For the first time in Bassmaster Elite Series history, B.A.S.S. has been forced to cancel one of its events — the Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.
The contest that had been scheduled in Harford County for July 26 to 30 but was initially postponed because of massive flooding and unsafe boating conditions. It was the second postponement this year of an Elite event.
The event will not be rescheduled, B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin announced Wednesday in a news release.
“By the time conditions on the upper Chesapeake Bay improved enough for competition, our great hosts at Harford County, Md., were unable to accommodate our event,” Akin said. “We could have switched the event to another fishery, but in consideration of Elite anglers who had important obligations during the times we had available, we elected to end the season with eight qualifying events, instead of the nine we had planned.
“We are really disappointed that we could not conduct the Maryland event as planned. We were anticipating huge crowds of spectators and excellent fish catches — as we always have on the upper Chesapeake,” Akin said.
The event was being sponsored by Harford County and Visit Harford!, the county’s tourism agency.
“Certainly we are disappointed, but I certainly respect any organization that bases their decision on safety as the number one priority,” Visit Harford! Executive Director Greg Pizzuto stated in an email.
The regular B.A.S.S. tournament season will now end with the Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet, to be held Aug. 23-26 at Waddington, N.Y. Elite anglers ranked in the Top 50 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points list after that event will compete in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at Chatuge Lake at Young Harris, Ga., Sept. 20-23.
That championship will pay $1 million to the qualifiers based on cumulative AOY points, and it will determine the 2018 Bassmaster Angler of the Year as well as pro qualifiers for the Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at Knoxville, Tenn., next March.
“We regret the effect this decision has on our anglers who were hoping to improve their AOY standings in Elite No. 8, as well as on our sponsors, the host community of Harford County and our B.A.S.S. fans,” B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon said. “However, we had to consider the interests of all concerned when deciding to cancel.”
The decision to cancel the Maryland Tournament was reached after discussions with B.A.S.S. sponsors, as well as consultations with the Elite Advisory Board — an 11-member panel of pros elected by their peers — and polling of the Elite Series field, according to the B.A.S.S. news release.
Participating Huk Bassmaster Elite tourney anglers would have left each morning from from Flying Point Park in Edgewood. Daily weigh-ins were planned outside Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where the final awards ceremony also was to be held on the 29th.
Following five days of nearly solid and heavy rainfall, B.A.S.S. decided to postpone the tournament the day before it was scheduled to start, with the possibility of rescheduling, but that didn’t pan out.
A major factor that led to the postponement, according to B.A.S.S., was the opening of multiple floodgates at Conowingo Dam, as the Susquehanna River continued to rise from the heavy rains, and the expectation of downstream flooding and large amounts of debris in the waterways where tournament anglers were expected to fish.
While the tournament launch site was along the relatively sheltered Bush River, the participants were expected to venture out into the upper bay and into the lower Susquehanna.
By the evening of July 25, 17 of the dam’s 50 floodgates had been opened, but Exelon Generation, the dam’s operator, also had warned as many as 27 gates could be opened in the ensuing 24 hours. There were 20 gates open as of Thursday evening; however, the river flow through the dam began to gradually subside, and the number of open gates was subsequently reduced on Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, no spill gates were open, according to the dam’s spill conditions telephone line.
The B.A.S.S. news release also noted that Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton had issued a statement last week telling boaters to avoid the area downstream of the dam.