Most of the world’s top bass fishermen are at Barnett Reservoir this week, trying to win the $100,000 top prize in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.

The public is invited to weigh-ins daily, as well as the Outdoor Expos at the Rez presented by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on Saturday and Sunday. The Expo and the Elite weigh-in will be held at Old Trace Park in Ridgeland, adjacent to the Madison County Landing where the fishermen will launch and return.

Predicted high winds (Friday through Sunday) and rain storms (Sunday) could factor into the tournament.

Included in the Elite field will be three pro anglers who have won major events on the 33,000-acre lake, which has a storied history with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) and its various Bassmaster tours.

Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., won a Bassmaster Central Invitational on Barnett in December 1996; Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., won a Bassmaster Central Open in October 2013, and Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., won an FLW event on Barnett in February 1997.

The field will include several former Bassmaster Classic champions, BASS Angler of the Year winners and most of the sport’s ranking prize money earners.

This will be the first Elite Series event in the state of Mississippi. The Elite Series, which started in 2006, is the top rung of BASS’ tournament levels. Pros have to fish their way onto the Elite Series and then have to fish well enough to retain their Elite status. All 109 fishermen will fish the first two days, but only the top 50 will advance to Saturday’s third round. Only the top 12 will advance to Sunday’s final round.

Three Mississippians are in the field: former Bassmaster Classic champions Paul Elias of Laurel and Cliff Pace of Petal, and second-year Elite Series pro Brock Mosley of Collinsville.

The event is hosted locally by the Ridgeland Tourism Commission, Visit Mississippi and the Barnett Reservoir Foundation.

The Expo will include many hands-on events for children including archery and BB ranges, disc and putt-putt golf, fishing and hunting exhibits, and live exhibits from the Museum of Natural Science. The agency will also have many of its vehicles on site, a license and information booth and more.

The Expo will include live music, featuring acts before and after the weigh-in on Saturday and before the weigh-in on Sunday. The park will have food and beverage vendors. In addition, most of the Elite Series’ national sponsors will have exhibits in the BASS Sponsor Village.

For more information on events involving the Elite Series tournament, the Outdoor Expo at the Rez, visit or

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.