RICK CLUNN

GARY KLEIN

Two national fixtures, both former U.S. Open champions, are likely to miss the 2012 edition of the long-running event. The reason, Gary Klein and Rick Clunn will each need every possible opportunity to qualify for the 2013 Bassmasters Classic–by points, or by an Elite or Open win.

While the odds are against them, these pros will fish to the bitter end to get there and such effort will all but preclude them from making it back to Lake Mead this year.

To begin with, as it stands today, Klein sits in 58th place in the Elites, while Clunn is in 35th–basically the cutoff point to get in. Any Elite or Open tournament winners qualify automatically, no matter how bad a season they are having. That’s already been a good thing for Ish Monroe who’s win in Florida jumped him into the Classic, despite sitting 47th in the points.

There are four more Elite tournaments left: three in June and one in August, that provide enough time to move up in the point standings. But with less than 100 in an Elite field, it’s harder to gain ground. That leaves four possible Elite berths¬† and one Bassmaster Open opportunity to get a win and the automatic Classic bid.

But it is those final two contests that are likely to block the former U.S. Open champs from coming West. The last Elite Series event is at Oneida Lake in New York, concluding on Aug. 26. The final Bassmaster Open, half-way across the country at Ft. Gibson in Oklahoma, starts 10 days later, on Sept. 6, with the U.S. Open, three more states away, starting on Sept. 10.¬† It’s a logistical nightmare.

Gary told me, “There’s just no way I can make the Open unless I qualify in the Elites. It’s physically impossible.”

That may not be a problem for other familiar names. Currently, Dean Rojas sits in 29th place for a Classic berth. Aaron Martens is 56th, Fred Roumbanis, 72nd, Byron Velvick, 83rd, John Murray 85th and Chris Zaldain, 87th. The September calendar looks open for those guys.

Klein did say, “I know Rick [Clunn] wants to fish the U.S. Open, but he’s also fishing the Bassmaster Opens. If he qualifies through the Elites, he said he’ll fish the Open.”

As for other Open possibles, Monroe’s, skill-set doesn’t really match up well with the desert and FLW’er Brent Ehrler has been timid about shared-weight tournaments. Since Jay Yelas moved back to Oregon, he now takes the late summer and fall off from tournaments, while Skeet Reese will surely maintain his record string of no-shows at Lake Mead.