But even Martin, an elder statesman who fished his first BASS tournament in 1970, won't have an advantage when the pros begin competing in the second event on the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour pressented by Busch Beer. That's because the tournament will be on Alabama's Smith Lake, and BASS hasn't launched into those waters since 1968. Instead, Martin and most of the other 156 pros fishing the Tour will be fishing nearly blind, with only three days of practice to prepare.
During practice, Arizona's John Murray has been finding the bigger fish, though scarce right now, are in shallower areas. He hopes that the heavy rain in the forecast will bring those fish out, but expects 12 pounds per day will win the event.
"There are some big spots in this lake," Murray said. "We've got some bad weather coming in, too, and that should really bring the bigger fish up. I went out (Tuesday) and the bite was a lot better because it was cloudy. When the sun came out, it got a little tough.
"This is the first time I've ever been on this lake," he added. "I've been really excited to fish here."
Alabama native Coby Carden has fished on the waterway a handful of times and believes it fishes much the same as a lake he won on in 2002, Lake Martin.
"It's the same kind of fishing," Carden said. "There are a lot of rocks and laydowns like Martin, but you have to fish a lot deeper and slower here. I've been catching them on a Yum Finesse worm about 15 to 20 feet deep, but the weights will be down, I think, for this tournament. I don't think there will be many limits weighed in."
Another issue that the anglers will have to deal with is the slot limit on Smith Lake, which limits legal catches to fish smaller than 13 inches or larger than 16 inches. Because BASS rules allow fish 12 inches or longer, anglers may go after small bass in the 12- to 13-inch range, only targeting lunkers once they have secured a five-fish limit. In practice, the anglers have struggled to work around the slot limit.
"Fishing isn't tough here," said Arkansas' Scott Suggs. "Catching fish hasn't been a problem, but you can only get about three or four keepers a day.
"I'm sure there are probably some schools of big fish wadded up somewhere that someone will find and come in with a big limit. I'm scared to say what it'll take to win, though."
Fans can catch the second event of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail on Smith Lake in Jasper, Ala., Smith Lake, Jasper, Ala., Feb. 14 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
A popular component of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season is the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expos take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and from 12 p.m. until 6 Sunday at the Old Walker County Airport.
The Jasper BASS Club will also host a Bassmasster CastingKids workshop and scholarship competition for children ages 7-14, Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Walker County Airport.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors include the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.