CELEBRATION, Fla. – Professional BASS anglers preparing for the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic and new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series are doing more than honing their fishing skills. Many top anglers are making time to attend and participate in networking events, including the recent Executive Experience. The event was produced by Disney Institute and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and took place at Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida.

The two-day event for the nation’s top meeting planners used the sport of bass fishing as a unique way to help participants enhance their leadership, build teamwork skills, enact problem-solving and engage in risk-taking.

Anglers said the event exposed their growing sport to a new and influential audience and also helped them gain contacts of those who could help them find new sponsors. “It’s a chance to bring the sport of bass fishing to these folks and let them see what it’s all about,” said Aaron Martens, the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year from Alabama. “It’s completely different from what people may think. To bring it to these types of people is good for the sport.”

Lucy Mize of Arkansas, a 20-year veteran angler and Women’s Bassmaster Tour participant, said she participated in the Executive Experience to maximize her search for sponsors. “There is a distinct possibility that right now or two or three years down the line, some of us could get sponsorships out of this deal. We mixed and mingled, and I met a lot of different people from different walks of life.”

Participant Debra Dohnert, manager of special events for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in New York, had never fished before. By the end of the event, she better understood both the sport and business of catching fish. “I realize these people need sponsors, and maybe I can help open some doors for them.”

Kevin VanDam, the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion from Kalamazoo, Mich., said corporate involvement in bass fishing is increasing and he wants to help support the cause. VanDam’s largest sponsor is Bass Pro Shops. “(Sponsorship) is an added benefit, but the reason I do things like this is not to better myself, but to increase corporate involvement in the sport,” he said. “That’s our next big jump, so all of us need to do what we can to help.”

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.

To join BASS, or for more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit