CELEBRATION, Fla. — At just 24, Scott Campbell is not the youngest competitor on the Bassmaster Elite Series. That honor belongs to Donalds, S.C., Elite pro Casey Ashley, who is also 24 and is just months younger than Campbell.
Nonetheless, he is one of a trio of promising Elite Series anglers under the age of 25. Joining Ashley and Campbell is Derek Remitz, who has already posted one BASS victory at the season-opening Elite Series event on Texas' Lake Amistad and currently leads the Toyota Rookie of the Year race. Ashley started slow with an 88th-place performance on Amistad but posted two top-25 finishes in California to end the Western Run.
Much like Remitz, Campbell established himself with a quick start at Amistad. On the first day of competition, Campbell weighed a 36-pound limit and after the second day of competition, the Springfield, Mo., pro was in second place and within striking distance of his first BASS victory. Though he eventually faltered, he finished in a respectable 17th place.
It has been a quick ascent to the Elite Series for Campbell as it was just two years ago, fresh out of college, he started competing on the Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers.
His success there, two top 10 finishes, led to a decision to compete on the Bassmaster Northern Tour. There, he scored a top five finish in the points standings and qualified for the 2007 Elite Series.
"The season has gone really well," he said. "It's intimidating being one of the youngest guys. But weighing 36 pounds the first day at Amistad really calmed me down and proved to me that I can fish at this level."
Campbell admits that he sometimes wonders if he is truly ready to compete on the Elite Series, considered the most visible and prestigious tournament trail in the world.
"An angler that is 24 years old wonders whether he even has the experience to compete with these athletes," Campbell said. "There is only so much experience that you can get at this age. The other anglers have seen a lot of things and you just wonder if you can hold up against that."
After the season-opening showing, Campbell came down to earth with a pair of 55th-place performances to conclude the Western Run. Yet, he remains in solid position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. He is in 30th position and if he finishes in the top 37 at the end of the Elite season, he will qualify for his first Bassmaster Classic.
The personable rookie was asked what has surprised him most about life on the Elite Series.
"That these guys are so accessible," he replied. "I mean, you're up at the highest level of a professional sport and these guys are still willing to spend time with you.
"You read about them in Bassmaster Magazine your whole life growing up and you idolize them. All of these anglers are just normal, everyday guys out here having a blast."
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Elton Luce is stepping up this season to do his part for the U.S. Military.
The veteran Brookeland, Texas, angler is teaming with The Armed Forces Foundation, a non-profit military organization based in Washington, D.C., to promote awareness of the needs of military families.
Luce has pledged to the Armed Forces Foundation a donation of $1 per pound of every bass that he weighs in while competing in any BASS tournament. And his sponsors Bass Cat Boats and Mizmo Baits will match his pledge. Considering the big bass that anglers have weighed at Elite Series tournaments thus far, Luce's donation should be quite hefty.
Luce is challenging his fellow Elite Series pros to "come on board" and join his pledge. The organization and Luce hope that other anglers will follow Luce's gesture and have dubbed the movement "Anglers Do Care". Donations can be made under that heading at www.ArmedForcesFoundation.org/.
"We are very proud to be working with Elton in raising money and awareness of the foundation and its mission," said Patricia Driscoll, Armed Forces Foundation president. "It's because of folks like Elton that we are able to raise the funds necessary to help our military community in need."
Be sure to check out www.Bassmaster.com today and you will find a Web site that has been redesigned with a focus on expanded fishing tips, news updates on BASS activities and information on how members can get involved at the local level.
New features include:
" Fishing Tips: Bassmaster Extras provide expanded coverage from the editors of Bassmaster Magazine; features from BASS Times including an archive of past issues; and Pro's Pointers, which will detail the winning strategies utilized by Bassmaster Elite Series competitors at Elite tournaments.
" Get Involved: Looking for ways to interact with fellow members? The Get Involved section of www.Bassmaster.com provides information on local tournaments via the BASS Federation Nation and local CastingKids competitions; volunteer projects via the Anglers Conservation Team (ACT); and details on how BASS members can participate in the Bassmaster Tournament Trail as competitors or as spectators.
" News and Information: Find the latest information regarding BASS Federation Nation clubs, BASS youth programs and BASS Conservation efforts regarding fish care and angler access.
" Feedback: A live, conversational module linked to select articles where users can post comments, share tips and relive experiences with other readers.
" Video: A new video player to enhance and streamline the video experience.
With www.ESPNOutdoors.com, fishing fans can view in-depth tournament coverage of the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Majors and the Bassmaster Classic. Exclusive content includes:
" Live streaming video of the tournament weigh-ins all days of competition, including on-the-water action. Users can also find live leader boards during competition days.
" Hooked Up, a new 30-minute, live and exclusive Elite Series pre-game show hosted by Tommy Sanders, Jerry McKinnis and Mark Zona, is located on www.ESPNOutdoors.com Sundays of Bassmaster Elite Series event directly before the live weigh-in.
" Multiple daily tournament updates, photo galleries and Fantasy fishing
Rick Clunn has certainly experienced a long and illustrious career and few things surprise the 31-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. But the 2007 Elite Series events have caught the Ava, Mo., legend by surprise. The mind-boggling big-bass action experienced on Lake Amistad, the California Delta and Clear Lake have been hard for Clunn to grasp.
"You have to understand, when I started fishing, we didn't have lakes like this," the four-time Classic champion said. "We have competed on three lakes in a row where the fish are bigger than anything that I grew up fishing for. And not just a couple of fish. All of them are.
"The equivalent to this in golf would be if you put the best golfers in the world on a course and all the fairways were straight, the rough was short and the greens were flat. And the scores would go out of sight. That's what you see on lakes like this. If you're not scoring 30 below par you're not going to be near the top."
Last season, Elite Series pro Ken Cook's Triton Boats wrap promoted his own Tarbone Ranch hunting operation. But in 2007, the former Classic champion has a dual-purpose wrap.
In addition to Tarbone Ranch, Cook's boat design promotes his Pattern Forecast website (www.kencookoutdoors.com). The Web site offers a unique, one-of-a-kind service — a custom forecast of what patterns to expect the next time you go fishing.
For the past 25 years, the Lawton, Okla., pro has compiled a database of the winning and second-place patterns from more than 600 tournaments nationwide. That information, combined with the former fisheries biologist's own knowledge and experience, enables Cook to provide a detailed forecast on waters from California to Connecticut.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM BASSMASTER MAGAZINE.
"The greatest thing about Bassmaster is you get to read about different people and a lot of times it's about techniques that are their biggest strengths — what they do best," Elite Series rookie Bryan Hudgins said. "You really get an in-depth look at how different people approach different styles of fishing."
DID YOU KNOW?
Perhaps Skeet Reese can lay claim to being the hottest tournament angler. The Auburn, Calif., pro has posted six top-10 finishes in his last six BASS events, including a runner-up performance in the 2007 Bassmaster Classic and a second-place showing at the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon on California's Clear Lake two weeks ago.
THEY SAID IT.
"By far, the greatest lake I have fished a tournament on is Clear Lake. I was proud last year when we broke the [BASS four-day heaviest weight] record at Santee Cooper Reservoir. I can tell you right now, Santee is a special place, but it doesn't hold a candle to this place." North Carolina pro Marty Stone in praise of Clear Lake, where seven pros broke the 100-pound mark in the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.