BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Of the 111-angler field, most are veteran tournament anglers; 98 are returning Elite Series anglers, while many of the 13 newcomers have long and distinguished résumés from other fishing circuits. All will be battling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus the prestigious Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and coveted 2017 Bassmaster Classic spots, in competition on some of America’s top bass fisheries.
Headlining the field is Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., the reigning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Martens clinched the 2015 AOY title after turning in one of the most dominant performances in recent history, including two Elite Series victories. Joining him are other members of the Top 5 in 2015 AOY points, including Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., who won the 2015 Sacramento Bassmaster Elite at Sacramento River; four-time tournament winner Dean Rojas; 10-time champion Edwin Evers, who also won back-to-back events in 2015; and three-time winner Jacob Powroznik.
Fifteen former Classic winners will be competing in the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series, including the 2015 champion, Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.; Luke Clausen of Otis Orchards, Wash.; Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo.; Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark.; Boyd Duckett of Guntersville, Ala.; Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss.; Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C.; Randy Howell of Guntersville, Ala.; Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas; Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala.; Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas; Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss.; Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.; and Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Joining the veteran Elite anglers are 12 newcomers to the Elite Series who qualified through the rigorous Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series: Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J.; Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa.; Shane Lineberger, Lincolnton, N.C.; Matt Vermilyea, Perrysburg, Ohio; John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky.; Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla.; Clent Davis, Montevallo, Ala.; Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove, Minn.; Jay Brainard, Enid, Okla.; Brett Preuett, Monroe, La.; Brock Mosley, Collinsville, Miss.; and Clausen. In addition, Fabian Rodriguez of Ocean City, Md., earned an Elite Series invitation as a B.A.S.S. Nation divisional champion.
Pros and fans alike are expressing their enthusiasm with the 2016 Elite Series schedule, which is being expanded from nine tournaments, including the AOY Championship, to 11. The season kicks off with the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, March 4-6. The Classic winner, if he is not already in the Elite Series will be invited to join the tour, which begins at the St. Johns River out of Palatka, Fla., March 17-20.
Each regular-season Elite Series event will feature a $658,000 purse, with $100,000 going to the winner and at least $10,000 being paid out through 52nd place, based on a full field of 111. BASSfest will pay out a total of $700,000, with $100,000 going to first place.
The 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship will pay a total purse of $1 million, with the Angler of the Year claiming $100,000, and the rest distributed to the remainder of the field of Top 50 Elite anglers based on AOY standings after the championship.
2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Field:
(Anglers marked with an asterisk (*) are new to the Elite Series.)
Randy Allen, Shreveport, La.
Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C.
*Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J.
*Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla.
Josh Bertrand, Gilbert, Ariz.
Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla.
*Jay Brainard, Enid, Okla.
Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark.
Brandon Card, Caryville, Tenn.
Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan.
Hank Cherry, Maiden, N.C.
Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla.
*Luke Clausen, Otis Orchards, Wash.
Rick Clunn, Ava, Mo.
Keith Combs, Huntington, Texas
Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn.
John Crews, Salem, Va.
Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La.
Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark.
*Clent Davis, Montevallo, Ala.
Ott DeFoe, Knoxville, Tenn.
Boyd Duckett, Guntersville, Ala.
Brent Ehrler, Newport Beach, Calif.
James Elam, Tulsa, Okla.
Paul Elias, Laurel, Miss.
Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla.
Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas
Seth Feider, Bloomington, Minn.
Micah Frazier, Newnan, Ga.
*Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove, Minn.
Shaw Grigsby, Gainseville, Fla.
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La.
Matt Herren, Ashville, Ala.
Brett Hite, Phoenix, Ariz.
Davy Hite, Ninety Six, S.C.
Tim Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Randy Howell, Guntersville, Ala.
*John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky.
Michael Iaconelli, Pittsgrove, N.J.
Ken Iyobe, Tokoname Aichi, Japan
Kelly Jaye, Dadeville, Ala.
Carl Jocumsen, Frisco, Texas
Alton Jones, Lorena, Texas
Kelly Jordon, Flint, Texas
Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala.
Kotaro Kiriyama, Moody, Ala.
Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas
Koby Kreiger, Bokeelia, Fla.
Jeff Kriet, Ardmore, Okla.
Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala.
Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla.
Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala.
Jordan Lee, Vinemont, Ala.
Matt Lee, Guntersville, Ala.
*Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa.
Brandon Lester, Fayetteville, Tenn.
*Shane Lineberger, Lincolnton, N.C.
Jared Lintner, Arroyo Grande, Calif.
Bill Lowen, Brookville, Ind.
Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala.
Aaron Martens, Leeds, Ala.
Billy McCaghren, Mayflower, Ark.
Mike McClelland, Bella Vista, Ark.
Mark Menendez, Paducah, Ky.
Yusuke Miyazaki, Forney, Texas
Ish Monroe, Hughson, Calif.
Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C.
Chad Morgenthaler, Reeds Spring, Mo.
*Brock Mosley, Collinsville, Miss.
Paul Mueller, Naugatuck, Conn.
David Mullins, Mt. Carmel, Tenn.
John Murray, Phoenix, Ariz.
Britt Myers, Lake Wylie, S.C.
James Niggemeyer, Van, Texas
Takahiro Omori, Emory, Texas
Cliff Pace, Petal, Miss.
Brandon Palaniuk, Hayden, Idaho
Chad Pipkens, Holt, Mich.
Clifford Pirch, Payson, Ariz.
Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala.
Jacob Powroznik, Port Haywood, Va.
*Brett Preuett, Monroe, La.
Cliff Prince, Palatka, Fla.
Matt Reed, Madisonville, Texas
Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif.
Marty Robinson, Lyman, S.C.
*Fabian Rodriguez, Ocean City, Md.
Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Scott Rook, Little Rock, Ark.
Fred Roumbanis, Bixby, Okla.
Bradley Roy, Lancaster, Ky.
Casey Scanlon, Rocky Mount, Mo.
Bernie Schultz, Gainesville, Fla.
Terry Scroggins, San Mateo, Fla.
Morizo Shimizu, Suita, Osaka, Japan
Fletcher Shryock, New Philadelphia, Ohio
Brian Snowden, Reeds Spring, Mo.
Gerald Swindle, Warrior, Ala.
Randall Tharp, Port St. Joe, Fla.
Dennis Tietje, Roanoke, La.
J Todd Tucker, Moultrie Ga.
Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Bryon Velvick, Boerne, Texas
*Matt Vermilyea, Perrysburg, Ohio
Greg Vinson, Wetumpka, Ala.
David Walker, Sevierville, Tenn.
Nate Wellman, Newaygo, Mich.
David Williams, Newton, N.C.
Jason Williamson, Wagener, S.C.
Chris Zaldain, San Jose, Calif.