$600,000 Total Prize Money, Payouts to the Top 50, $125,000 Top Prize

CELEBRATION, Fla. – In just a few months, Elite Series anglers will begin the chase for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, which in 2006 will pay bigger dividends than ever before.   

CITGO, the title sponsor of the program – which awards anglers who have accrued the most points in one season – has increased the payout by 100 percent – to $600,000 – and also doubled the number of anglers who will be awarded money. “The chase for the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year is going to be the most challenging and exciting points race we've had in the history of BASS,” said Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager. "With 11 Elite Series events to capitalize on, anglers' consistency will be rewarded even more than before with double the prize money and double the number of payouts.”   

With the increased payouts and paydown comes a more challenging race. Elite Series anglers are competing in an 11-event Series that stretches from spring to fall, north to south and east to mid-west, testing their ability to cope with changing conditions and patterns on a nearly year-long basis. The race begins in March with the “Southern Sprint,” will make “The Turn” in June and then head northward into the “Northern Swing” in July before buckling down for “The Final Charge” in August.   

“The past Anglers of the Year have all been great, but this one in particular is going to be special,” said three-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and 2005 Angler of the Year runner-up Marty Stone. “The 2006 winner will have withstood battles from February to September, and New York to Florida.  What an exciting year we have ahead.”   

Stone also congratulated CITGO on its success in establishing a higher level of prestige and credibility in the sport through the Angler of the Year program. CITGO, which in 2001 joined BASS as a premier sponsor, has presented the esteemed Angler of the Year title since 2004.  “(CITGO) took it upon itself to double the prize purse in a program they believe in. In this sport, that is huge,” said Stone.   

“The Angler of the Year program allows CITGO to interact one-on-one with anglers and it has a direct impact on their lives,” said Lance Peck, CITGO outdoors sports marketing manager. “It is an honor to participate in such a coveted, high-profile award.”   

Along with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic title, The AOY moniker is the most sought after award on the BASS circuit because it recognizes the hard work and credibility of those who achieve it, according to anglers. More than in years past, consistency throughout the extended schedule will be key to winning the $125,000 top prize.   

2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens called the title a career-defining honor. “The Classic is a huge goal, but I’d say Angler of the Year is bigger,” said Martens. “The attention you get from fans and sponsors really makes it a huge deal. CITGO’s doing a great job on it.”   

The points race begins during the Battle on the Border on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, March 9-12, and wraps up during The Rock in Kimberling City, Mo., on Table Rock Lake, Sep. 14-17, where the 2006 Angler of the Year will be crowned.   

“It's so cool to see extra emphasis being placed on such a prestigious thing and that guys are compensated for consistency,” said six-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Skeet Reese. “I’m so happy to see the folks at CITGO pony up some extra dollars for the Angler of the Year award. It's nice to see the payouts reflect just how coveted an award it is.”   

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.  

  BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.  

For complete details, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.