The CITGO Bassmaster Classic, aired this past weekend on ESPN2 and ESPN, was seen in an average of 425,000 households, an increase of 44% over last year's 296,000 homes and nearly double the average in 2001 (up 90% from 224,000).

The three days of coverage from New Orleans - the best anglers in the world competing in what has been called "fishing's biggest event" - was aired with one-hour shows August 1-3. ESPN2's telecast on August 1 was aired on a same-day basis August 1, as was ESPN's on August 2; ESPN's coverage on August 3 was aired live.

Dean Kessel, Vice President and General Manager of BASS, was proud of the growth. He said the huge television audience capped off what was already an excellent CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer.

"It was a great Classic. Every aspect, from the outdoors show to the venue where the Classic was held to the great crowds attending the weigh-ins or watching on television was fantastic. It was a great experience all around," Kessel said. "The increase in television viewers watching the weigh-in broadcasts shows the phenomenal growth under way in bass fishing. As the world leader in bass fishing, BASS expects to see continued growth year after year."

The audience grew substantially each day of the three-day tournament. The final day's program, featuring the crowning of Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey as champion, earned a 0.7 rating on ESPN, up 40% from a 0.5 in 2002.