Luke Clausen currently sits in 25th place overall, five spots above the REDCREST Qualification Line. Photo by Josh Gassmann

Right before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins, the 68 teams who qualify are picked on “Selection Sunday.” Much like college basketball, the MLF Bass Pro Tour will have its own “Selection Sunday” on June 30 when Stage Eight ends in Neenah, Wisconsin.

After eight events, five months, and 360 hours of competition, only the Top 30 pros will move on to the REDCREST Championship in La Crosse, Wisconsin on August 21.

Last Five In

As it stands right now, the last five anglers above the REDCREST Qualification Line are: Luke Clausen (329 points), Greg Vinson (326 points), Zack Birge (324 points), Dave Lefebre (320 points), Takahiro Omori (313 points) and Cody Meyer (311 points). Clausen may be in 25th place and 21 points ahead of the Qualification Line, but he says he’s far from comfortable as he prepares for Stage Eight.

“I wish I didn’t have to catch a lot of fish to make it to the REDCREST, but I still do,” Clausen said. “I have to make it into the Knockout Round in Stage Eight if I want any chance to qualify. Even if I do make it into the first cut, I’m not sure it will be enough even then. I still have my work cut out for me, that’s for sure.”

Omori and Meyer made moves during Stage Seven to get themselves into the Top 30 of the REDCREST point standings as Omori moved from 37th to 29th and Meyer from 44th to 30th. Meyer is only three points ahead of 31st-place Alton Jones, and would love to have a little more cushion with a great finish in Stage Eight.

Cody Meyer currently flirts with the REDCREST Qualification Line, sitting in 30th place. Photo by Garrick Dixon

“I have a ‘one day at a time’ mentality and that’s what I’m trying to do at Stage Eight,” Meyer said. “There’s a ton riding on this last event. The REDCREST could change your life if you win it. The rest of your life can be set up if you win it but you can’t win it unless you’re in it. It’s a massive opportunity for me.”

First Five Out

Now we shift our attention to five anglers who are currently on the outside looking in at the Top 30. Alton Jones (308 points), Adrian Avena (307 points), Mark Davis (304 points), Jason Christie (303 points), and Gerald Swindle (302 points) are below the Qualification Line, but still have plenty of life with one stage remaining.

Christie began Stage Seven in 29th place and above the Qualification Line, but due to a 48th-place finish on Table Rock Lake, he is now in 34th. Christie could make the Top 30 with a quality finish at Stage Eight, but he’s surprised he’s even in contention to qualify for the REDCREST.

Jason Christie is looking to qualify for the REDCREST Championship. Photo by Josh Gassmann

“I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in considering the year that I’ve had,” Christie explained. “This is the worst year of my career in terms of performance. With the guys that we have on this tour, you have to be on your A-game all the time to do well and I just haven’t been.”

The Oklahoma pro was in a position last year during his time with B.A.S.S. where he needed to do well in the last event of the season to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. A decent finish moved Christie on to the championship, but the Mercury pro isn’t so sure that making the REDCREST by the skin of his teeth would be the best thing for him at this juncture.

“I don’t know if I would benefit more from not making the Top 30 than I would making it,” Christie said surprisingly. “I’m at the point in my career where I kind of need a kick in the butt like that. But, of course, when you don’t make a championship, it’s kind of like your friends are having a party down the street and they didn’t invite you. There’s nothing that makes you more upset than that.”

Twenty-seven points are the difference between 25th and 35th place. Thirty anglers will leave Lake Winnebago with something to look forward to in August while the remaining 50 start their offseason earlier than they expected. It all comes down to Stage Eight on June 25 in Neenah, Wisconsin.