This elite group of anglers include:
• Nine CITGO Bassmaster Anglers of the Year representing 14 titles, including Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle, Gary Klein, Tim Horton and Jimmy Houston
• Eight CITGO Bassmaster Classic champions representing 12 titles, including Rick Clunn, Michael Iaconelli, Takahiro Omori, Ken Cook and Paul Elias
• The top three all-time BASS money winners: Denny Brauer, Kevin VanDam and Rick Clunn. Collectively, they have earned nearly $5.5 million.
• 17 of the top 25 anglers in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, including Ish Monroe and Kevin Wirth
• Two Horizon Award winners, including Davy Hite
• Greg Hackney, the Toyota 2004 Rookie of the Year
• The two BUSCH Shootout winners, John Murray and Brent Chapman
“This world-class group of Elite Series anglers are about to experience the next level in tournament fishing with BASS,” said Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager. “Elite angler participation has more than exceeded our expectations. We’re thrilled that so many anglers share our vision for the future of bass fishing and will enjoy the many benefits of the Elite Series, but we’re not done yet. Only the first phase of the Elite Series registration has ended and we anticipate a minimum of a full field when the Elite Series debuts with the ‘Battle on the Border’ at Lake Amistad in Texas in March.”
While guaranteed registration for qualified 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour and CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open pros has closed, more than 80 qualified CITGO Bassmaster Open Series anglers have the opportunity to register for the Elite Series. Any qualified Bassmaster Tour and Northern Open anglers who were unable to meet the Nov. 1 registration deadline will be added to an exclusive waiting list and notified of their status by BASS’ Tournament department.
In October, dozens of anglers followed the lead of California’s Skeet Reese, who was the first angler to accept his Elite Series invitation. Anglers including Dean Rojas, Alton Jones, Marty Stone, Shaw Grigsby, Scott Rook, Mark Tyler, Randy Howell, Kelly Jordon, Joe Thomas, Peter Thliveros and Stephen Browning subsequently signed up for the most elite bass fishing series for the most elite anglers in the world.
“The Elite Series is the best model we’ve ever had in the sport that will truly grow an angler’s identity and offer a tremendous earning potential and opportunity,” said reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam.
2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli added: “The Elite Series is an evolution of this sport and I am crazy about it.”
BASS announced the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, along with the CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours, in August. Each Series event pays down to 50 places with a $100,000 first-place prize and 50th place paying $10,000. Anglers will compete for the cash as they fish from their own sponsor-wrapped boats.
“Since the day we announced the Elite Series, we’ve been working to make it the premier professional bass fishing league in the world for anglers, their sponsors and fans that come to the tournaments and watch them at home on ESPN2,” Rucks said.
Elite Series anglers automatically qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of Year program, which will award a record total of $600,000 to the top 50 anglers in the Elite Series points standings. First place receives $125,000.
Those anglers also are eligible to fish the new Bassmaster Majors, three stand-alone, no-entry fee competitions offering a total prize purse of nearly $2 million, including a $250,000 first-place prize per event. Each of the Majors’ final day weigh-in will be televised the same day on ESPN2.
“I feel like I can make a lot of money next year,” said Denny Brauer, the all-time BASS money winner.
The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is:
The Southern Sprint #1 March 9-12 Battle on the Border - Lake Amistad, Del Rio, Texas #2 March 16-19 Lone Star Shootout - Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Jasper, Texas #3 March 30 – April 2 Santee-Cooper Showdown - Santee-Cooper, Manning, S.C. #4 April 20-23 Southern Challenge - Lake Guntersville, Guntersville , Ala. #5 May 4-7 Pride of Augusta - Clarks Hill Reservoir, Columbia County, Ga.
The Turn #6 June 1-4 Sooner Run - Grand Lake, Grove, Okla. #7 June15-18 Bluegrass Brawl - Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Dam Village, Ky.
The Northern Swing #8 July 6-9 Empire Chase – Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y. #9 July 13-16 Champion’s Choice - Lake Champlain, Plattsburg, N.Y.
The Final Charge #10 Aug. 10-13 Capitol Clash - Potomac River, Charles County, Md. #11 Sep. 14-17 The Rock - Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City, Mo.
The 2006 Bassmaster Majors are:
May 18-21 Bassmaster Memorial on Eagle Mountain Lake, Fort Worth, Texas July 27-30 Bassmaster American on Lake Wylie, Charlotte, N.C. Aug. 24-27 Bassmaster Legends on the Arkansas River, Little Rock, Ark.
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, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.