Bass Pro Shops is celebrating its 50th year, and amateur anglers and the waters where they practice their craft will net the rewards.
Founder Johnny Morris today announced what he called the grandest fishing tournament in history – the Johnny Morris Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships.
The tourney will have more than $4 million in cash and prizes for anglers and is expected to reel in at least $1 million for conservation.
“This is just for amateurs,” Morris said. “It’s just for you.”
The tournament, which will air internationally on NBC, invites owners of Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Triton, Sun Tracker, Tahoe and Mako brand boats to compete in two-person teams. The event is exclusively for amateurs, including serious weekend tournament anglers, parents, grandparents and youngsters.
The national championship team will win a $1 million cash prize.
“Never before has there ever been a freshwater tournament like this,” said legendary angler Bill Dance. “And that’s just the beginning. Participants will be rewarded with a total guarantee purse value (of) $4.3 million in cash prizes.”
But the big winners, Morris said, will be the habitats of the fish.
“About a third of your entry fee will be donated directly to conservation (through) a fish habitat initiative that supports habitats and freshwater lakes that’s so important,” Morris said of the National Fish Habitat Initiative. “Also, we’ll match that at Bass Pro with another third and then our great conservation partners at Toyota are going to match that a third.
“We’ll all be like partners in this conservation effort of this tournament,” the Bass Pro Shops founder said. “That’s one of our big motivations – celebrate our 50th anniversary, have a lot of fun, have some great prizes to get you excited, have a chance to win some really big awards and recognition of prizes, but also do a great deal to support conservation.”
To grow the sport of bass fishing, regional and international qualifier events will feature division payouts for youths, family teams, all-female teams, veterans and more. Additional prizes will be offered for the biggest bass and other categories.
Also, Morris is awarding a junior angler age 11 to 18 a $250,000 scholarship toward a conservation-related area of study.
Following a series of regional qualifying tournaments beginning this spring, 350 two-person teams will compete in the televised championship finale this fall at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake, home of the “granddaddy” Bass Pro Shops store in Springfield, Missouri.
The competition will include teams from Japan, Spain, Germany, Romania, Mexico and Holland.
John Paul Morris, the founder’s son, joined him in making the announcement.
“We’ve been working really hard on this and the main thing is it’s just a great way to kind of give back to our customers to show them a great time,” the younger Morris said. “We’re going to have eight qualifying events and if you’re one of the top 40 finishers in any of our qualifying events, you get your entry fee completely paid for (in) the final event.
“But more so than just the tournament, all these are fun events for the whole family,” he continued. “It’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun, the prizes are almost triple, if not over triple, that of the leading national professional bass fishing tournaments and the coolest part is, it’s just for you. No pros allowed.”
Here’s the tournament schedule:
- Lake Okeechobee, Florida, March 13.
- Lake Ray Roberts, Dallas, April 17.
- Lake Mead, Nevada, April 24.
- Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, July 17.
- Lake St. Clair, Detroit, Aug. 21.
- Old Hickory Lake, Nashville, Sept. 11.
- Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oct. 16.
- Last Chance Qualifier: Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas, Nov. 17.
- Grand Championship finale for those who qualify: Table Rock Lake, Missouri, Nov. 19.
Participation in the qualifying tournaments is limited and will be determined by lottery. Entry details are available at basspro.com/usopen. Registration opens Feb. 10.
Bass Pro Shops is a chain of large, wilderness-themed stores with a wide array of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear. The chain includes stores in Leeds and Prattville.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)