Former Kilgore High School athlete Lee Livesay, who had a fantastic first year in Bassmaster last season even through COVID-19, will be back on the association’s top tour again this year.
A reworked 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series season drew millions of enthusiastic fans to live broadcasts as the Elites became one of the only major sports to complete their full schedule, so it is no surprise that the full field is eager to resume competition. When the Elite Series takes to the St. Johns River to launch the 2021 season in February, the roster will feature 101 anglers.
B.A.S.S. announced the field for the 2021 Elite Series today, and Livesay and every angler from the 2020 roster is returning, along with 12 qualifiers from the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens and the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation champion.
“To have all of the guys back from last year says a lot about the positive momentum we have with the Bassmaster Elite Series,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “The reaction to last season was overwhelmingly positive from sponsors and fans. While they may not have always been able to join us lakeside for weigh-ins, B.A.S.S. fans cheered on each big moment while watching live coverage and encouraged their favorite anglers with messages on social media. We’re looking forward to adding 13 incredibly talented anglers into the mix.”
The list of returnees will include Livesay, the 2004 KHS graduate and former football standout who has made quite a name for himself in quick order in the professional fishing world, as well as Clark Wendlandt, who fished a brilliant season to secure his first Bassmaster Angler of the Year title to go along with three FLW AOY crowns. Also returning are the six first-time Elite Series champions from 2020: Buddy Gross, Chris Johnston, Frank Talley, Patrick Walters and Bill Weidler.
Livesay finished seventh at the 2020 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest at Lake Fork, and won the 2020 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite tournament at Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tenn., last year, his two best finishes. The former Bulldog defensive back has seven top 10 finishes, 13 top 20 finishes and 16 top 30 finishes in 34 total tournaments.
They will be joined by a talented crop of rookies that includes Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., who won the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title, along with overall qualifiers Marc Frazier of Newnan, Ga., and Matt Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky. The rookie anglers who qualified through the Central Opens are Darold Gleason of Many, La., and Kenta Kimura of Osaka, Japan. Justin Hamner of Northport, Ala. K.J. Queen of Catawba, N.C., and Joshua Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., all qualified through the Eastern Opens and round out the rookie class.
Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wis., will also join the rookie class after winning the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Pickwick Lake in November but also earned an invitation via his Top 4 finish in Eastern Opens points.
Four additional anglers who qualified through the Opens Series points standings are joining the Elite field; however, any angler who has combined earnings of at least $500,000 with B.A.S.S. and FLW is not considered a rookie.
Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., earned an Elite Series invitation through the Eastern Opens division; however, while this will be his first season on the Elite Series, he will not be eligible for the 2021 Rookie of the Year race.
Instead, Martin will join Justin Atkins, Jason Christie and Greg Hackney as established anglers competing on the Elite Series. Atkins (No. 2 in Opens AOY points), Christie (No. 1 in Eastern Opens points) and Hackney (No. 2 in Eastern Opens points) all fished another pro circuit in 2020. Both Christie and Hackney have competed on the Elite Series previously, combining for six Elite event wins and an AOY title.
The 2021 Elite Series schedule will begin Feb. 11-14 with the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla. From there, it will wind through six states for nine events as anglers compete for cash and prizes and attempt to qualify for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. For the first time in history, every Bassmaster Elite Series event as well as the Bassmaster Classic will feature live television coverage on the FOX Sports platforms.
Each tournament will begin with the full field of anglers on Days 1 and 2 before the field is cut to 50 for the semifinal round on Day 3. Only the Top 10 remaining anglers will fish the final day of each event with a $100,000 first-place prize on the line.
“Momentum is a powerful thing in any business or sport,” Akin said. “We built a lot of momentum over the last two seasons, and we have a field of anglers who will help us keep it going this year.”
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.