WON BASS anglers pick up first ‘golden tickets’ at Shasta Open

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By Dan O’Sullivan

As 2023 drew to a close, WON Bass officials were able to announce a partnership with Bassmaster that would provide WON Bass competitors a chance to qualify for one of the most prestigious events in competitive bass fishing – the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship – giving them a chance to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.

At each of the 2024 WON Bass Opens, the top five highest finishing pro and AAA anglers will receive an invitation – a Golden Ticket per se – to compete in the 2025 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship event. At that event, the three highest finishers will receive berths into the 2026 Bassmaster Classic, and the winner of the Nation Championship will also receive an invitation to join the Bassmaster Elite Series.

In addition to those prizes, the top five finishers in both the pro and AAA divisions will receive automatic berths into the 2025 Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at a fishery to be determined, and the points for the event will be awarded towards the 2024 WON Bass Anglers of the Year crowns. The top five finishers in the pro division Angler of the Year race will receive guaranteed invitations into the 2025 Bassmaster Opens EQ events for that nine-event schedule.

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Two of the anglers who received those “Golden Ticket” invitations were Lake Shasta Open Pro Champion Nick Wood of Yreka, California, and fourth place finisher Chris Raza of Orangevale, California. Both anglers shared what those invitations meant to them.

Wood, who began his fishing career by joining the Siskiyou Bass Club, a now disbanded B.A.S.S. Nation club from Yreka, has fished in two B.A.S.S. Nation Championships through his years in the Nation. “I fished my first one at The Harris Chain in Florida in 2009 and went again in 2017 to Lake Hartwell,” said Wood. “I really was excited to go then, and I’m even more excited now because as I’ve gotten more experience, I think I’m in a better place to compete.”

While he is looking forward to the competition, he said he is also looking forward to just being at the event. “I remember how impressed I was at how organized the event was, how well B.A.S.S. ran it, and how big it felt,” he said. “I felt like I was at a world class event, and I remember having never experienced anything like it before; I’m really excited to get back there.

“I’m really grateful to both B.A. S.S. and WON Bass for putting this partnership together, it really adds to the value of winning the Lake Shasta Open.”

For Raza, a longtime tournament pro from Northern California, the thought of competing on a stage like that has never really crossed his mind. “I love competing in these events, and have done fairly well out here, but never thought I’d have a chance to go before,” he said. “Now that I have the invitation, I’m really exited at the thought of fishing on that level, with the chance to go to a Bassmaster Classic, I’m thrilled.”

For an angler who has challenged for WON Bass Daiwa Cup titles in the 90’s, and learned how to Flip from Dee Thomas himself, Raza has been a part of some of the sport’s richest Western history, and this opportunity is not lost on him. “I’ve seen a lot and been a part of a lot in my time fishing out here,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity that B.A.S.S. and Ray Scott gave all of us by inventing the sport of professional bass fishing, and I appreciate the legacy and history of WON Bass and what it’s meant to me over the years, to be able to be one of the first to participate in this historic partnerships is an honor, and I’m ready to get out there and see what I can do.”

The next set of B.A.S.S. / WON Bass B.A.S.S. Nation Golden Tickets will be awarded at the California Open at Clear Lake April 17-19, 2024, in Lakeport, California. Five pro and AAA anglers will earn the opportunity to represent The West premier tournament organization, WON Bass at one of the most prestigious events in the sport, the 2025 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship with a chance to qualify for the 2026 Bassmaster Classic on the line.

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