By Greg McCain

Significant change highlights a new season for the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation.

Some of the changes bring about new and better things for the organization. A few of the changes are of lesser impact, and most simply clarify or extend existing rules.

The state B.A.S.S. Nation (BN) season begins Saturday (March 17) on Lake Eufaula with other qualifiers taking place in subsequent months at Pickwick, Guntersville, and Lay. The BN will return to Eufaula in October for the state championship.

Among the biggest changes and the one that has sparked much conversation among BN members is the addition of a Team Trail component to the existing structure. For current members or for anyone interesting in the latest addition to BN tournaments, fishermen can now pair with a partner for just an individual tournament or for the entire season, providing a second route to the Bassmaster Classic through the state organization.

Previously, a variety of BN members qualified for the Classic – Marty Giddens is fishing at Lake Hartwell this week – first earning spots on the state team and then advancing through regional and national competition. Now, anglers can progress through various levels of team competition, and eventually one person will reach the Classic via that path.

Boaters can also link with a non-boater, again either for an individual tournament or for the entire year, even if they choose not to participate in the team competition, which costs an extra 10 above the regular entry fee.

“A shortage of non-boaters at our recent tournaments led to the decision of the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation Board of Directors to let boaters fish with non-boater links,” said state president Eddie Plemons. “We already did total boat weights. Why not try to qualify for the B.A.S.S. Team Championship? We now have a second venue for our anglers to advance.”

John Thornton, District 1 director in northwest Alabama, likes the possibilities offered by the Team Trail concept.

“Our hope is that it will increase co-angler participation while allowing another form of competition and an additional avenue of advancement,” Thornton said.

Thornton plans to team with fellow Belgreen Bass Club member Randy Sparks in all of the BN qualifiers this year.

“Primarily the appeal is the opportunity to advance and just to compete as a team and enjoy the company,” Thornton said.

Jack Tibbs, mayor of Eufaula and member of the Eufaula Head Hunters, will participate in the team competition with Duane Mock.

“Being able to fish with your favorite partner guaranteed eliminates all the anxiety of a draw,” Tibbs said. “Having the opportunity to compete as a two-man team while also competing as individuals adds to the excitement.”

As Tibbs stated, Team Trail competitors will still be fishing as individuals in the same format as in past few years, boaters against boaters and non-boaters against non-boaters. Participants, however, can choose not to link together at all. From that perspective, nothing has changed. Those boaters and non-boaters will still be paired by tournament officials using the same process as in the past.

The make-up of the state team will not be affected by the addition of the Team Trail competition. The same format for determining the state team that has been used for the last three years will remain in effect. The composition of the state team is listed at the bottom of a 2015 story: Click for Article.

“The Team Trail part has created a little confusion, but if you choose not to participate in the Team Trail, nothing has really changed,” Plemons said.

What it has done is create some new enthusiasm. Plemons said husband-wife and father-daughter teams have entered the Eufaula tournament. He also said that some B.A.S.S. Nation members who have not recently fished an event are also entered.

For a full explanation of the BN Team Trail, read the following information provided by Plemons and the Board of Directors. Click for a list of the updated official BN rules: View ABN Nation Rules. The changes to the rules are highlighted in that list.

2018 Alabama B.A.S.S. Team Trail Anglers and co-anglers that register as links on their individual entry forms may fish together, even if they are in the same club. They may also pay an additional $10.00 fee and their total boat weight may qualify them for a slot in the B.A.S.S. Team National Championship. B.A.S.S. Team Championship qualification is a new option. Individual payouts, Angler of the Year and making the State Team will be the same as in previous years. Anglers who choose not to fish for the B.A.S.S. Team Championship or not to be linked with a partner will be paired randomly as in previous tournaments. This provides two different ways to make the Bassmaster Classic. Anglers may qualify for the B.A.S.S. Team Championship and the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation State Team in the same year.

Anglers will fill out individual entry forms. Anglers wishing to fish the B.A.S.S. Team Championship will list their boater or non-boater partner as a link. They will pay an additional fee of $10.00. Anglers fish together, but each must catch, fight and land their own creel. Anglers may net their partner’s fish. They will keep their creel separate. The angler will weigh in five fish; the co-angler will weigh in three fish for the individual tournament standings. The combined weight of the angler and co-angler (Total Boat Weight) will determine their standings for B.A.S.S. Team Championship.

B.A.S.S. will allot one slot for its Team Championship for every twenty different teams that ABN registers.

How will ABN qualify teams for the B.A.S.S. Team National Championship? Teams will qualify at each ABN regional qualifying tournament. If ABN has twenty boats or less in a regional qualifying tournament, the top two Total Boat Weights will move on to the next level. For every ten boats over twenty boats, one more team will qualify to move on to the ABN State Championship to fish for the slots allotted by B.A.S.S.

Anglers may register and fish with different partners at regional qualifying tournaments. Anglers and co-anglers may only compete at the State Championship for the allotted B.A.S.S. Team slots with partners they have qualified with. NO SUBSTITUTIONS.

Polygraphs will be given at each tournament.

Anglers do not have to fish for the B.A.S.S. Team Championship. They can fish as they have always done.

We hope this will bring more participation and higher payouts in the future.

Greg McCain is a freelance writer with current credits in Alabama Outdoor News, Great Days Outdoors, Alabama Game & Fish, and CrappieNOW online magazine in addition to producing content and photos for this website. He is also a member of the Belgreen Bass Club, a B.A.S.S. Nation chapter near Russellville.