"It's been an emotional week," said Stacy Twiggs, BASS National Youth Manager. "Words can't describe this dream becoming a reality for all of us here at BASS. This is truly a milestone event that will have an immeasurable impact on the future of the entire sportfishing industry.
"As stakeholders in the outdoors community we are doing our part to ensure that an affinity for this great sport is being passed on to future generations."
The young anglers will be divided into two age groups, 11 to 14 and 15 to 18. The anglers come from Junior Bassmaster clubs throughout the BASS Federations, currently derived from 33 states, Canada and the District of Columbia. They will qualify, just as Federation anglers qualify for the Classic, through local, state and divisional tournaments.
The top young anglers from these divisional tournaments will advance to Lake Norman the week of the Classic to compete for scholarships and the title of Junior Bassmaster World Champion.
Anglers from both age groups will be paired randomly together along with one of the top 35 anglers that have qualified for the Classic. The anglers will fish one practice day in a Celebrity Pro/Am format, followed by a one-day tournament the weekend before the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. The pro will be there as a mentor and boat driver only.
"BASS is dedicated to providing opportunities for aspiring anglers," said Steve Puckett, Director of Operations for BASS. "We want to involve youth to increase overall fishing participation and help grow sportfishing.
"We are ecstatic about being able to leverage our leadership in the industry, the historical prominence of the Classic, the outstanding support from the BASS Federation, and the participation of our Classic anglers to make this a special event for our youth and the industry."
"This is dynamite!" said North Carolina BASS Federation President Ed Cannon. "I applaud and support BASS and ESPN in this endeavor. It's an honor for North Carolina to be the first state to host the Junior World Championship in conjunction during the week of the Bassmaster Classic.
"Imagine how starstruck the kids are going to be when they get the chance to fish among and alongside their heroes."
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce 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 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.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit http://www.bassmaster.com.