Enhancements Include 66 Percent Increase in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Program Payo

CELEBRATION, Fla. – BASS announced enhancements to its tournament structure today. Next season, Bassmaster Elite Series anglers will compete from their own branded boats in all competition days of BASS tournaments, including the Bassmaster Classic. Additionally, BASS introduced a 66 percent increase in payout for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, which will now boast a $250,000 top prize.

“The next logical step in providing all BASS anglers the ultimate brand-building opportunity in professional fishing is to encourage them to fish from their own boats in all competition formats,” said Tom Ricks, vice president and general manager of BASS. “With the television coverage on ESPN2 and the additional multi media platforms devoted to our marquee events, Elite Series anglers have an exceptional vehicle to build viable careers and individual brands in the professional fishing industry.”

One of the most prestigious awards in the sport of bass fishing, BASS’ announcement raises the total payout of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year to more than $1 million in 2008, an increase of $400,000.

The complete payout structure can be found at www.bassmaster.com.

“We know the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award is held in such high regard and we wanted to reflect that prestige in the payout,” Ricks said.

In addition to the tournament enhancements, BASS announced today that the Bassmaster Elite Series, the most visible and prominent tournament trail in the world, will visit 11 fisheries in 2008. A list of the previously announced qualifying structure for the Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Elite Series can also be found at www.bassmaster.com.

With the changes to the tournament structure, the three stand-alone Bassmaster Majors will be eliminated from Bassmaster Elite Series competition.

“Our ultimate regular-season focus is now on the 11-event Bassmaster Elite Series,” Ricks said. “The Majors weren’t resonating with fans and the Elite Series is our primary property that we will look to grow further.”

As with past years, each Elite-level event will receive one hour of television coverage on ESPN2’s The Bassmasters, which airs at 9 a.m. ET on Saturdays. ESPN2 will kick off the Elite Series season with 13 hours of programming over three days devoted to the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.

Additionally, www.bassmaster.com and www.espnoutdoors.com will provide fishing fans with real-time leaderboards, streaming footage from weigh-ins, photo galleries and analysis at all Elite events.

With the schedule, BASS is giving the world’s top pros a balance of old favorite destinations and new and intriguing fisheries sure to boast some mind-boggling winning weights.

2008 Bassmaster Elite Series Schedule

In 2008, five fisheries new to the Bassmaster Elite Series surrounded by strong BASS membership bases join six fisheries that previously have hosted Elite Series events. The Elite season will kick off with the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for Feb. 22 in Greenville, S.C., on Lake Hartwell.

Then the world’s most Elite anglers will travel to Florida for back-to-back events to kick off the season. The season opener, the Sunshine Showdown, will be the held March 6-9 on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla.

The Harris Chain, a waterway that includes six lakes and three tributaries, has rich shoreline vegetation and has featured some impressive winning weights in past BASS tournaments. In Feb. 2005, Peter Thliveros of Jacksonville, Fla., scored a victory at a Bassmaster Tour event with a four-day total of 69 pounds, 5 ounces.

Next, anglers will head south to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes for the Citrus Slam on March 13-16 in Lake Wales, Fla. The Kissimmee Chain, which includes Lake Tohopekaliga, site of the 2006 Bassmaster Classic, hosted a Bassmaster Tour event in January 2005 won by Texas’ Takahiro Omori, who had a four-day total of 50 pounds, 11 ounces.

From Florida, anglers move on to Texas for two events. The first, the Lone Star Shootout, is April 3-6 on Falcon Lake in Zapata, Texas. It marks the first time BASS has visited Falcon. The mainstream reservoir on the Rio Grande River has a surface area of 83,654 acres and many anglers consider it a fishery capable of record-breaking weights.

The next stop for the Elite Series, Lake Amistad, was a fishery filled with potential in 2006 before the inaugural Elite Series event on the massive reservoir. Since then, Elite anglers have posted winning four-day totals eclipsing the 100-pound mark. The reservoir will host the Battle on the Border on April 10-13 in Del Rio, Texas. Featuring rocky structure and drop-offs, Amistad provides picturesque scenery in addition to its tremendous largemouth bass population.

After Amistad, anglers will head to another Elite Series favorite, Clarks Hill Lake. The Pride of Georgia, scheduled for May 1-4 in Evans, Ga., will mark the third consecutive year in which the Elite Series visits the area. Mike McClelland of Arkansas became the first two-time Elite Series winner in May 2007 at Clarks Hill, with a winning four-day total of 70 pounds, 7 ounces.

South Carolina, the site of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, will host the sixth Elite event of the season. The Carolina Clash is set for May 15-18 in Irmo, S.C., on Lake Murray. Created in the 1930s, Murray is a top fishing destination in the Southeastern U.S and has been the site of 10 previous BASS events. It has never hosted an Elite Series event. This stop will mark the first in the Palmetto State after the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.

The next stop on the Elite Series circuit is Alabama, the state where BASS was born. For the first time since the inception of the Elite Series, BASS will visit Wheeler Lake on June 5-8 in Decatur, Ala., for the Southern Challenge. Wheeler is the largest of three Alabama lakes that connect with the Tennessee River and provides 1,063 miles of shoreline. It has been the host of eight BASS events including the 1974 Bassmaster Classic. Elite angler and 1998 Classic champion Denny Brauer won an Open-level event in 2003 on Wheeler with a three-day total of 32 pounds, 10 ounces.

For the second time in the history of the Elite Series, Kentucky Lake and Gilbertsville, Ky., will host an event. The Bluegrass Brawl on June 12-15 will mark the eighth event of the season. In 2006, Morizo Shimizu of Japan bested the field of Elite anglers at Kentucky Lake, one of the country’s largest man-made lakes, with a four-day total of 66 pounds, 9 ounces.

Heading into the stretch run of the season, BASS will visit the Mississippi River and Fort Madison , Iowa on June 26-29 for the River Rumble. The Mighty Mississippi was host to a Bassmaster Tour event in 2006, when Elite angler Darrin Schwenkbeck won with a three-day total of 42 pounds, 12 ounces. It was the first BASS win for Schwenkbeck. The Mississippi has hosted more than 10 BASS events, but this will be its first Elite Series event.

Anglers will head to New York for the final two Elite events of the season. The first, the Empire Chase, is set for July 31-Aug. 3 on Lake Erie out of Buffalo. It marks the second straight year the Elite Series stops at Erie. A noted smallmouth paradise, Erie has hosted six BASS events. The 2007 Elite event is scheduled for July 19-22 on Erie and anglers and fans alike are excited about one of the final stops to the 2007 season.

The Champion’s Choice, Aug. 7-10 on Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, N.Y., will mark the 11th and final event of the 2008 season. As with the beginning of the 2008 season, the Elite anglers will enjoy two events in the same state to close the season. The 51,000-acre Oneida Lake, which will host Elite events three consecutive years, will be the determining site of the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

The full 2008 schedule information, including host city, dates and fishery, can be found below.

2008 Bassmaster Elite Series Event Dates

Date - Event Name - Fishery - Host City
March 6-9 - Sunshine Showdown - Harris Chain of Lakes - Leesburg, Fla.

March 13-16 - Citrus Slam - Kissimmee Chain - Lake Wales, Fla.

April 3-6 - Lone Star Shootout - Falcon Lake - Zapata, Texas

April 10-13 - Battle on the Border - Lake Amistad - Del Rio, Texas

May 1-4 - Pride of Georgia - Clarks Hill Lake - Evans, Ga.

May 15-18 - Carolina Clash - Lake Murray - Irmo, S.C.

June 5-8 - Southern Challenge - Wheeler Lake - Decatur, Ala.

June 12-15 - Bluegrass Brawl - Kentucky Lake - Gilbertsville, Ky.

June 26-29 - River Rumble - Mississippi River - Fort Madison, Iowa

July 31- Aug. 3 - Empire Chase - Lake Erie/Niagara River - Buffalo, N.Y.

Aug. 7-10 - Champion’s Choice - Oneida Lake - Syracuse, N.Y.

2007 Bassmaster Elite Series Anglers by State

Lee Bailey; Boaz
Boyd Duckett; Demopolis
Timmy Horton; Muscle Shoals
Randy Howell; Springville
Steve Kennedy; Auburn
Kotaro Kiriyama; Moody
Russ Lane; Prattville
Aaron Martens; Leeds
Jimmy Mason; Rogersville
Keith Phillips; Calera
Gerald Swindle; Hayden

John Murray; Phoenix
Dean Rojas; Lake Havasu
Mark Tyler; Scottsdale

Stephen Browning; Hot Springs
Mike McClelland; Bella Vista
Jimmy Mize; Ben Lomond
Scott Rook; Little Rock
Kevin Short; Mayflower
Mike Wurm; Hot Springs

Greg Gutierrez; Red Bluff
Jared Lintner; Arroyo Grande
Ish Monroe; Hughson
Skeet Reese; Auburn
Fred Roumbanis; Auburn

Ken Brodeur; Niantic

James Charlesworth; St. Cloud
Preston Clark; Palatka
Steve Daniel, Clewiston
Shaw Grigsby; Gainesville
Bryan Hudgins; Orange Park
Chris Lane; Winter Haven
Mark Rogers; Naples
Bernie Schultz; Gainesville
Terry Scroggins; Palatka
Peter Thliveros; Jacksonville
Charlie Youngers; Oviedo

Jim Murray; Arabi
Eric Nethery; Acworth

Doc Merkin; Downers Groove

Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira

Mark Menendez; Paducah
Bill Smith; Somerset
Kevin Wirth; Crestwood

Jeff Connella; Bentley
Greg Hackney; Gonzales
James Kennedy; Lacombe
Kevin VanDam; Kalamazoo

Grant Goldbeck; Gaithersburg
Darrin Schwenkbeck; Silver Spring

Paul Elias; Pachuta
Cliff Pace; Petal
Pete Ponds, Madison

Denny Brauer; Camdenton
Scott Campbell; Springfield
Rick Clunn; Ava
Brian Snowden; Reeds Spring
Mark Tucker; Saint Louis

Byron Velvick; Boulder City

North Carolina
Guy Eaker; Cherryville
Kevin Langill; Terrell
Britt Myers; Mount Holly
Marty Stone; Linden

New Jersey
Michael Iaconelli; Runnemede

New York
Matthew Sphar; Pavilion

Matt Amedeo; Akron
Glenn DeLong; Bellville
Charlie Hartley; Grove City
Bill Lowen; Cincinnati
Frank Scalish; Cleveland Heights

Tommy Biffle; Wagoner
Terry Butcher; Talala
Ken Cook; Meers
Edwin Evers; Talala
Bradley Hallman; Norman
Kenyon Hill; Norman
Jeff Kriet; Ardmore
Jeff Reynolds; Idabel
Dave Smith; Del City

Rick Ash; Pottstown
Paul Hirosky; Guys Mills
Dave Wolak; Warrior Run

South Carolina
Casey Ashley; Donalds
Davy Hite; Ninety Six
Jason Quinn; Lake Wylie
Marty Robinson ; Landrum
Ray Sedgwick; Cross
Jason Williamson; Aiken

South Dakota
Jami Fralick; Martin

Todd Faircloth; Jasper
Alton Jones; Waco
Kelly Jordon; Mineola
Gary Klein; Weatherford
Elton Luce Jr.; Brookeland
Ben Matsubu; Hemphill
Yusuke Miyazaki; Mineola
James Niggemeyer; Lindale
Takahiro Omori; Emory
Matt Reed; Madisonville
Derek Remitz; Hemphill
Zell Rowland; Montgomery
Bradley String; Huntington

John Crews; Salem
Kurt Dove; Warrenton
Rick Morris; Virginia Beach

West Virginia
Jeremy Starks; Charleston

Jon Bondy; Ontario

Morizo Shimizu; Suita Osaka

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com. Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation 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 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 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.