fork, he would triple qualify and move the number to 42nd in the standings.
Shane LeHew is last man in right now, but Wes Logan was among those fishing Saturday hoping to make a move inside the cut. Logan is 43rd in the daily AOY standings with 535 points. Jay Yelas is 44th with 532 points and Keith Combs also has 532 points to stand 45th in AOY points. Today is critical to finalize what might be the last Classic berths.
But there are two more Opens.