Now mired back in the standings are the three pros who held the top spots entering the tournament on Georgia’s Clarks Hill Reservoir (the fourth of six Tour events). Former leader Takahiro Omori is now 20th, Skeet Reese is now sixth, and reigning Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle holds down 24th place.
They were replaced by a new slate of hopefuls who have never won the coveted title, which comes with a $100,000 paycheck from CITGO.
The new leader is Terry Scroggins, a 36-year-old Florida pro competing in his third Tour season, who moved up from fourth with a 19th-place showing at Clarks Hill. He has 923 points with two events remaining.
“I don’t know what to think about this,” Scroggins said. “I’m on a pretty good roll. I’m just trying to take them one tournament at a time. In my first year on the Tour, I was in second place about halfway through the season, but I bombed out.
“The first couple of years you get kind of overwhelmed when you go to those big lakes and don’t know where to start. This year I’m doing a lot more fishing instead of trying to look at everything. This tournament kind of scared me going into it. I didn’t know anything about the lake. I didn’t have a good practice, but I found one group of fish during the last three hours of practice, and I stayed on those fish all week.”
With finishes of fifth, 40th, 32nd and 19th, Scroggins insists that the pressure of leading the Angler of the Year pack will not impact his performance. “I’m going to go at it just like I’ve done all along,” he said. “I’m going to put it out of my mind and just go fishing.”
If he can’t win Angler of the Year, Scroggins at least wants to finish in the top eight in the Tour standings. Not only does that bring a healthy bonus from CITGO, which offers prize money to the top 25 finishers at the end of the 2005 Tour season, but it would qualify him for the 2005 and 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classics.
“Angler of the Year would be great, but my real goal is to finish in the top eight,” says Scroggins.
Arkansas’ Jimmy Mize is second with 884 points, thanks to a second-place finish at Clarks Hill (after starting the season with finishes of 41st, 26th and 51st).
“This is completely new territory for me, but I like it,” said Mize, 47, who has never challenged for the Angler of the Year crown in his five Tour seasons. “That was my goal at the start of the season — to be in competition for it – so I’m right where I want to be with two tournaments to go.”
Mize says he won’t change his laidback approach down the stretch. “I can’t fish any different,” he said. “That would mess me up. You can’t start fishing against the other guys; you have to fish against the fish. Just go out and try to catch what you can, and it will come out however it will.”
Marty Stone, a 38-year-old North Carolina pro in his 11th Tour season, has never made a run at the Angler of the Year award, either, but he’s in third so far with 872 points.
“I’m ecstatic, I really am,” said Stone, who has finished 26th, 36th, 16th and 36th. “It’s something that I hope I get to compete for several more times in my career.
“In my opinion, Angler of the Year is the greatest title an angler could ever achieve. It’s something that I put on my goal list every year when I start out, and to be in a position to compete for the title absolutely thrills me to no end — especially since it’s sponsored by CITGO, a company that has been such a key part of my career.”
With his fifth-place performance at Clarks Hill, 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli moved into fourth place with 868 points. The New Jersey pro finished third in last year’s Angler of the Year race.
“I’m shocked,” Iaconelli said. “I had such a slow start; I thought I was out of the hunt.”
Iaconelli, who has posted finishes of 49th, 53rd, 19th and fifth, pointed to the second day of the Lake Guntersville Tour stop as the most pivotal day this season in his quest for the prestigious title.
“The first day I had 11 pounds,” he related. “The second day I adjusted and came in with 22 pounds. That was a confidence builder. Now I’m riding a wave or in the zone. I just hope it continues.”
Washington’s Luke Clausen is fifth with 866 points.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.