B.A.S.S. officials announced in October the slate for the 2022 Bassmaster Opens Series, with nine tournaments in three divisions covering nine states as the pathway to some of the most-coveted invitations in all of professional bass fishing. Today, B.A.S.S. and St. Croix Rods, handcrafters of the Best Rods on Earth® for nearly 75 years, are pleased to announce St. Croix’s title sponsorship of the 2022 Bassmaster Opens Series. In addition to St. Croix’s title sponsorship, the St. Croix Rods Rewards Program will award an extra $1,000 to an angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Opens tournament fishing St. Croix rods, or $500 to the highest-finishing top-10 angler fishing St. Croix rods.
The 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series will return to a regular schedule this season with the first tournament, a Southern Division event, set for February 3-5 on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Kissimmee, Florida. From there, the Opens will wind through Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, New York, and Maryland.
“The Opens have always been a critical proving ground for tournament anglers,” says Hank Weldon, tournament director for the Bassmaster Opens. “Current Bassmaster Elite anglers and St. Croix pro-staffers like Caleb Kuphall, Bob Downey, and Pat Schlapper have all leveraged their success in the Opens to ascend to bass-fishing’s biggest stages, the Bassmaster Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic. This year, the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens combine Elite invitations, Classic spots and a ton of coverage for new anglers on FOX Sports and the B.A.S.S. platforms. All of that has led to record-breaking registration numbers as anglers try to get one of the 225 boater spots for each 2022 event. We’re thrilled to welcome St. Croix – America’s premier, family-owned rod company – onboard this year as our title sponsor to help us spotlight the future stars of our sport. The competition is going to be fierce.”
Bob Downey of Hudson, Wisconsin began fishing Junior B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments as a teenager. “I remember watching KVD win the 2001 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta when I was 14,” he recalls. “That sparked my interest in wanting to try and do the same thing someday.” After experiencing success at the junior level, Bob attended the University of Iowa, where he continued his tournament angling. Downey signed on to fish the Bassmaster Central Opens in 2019, claiming a check in all four events and qualifying for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic by winning the final event of the season at Grand Lake, Oklahoma. He also qualified for the Elite Series by finishing fifth in the 2019 AOY standings. Downey has fished the Bassmaster Elite Series for the past two seasons. “Bassmaster – and specifically the Bassmaster Opens – provided the platform for me to get to where I’m at today,” he says.
The same is true for St. Croix pro, Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wisconsin. Schlapper left a stable career to fish full time in 2019, signing up to fish the 2020 Bassmaster Eastern Opens, and also qualified for the 2021 Classic by virtue of his 2020 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship win. Schlapper’s performances on both tournament trails double qualified him for the 2021 Bassmaster Elites.
Caleb Kuphall, a recent addition to the St. Croix pro staff, is another angler who’s made a lot of waves in Bassmaster events the past three years. Of the 23 Bassmaster events the Mukwonago, Wisconsin angler has entered, he’s had four top 10s and finished in the money 22 times. He spent just one season fishing the Opens in 2019, when he won the 2019 Central Open at Lewis Smith Lake to qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic and finished second in the Central division points race, earning a spot on the Elite Series. Earlier this year, in just his second year fishing the Elites, he won the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Lake Guntersville.
“St. Croix exists to give every angler the upper hand, and that philosophy extends well beyond simply providing them with the Best Rods on Earth®,” says St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins. “We couldn’t be more pleased to extend our support to the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series, which provides hope and opportunity for so many talented and aspiring tournament anglers. It’s a chance to prove to themselves that they can compete with the very best and a realistic pathway they can follow – applying their skills along the way – that can quickly ascend them to the ultimate levels of bass-fishing competition. Caleb, Bob, Pat and others on our own staff here at St. Croix have proven that, as have dozens of other talented and driven anglers.”
The winners of all nine 2022 Opens will earn a berth into the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, provided they have fished all three events in the division where their win occurred. Follow all of the action of the 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series at https://www.bassmaster.com/bass-pro-shops-bassmaster-opens.