Around since 2021, the Wild Card division for the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats has proved to be a popular and successful feature, giving a lot more pros and Strike King co-anglers an extra chance to make the Toyota Series Championship. This year, instead of just the Top 12 in the Wild Card division qualifying for the championship, the Top 25 will make it, and also get to fish for the $10,000 divisional bonus at the championship.
To qualify for the Wild Card division, an angler just needs to fish four or more Toyota Series events as a pro or co-angler, and their three best finishes count toward the points. It’s a prime opportunity for someone with a few solid finishes on their ledger to make the championship despite one tough one, or simply for anglers to fish a schedule that is ideal for them and still make the championship.
This year’s Toyota Series Championship Presented by Simms takes place Nov. 2-4 at Table Rock Lake and offers up to a $235,000 top prize on the pro side. Co-anglers compete for a $33,500 Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat powered by a 115 HP Mercury. Plus, the winning pro at the Toyota Series Championship qualifies for REDCREST 2024 for the chance to win $300,000 and the highest-finishing pro from each division receives a $10,000 bonus (which drops to the second-highest finisher in the winner’s division).
As of now, Steve Lopez is leading the Wild Card points with 702 points, having fished five events total – three in the Central Division, and a Southwestern and Southern event. In 25th, Nick Gainey has fished four events – two each in the Central and Southern divisions. Gainey’s three best finishes so far are 58th, 77th and 108th, which total up to 540 points for him. In 2022, Ryan Salzman accumulated 626 points for 25th, and Brent Anderson earned 649 points for 25th in 2021, so there’s likely still plenty of movement left in the standings.
Each of the remaining four regular-season tournaments offer anglers a unique opportunity and should be great events. Participants can call 270-252-1000 or enter online.
Though perhaps a little late for a 100% spawning event, the Northern Division presented by Rabid Baits will get going with a banger on Lake Champlain. Plattsburgh, New York, is admittedly a bit of a drive for many, but it’s a great tournament town, and the fishing on Champlain is truly bucket-list stuff. Plus, the timing of the event ensures it won’t be too heavy on forward-facing sonar, and there should be plenty of chances for largemouth anglers to do well.
One of the premier smallmouth fisheries in the country, the deep bite on St. Lawrence River should be firing on all cylinders for the second stop of the Northern Division. A great place to catch a personal best, the St. Lawrence has also been very kind to anglers from other area codes, with Spike Stoker, Kyle Hall, Wayne Vaughan and other non-northern anglers all earning wins in recent years.
Less than 10 hours from Atlanta, the final Northern Division stop on the Potomac River is a great chance for anglers from the southeast to save a little gas money and take a shot at the championship. The grass should be growing strong by then, and anglers will have everything from ChatterBaits to frogs and punching on the table for them. Plus, the fishing has been really trending up the last few years at the Potomac.
You can tell Lake of the Ozarks is a great place to fish because the fishing is actually good there in September. The last stop for the Plains Division, Lake of the Ozarks is less than 8½ hours from Dallas and could be a great event for the more western or central anglers to take a shot at. With docks, brush and maybe even topwater in play, it should be a good way to end the regular season.