Tour amateurs compete during the first three of each tournament's four competition days, with the amateur winner taking home over $36,000 in cash and prizes as well as incentives from Purolator and CITGO.
CITGO is continuing its amateur program for the 2004 Tour, after awarding over $10,000 in free gasoline to amateurs in 2003. Winning amateurs at each Tour stop will go home with a year's worth of CITGO gasoline; not too bad a prize when you consider how much gas a boat and the truck pulling it can guzzle.
"The amateurs are there to fish with the big boys," said Ron Harness, CITGO Sponsorship Programs Logistics Manager. "Everything else goes to the pros, so we wanted to create a program for the amateurs as well."
Like any other program though, there are rules to follow. To qualify for the free gasoline, anglers must don the official CITGO apparel provided to the top 12 amateurs on their last competition day, a rule that most amateurs view as a perk.
"Very few amateurs do not participate," Harness added. "The hats and jackets have 'CITGO Bassmaster Tour Top 12' on it. It's kind of a status symbol for them. It's something these guys are proud of."
Tennessee's Dennis Arendt, an amateur angler who will be fishing on the Harris Chain of Lakes during the first event of the Tour, agrees that the clothes are a status symbol.
"I had the opportunity to be in the top 12 in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship and got the clothing," he said. "I wear the jacket all the time. It's kind of bragging rights to the guys you fish with.
"The fuel though, that's a big deal. It may be the biggest expense I'll have. If you're driving a thousand miles to a tournament, getting 10 miles to the gallon, you'll burn a lot of gas. So that is a big help."
Tour pro Dave Mansue, who fished several BASS events as an amateur before turning pro, agrees.
"This ... recognizes that amateurs put in a great deal of time and effort and the guy that comes out on top has really earned it," he said, "and with the gas prices the way they are today, it's really something."
Purolator, the official oil filter and air filter of BASS, is introducing the "Purolator Big Bass" award in 2004. In addition to the $500 the daily big bass brings to an amateur angler, they now have the opportunity to tack on an additional $1,000 if that bass proves to be the largest of the entire tournament.
"This is a great thing for the amateurs," said BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel, "If they catch the biggest fish of the tournament, they will have the chance to pick up an extra check and get recognized for their achievement."
"I think it's great that the amateurs have an extra incentive," said Danny Correia. "In a way, I kind of wish it was only offered to the pros, but if the pro misses the big fish and the amateur catches it, more power to them."
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.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.