CELEBRATION, Fla. – The 2006 Junior Bassmaster World Championship and the Bassmaster Family Fest will be held on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla., on Feb.19, BASS announced today. The official championship launch and weigh-in will be held at The Venetian Gardens Lakefront Park in Leesburg.

“At previous events, I have seen firsthand how the City of Leesburg embraces BASS,” said Stacy Twiggs, BASS National Federation senior youth manager. “They have played host to the best adult BASS anglers in the world and now will get a taste of what the best junior Bassmasters can do.”

Unlike past years, BASS is pairing the Junior Bassmaster World Championship with the Bassmaster Family Fest, which includes a fishing derby for children ages 7-14. Participants receive t-shirts, hats, stickers, lures and a Zebco rod and reel. Also included is an autograph session with all CITGO Bassmaster Classic anglers and activities including a moon bounce, giant slide, face painting, clowns, balloon animals and magicians.

“This will be the first time in 16 years the Bassmaster Family Fest is joined with another great youth event,” said Twiggs. “This will add to the excitement and we look forward to distributing nearly 1,000 Zebco rod and reels to youngsters and watching them fish from the banks of the Venetian Gardens.”

Anglers qualify for the Junior Championship in one of two age categories, 11-14 and 15-18. Competitors must advance through a number of qualifying rounds on the local and state level.

The championship kicks off when anglers from the two different age groups are randomly paired together during a banquet that celebrates each participant who qualified. Each couple is then paired with a CITGO Bassmaster Classic angler who serves as a mentor and boat driver. BASS pays the expense of the meals and lodging for both the pros and the juniors. The event winners receive about $27,000 in scholarships and the prestige that comes along with the title of Junior Bassmaster World Champion.

The Junior Bassmaster program, which started in 1983, continues to be an excellent investment in the future of BASS, exposing young anglers to BASS’ most major event, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, according to Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager.

“Serving the youth anglers is a huge priority for BASS,” Rucks said. “I can’t wait for the day when an angler who competed in our Junior World Championship becomes a Bassmaster Classic champion.”

BASS held its first Bassmaster Family Fest in 1983 with a crowd of about 500 attendees. It has since ballooned in size; the 2005 Bassmaster Family Fest hosted several thousand and BASS distributed more than 1,000 rods and reels.

“BASS brings a lot of dollars and economic impact to our area, so we are really anticipating their visit,” said Bill Deese, executive director of the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are a very family-oriented community and we feel we are the perfect venue for both of these events.”

Local sponsors of both the Bassmaster Junior World Championship and Bassmaster Family Fest are the City of Leesburg, the Lake County Water Authority and the Lake County Economic and Developmental Tourism Department.

The Junior Bassmaster World Championship and the Bassmaster Family Fest are part of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic week, which culminates with the Classic tournament, Feb. 24-26 on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla. Those events are being hosted by the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Central Florida Sports Commission.

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.

To join BASS, or for more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.