PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Using a variety of fishing strategies, baits and techniques, five of the world’s top BASS pros competing in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on Saturday each secured a coveted berth into the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga, Feb. 24-26, in Kissimmee, Fla.

Those anglers include Day 1 and 2 leader Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., who maintained his grip on the lead in the Alabama River tournament with a 10-pound, 1-ounce limit. The catch pushed his brought him to a three-day total of 39-1.

McClelland caught fish in the same area he’s fished throughout the tournament, but the fish, he said, are diminishing. “I went to my key stretch on the river and the current wasn’t there,” he said. “I was a little more open to leaving today – I knew I needed to do something to help me for tomorrow.”

Like many of the anglers on Day 3 of the Open Championship, McClelland was focused on securing a Classic berth. He and the following anglers are now headed to the Super Bowl of bass fishing as well as the final day of the Open Championship: Rick Morris, Lanexa, Va.; Chad Brauer, Osage Beach, Mo.; Randy Howell, Springville, Ala; and Mark Menendez, Paducah, Ky.

Morris, who was in second place with a three-day total of 36-8, fished the Tallapoosa River, one of the tributaries that flow into the Alabama, and the only reported to have a current.

Third place Brauer fished backwaters for largemouth bass and weighed-in 11-9 Saturday for a three-day total of 34-15.

Howell, in fourth place with 28-4, moved from spot to spot on the water Saturday. He fished moving water on the main river, then targeted rocks and stretches of banks. “I’m just hustling … so, I think this is a new pattern – a non-current pattern.”

Menenedez, who made a comeback this year from a bout with viral meningitis, was in fifth place – and is now a contender in the Classic. “I’m just glad to be back,” he said. The Kentucky pro brought in 6-8 and squeaked into the top five after tying for the last slot with Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas. Ties are broken based on the total number of fish caught. Menendez had 15 and Reed had 12.

On the non-boater side, William Beekman of East Quogue, N.Y., claimed the top slot with a tournament total 21 pounds. Dow Cox of Jonesborough, Tenn., was in second with 15-9 and Jack Farage of Discovery Bay, Calif., was in third with 13-9.

The Open Championship will air on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006, at 10 a.m. EST. Daily weigh-ins at Cooters Pond Park are free to the public. Weigh-ins begin at 3:30 EST and BASS founder Ray Scott, who was at the tournament today, will lend a hand at the weigh-in on Sunday. The final round features the top five pros and weights each day carry over. The winning boater takes home an $80,000 prize package.

Local sponsors: Local sponsors include the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bassmaster Open Series sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

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 more information, call BASS Communications at 407-566-2208. To join BASS, visit www.bassmaster.com or call 1-800-BASS-USA.