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It was a dominating performance by the then Texas pro- only the 4th wire to wire win in Classic history. The 2002 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake in Birmingham, AL also saw Jay Yelas become the first Classic Champion to win big bass on all three days of the event. That event put Yelas into the fishing millionaire club, to which he has added, up to a total of $2.6M. Yelas fished the area below Logan Martin Dam casting a Berkley Popper and a Berkley Frenzy deep-diving crankbait. When the dam started to release water, he switched to a Berkley Power Jig with a Power Frog trailer. These patterns produced all the largemouth and spotted bass he needed to best Aaron Martens by almost six pounds. It was the first time an angler won fishing a tailrace- now a regular pattern for tournaments with dams. When he looks back at his Hall of Fame career, he notes that the Classic was a real career maker.

Yelas began his professional tournament career in 1989, and he quickly rang up two top-12 finishes in his first three events. From that beginning, he ultimately had a stretch of excellence that included winning the Classic and three tour-level Angler of the Year titles from 2002-2007 (two FLW and one Bassmaster). Yelas is a native Californian who knew at an early age that he wanted to be a pro angler. He earned a degree in Resource Recreation Management from Oregon State and

over the next 30 years he moved around a lot- from Phoenix to Texas, and eventually back to Oregon. During that time he amassed 78 Top 10 finishes and qualified for 16 Classics. He also qualified for 11 FLW Cup Championship events.

He is known to have a very easy going nature, and he has always loved to fish, attributing his skills and his success to his deep faith in God. His faith has been integral to his donation of time and resources to charitable endeavors. This passion is evident in his involvement as Executive Director for the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, which aids special-needs children through fishing events held throughout the nation. His charitable disposition has never kept him from taking a stand on issues facing the industry. He took a 13-year hiatus from B.A.S.S. after the ’06 Classic when he felt that the organization, then owned by ESPN, had shifted its media emphasis away from competition and toward angler antics that made for good TV. He used a “legends exemption” achieved via his Classic victory and AOY title to return to B.A.S.S.’ top circuit in 2019 after the organization had gone through two ownership changes since his departure.


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