BASS’s Bubble Boys Hope It Doesn’t Burst


Chippewa Falls, Wis. – Pressure is a byproduct of tournament angling. Even legendary anglers like Gary Klein and Larry Nixon are not immune to the pressure of qualifying for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

Both Nixon and Klein find themselves on the proverbial bubble going into the final Bassmaster Elite 50 event of the 2005 series, June 15-18, on Wisconsin’s Lake Wissota. The two semi-finalists in ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate have 45 Classic appearances between them, but both need solid performances at Wissota if they’re going to qualify for the 2005 Classic in Pittsburgh, July 29-31.

“Look at the standings,” Klein said of the Elite 50 points race, which represents the last avenue anglers can qualify for the 2005 Classic. “It’s pretty obvious how important Wissota is to a couple of guys. I try not to look at who is where, because I know if I go out and fish the way I’m capable of, everything will work out fine.”

A glance at the standings shows just how precarious a position both anglers are in. With the top 10 anglers in the Elite 50 standings qualifying for the 2005 and 2006 Classics, Klein sits in 9th place while Nixon is only slightly more comfortable in sixth.

The competition for the top 10 is extremely tight as less than 30 points separate seventh and 12th place, and a poor finish at Wissota would knock either Nixon or Klein out of the hunt.

“It’s always a year-long goal of mine to qualify for the Classic,” Klein said. “You fish to compete in the Classic, which is the highest level that an angler can compete at. Anything less than that is a definite disappointment.”

It’s been a disappointing year thus far for Klein after finishing 85th in the CITGO Bassmaster Tour standings. Fortunately, he’s had success during the Elite 50 season, finishing fifth at Lake Dardanelle and in the top 25 at both Smith Lake and Lake Lewisville.

“On some levels, it’s been the worst year of my career,” Klein said. “I felt like I was going to do a lot better coming in.”

Making matters worse is the fact that, despite an incredibly successful career and more than $1 million in BASS winnings, Klein has never won the Classic. It’s the only major achievement to elude him.

Much like Klein, Nixon has been tremendously successful. He has 14 BASS victories and the 1983 Classic championship to his name. Tasting victory like that only makes him hungrier for this year’s championship.

“I had a tremendous time after winning the Classic in ’83,” Nixon said. “It’s a huge boost for an angler’s career.”

Nixon hasn’t fished in a Classic since 2002, but his Elite 50 success in 2005 allows him to control his own destiny at Wissota. He finished in the top 10 at Smith Lake and in the top five at Lake Lewisville.

“It’s getting harder and harder for me to qualify for a Classic,” Nixon said. “I have a good shot this year, but there are a bunch of great anglers who are ready to take my spot if I don’t fish well.

“We could have a real close tournament on our hands, which should favor the smartest guys in the field. I think I qualify as one of those.”

Place Name St Pts
1 Kevin VanDam Mich. 865
2 Michael Iaconelli N.J. 864
3 Davy Hite S.C. 805
4 Kevin Wirth Ky. 791
5 Aaron Martens Ala. 777
6 Larry Nixon Ark. 774
7 Chad Morgenthaler Ill. 762
8 Gerald Swindle Ala. 756
9 Gary Klein Texas 750
10 Zell Rowland Texas 746
11 Dean Rojas Texas 740
12 Dustin Wilks N.C. 736
13 Kelly Jordon Texas 729
14 David Fritts N.C. 728
15 Rick Clunn Mo. 727
16 Terry Scroggins Fla. 704
16 Luke Clausen Wash. 704
18 Edwin Evers Okla. 703
19 Brent Chapman Kan. 701
20 Jeff Kriet Okla. 699
21 Randy Howell Ala. 698
22 Mark Davis Ark. 694
23 Stacey D King Mo. 693
23 Peter E Thliveros Fla. 693
25 Brian Snowden Mo. 691
26 Skeet Reese Calif. 684
27 Alton Jones Texas 681
27 Mike Wurm Ark. 681
27 Takahiro Omori Texas 681
30 Tommy Biffle Okla. 677
31 Guy Eaker N.C. 676
32 Jeff Reynolds Okla. 665
33 Mike Reynolds Calif. 655
34 Kenyon Hill Okla. 652
35 Jay Yelas Texas 650
36 Ishama Monroe Calif. 633
37 Bud Pruitt Texas 627
38 David Wharton Texas 619
39 Marty Stone N.C. 618
40 Roland Martin Fla. 607
41 George Cochran Ark. 605
42 Jimmy Mize Ark. 603
43 Bernie Schultz Fla. 593
43 Denny Brauer Mo. 593
45 Jim Bitter Fla. 587
45 Mark Tyler Ariz. 587
47 Ron Shuffield Ark. 583
48 Dave Wolak Pa. 569
49 Shaw E Grigsby, Jr Fla. 563
50 Tim Horton Ala. 553

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 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include the Chippewa Valley Sports Commission.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit