Mississippi's first Elite Series event is April 27-30
The best 110 bass fishermen in the world will hit Barnett Reservoir in Ridgeland April 27-30 casting for the $100,000 top prize in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
In addition to seeing the top pros in the business weighing in their catches, visitors to the event can also enjoy the Outdoor Expo at The Rez presented by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks on Saturday and Sunday (April 29-30).
"Having the MDWFP and its assets at the park is perfect, especially in this bicentennial year for Mississippi," said Bobby Cleveland, an event coordinator for the Barnett Reservoir Foundation. "Mississippi's wildlife and fishery resources are the envy of the nation, and it is a credit to the work of that agency. That this lake was chosen for an Elite event and is ranked by the tournament's organization as one of the top 10 in the Southeast is a credit to the MDWFP and its management of The Rez."
The Expo and the Elite will both be held at Old Trace Park in Ridgeland, adjacent to the Madison County Landing where the fishermen will launch and return.
Included in the Elite field will be three pro anglers who have won major events on the 33,000-acre lake, which has a storied history with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) and its various Bassmaster tours.
Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., won a Bassmaster Central Invitational on Barnett in December of 1996; Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., won a Bassmaster Central Open in October of 2013; and, Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., won an FLW event on Barnett in February of 1997.
The field will include several former Bassmaster Classic champions, BASS Angler of the Year winners and most of the sport's ranking prize money earners, yet, despite a long history of tournaments on the lake, many pros will be competing on Barnett Reservoir for the first time.
BASS has held 11 previous events on the 52-year-old reservoir, dominated in the late 60s and early 70s by Bill Dance and Roland Martin, who turned Bassmaster successes into lucrative TV careers.
Barnett played a historical role in the birth of tournament bass fishing. Salesman Ray Scott of Montgomery, Ala., came to Jackson in 1967 on a combination business/fishing trip with some Mississippi friends.
Rain cut the fishing short, and as Scott recalled, "I went back to my hotel over on Highway 80 in Jackson and tried to do some work and maybe get a nap. It was there, lying in that bed, maybe half dreaming, that I thought of forming a grass-roots type fishing organization and holding bass tournaments. I called my Jackson fishing friends, told them of my brainstorm and they liked it. Barnett Reservoir and the Jackson area is where the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and competitive fishing started."
Scott's dream turned into a lucrative career and transformed fishing from a pastime into a tournament-driven industry.
BASS is reviving its relationship with Barnett Reservoir. After the Classic in 1977, BASS didn't return to the lake for nearly two decades. The organization held two events in the mid 90s and two in the last three years.
This will be the first Elite Series event in the State of Mississippi. The Elite Series, which started in 2006, is the top rung of BASS' tournament levels. Pros have to fish their way onto the Elite Series and then have to fish well enough to retain their Elite status. All 110 fishermen will fish the first two days, but only the top 50 will advance to Saturday's third round. Only the top 12 will advance to Sunday's final round.
Mississippi will have three residents in the field, former Bassmaster Classic champions Paul Elias of Laurel and Cliff Pace of Petal, and second-year Elite Series pro Brock Mosley of Collinsville.
Hosted locally by the Ridgeland Tourism Commission, Visit Mississippi and the Barnett Reservoir Foundation, the event will feature the Outdoor Expo at the Rez sponsored by the MDWFP on Saturday and Sunday.
The Expo will include many hands-on events for children including archery and BB ranges, disc and putt-putt golf, fishing and hunting exhibits, and live exhibits from the Museum of Natural Science. The agency will also have many of its vehicles on site, a license and information booth and more.
The Expo will include live music on the Jackson Ready-Mix sound stage, featuring acts before and after the weigh-in on Saturday and before the weigh-in on Sunday. The park will have food and beverage vendors.
In addition, most of the Elite Series' national sponsors will have exhibits in the BASS Sponsor Village.
For more information on events involving the Elite Series tournament, the Outdoor Expo at the Rez, visit barnettreservoirfoundation.org or mdwfp.com. For more information on opportunities in Ridgeland, see VisitRidgeland.com.