Since the inaugural Bassmasters Classic in 1971 at Lake Mead, professional bass fishing has made some twists and turns in ownership, organization and opportunity. However, with the announcement of the field for the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series (primary route to the World Championship) it’s clear the impact of Californians (and other western anglers) has grown significantly.

I remember Dee Thomas as the first in 1975, with Dave Gliebe, Gary Klein and later Arizona’s Fred Ward and then California’s Don Doty as the early pioneers to fish with the Bassmasters. But rarely were there more than two or three on tour or in a given field in the early years.

How that has changed.

Below are current or former Californians competing next year, plus a shorter list of those from other western states. Those who are rookies on the Elite tour are marked with [R], while the number to the right reflects their placement on the Bassfan.com World Rankings, a compilation of the last two years’ work. Former Californians are also shown with their former hometowns in the Golden State.

Former/Current Californians                          World Rank

Kevin Hawk [R] – Guntersville, Ala. (Ramona)      147
Gary Klein – Weatherford, Texas (Oroville)           127
Jared Lintner – Arroyo Grande, Calif.                    72
Aaron Martens – Leeds, Ala. (Castaic)                   18
Ish Monroe – Hughson, Calif.                                24
James Niggemeyer – Van, Texas (Los Angeles)     116
Skeet Reese – Auburn, Calif.                                39
Dean Rojas – Lake Havasu City, Ariz. (Ramona)    19
Fred Roumbanis – Bixby, Okla. (Auburn)              105
Byron Velvick – Boerne, Texas (Westminster)       246
Chris Zaldain – San Jose, Calif.                           206

OTHER WESTERNERS
Brandon Palaniuk – Rathdrum, Idaho                    32
Clifford Pirch [R] – Payson, Ariz.                           34
John Murray – Phoenix, Ariz.                                141
Josh Bertrand [R] – Gilbert, Ariz.                          Unranked