Five spots were filled following last Saturday's CITGO BASS Federation Championship. The top angler from each geographic division will be added to the list of the 2004 competitors bringing the total number of qualified anglers to 42.
The Federation is arguably the hardest road to the Classic because of the qualifying structure. Anglers must compete in BASS Club, State, Regional, Divisional and finally National tournaments to earn the opportunity to compete against the pros in the Classic, a journey that typically takes over two years to complete.
"Other than the Classic, the Federation Championship is the greatest tournament that I've ever won," said 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champ Michael Iaconelli. "It's by far the toughest way to qualify for the Classic because of the long road it really is."
The five qualifiers, Alabama's Russ Lane, Pennsylvania's George Acord, Washington's Jeff Boyer, Iowa's Thad Takes and Arkansas' William Pippen come from different parts of the country, but they all share bass fishing as a common love. They are, however, amateurs in the sense that bass fishing is not their primary means of income.
"The biggest thing is that these five anglers highlight the diversity of the Federation," said Don Corkran, BASS Federation Director. When you look at Russ Lane, who is the youngest of the five and owns his own business, then you look at William Pippen, who is retired and the oldest of the group at 67, it is a good representation of a cross-section of the Federation."
CITGO BASS Federation Champion and Northern Division qualifier Thad Takes, 36, works as an electrical contractor and project manager when he isn't on the water.
Southern Division qualifier Russ Lane, 31, is the owner of Lane Wholesale Automotive.
Central Division qualifier William Pippen, 67, is a retired construction superintendent.
Western Division qualifier Jeff Boyer, 54, owns Jeff Boyer Sportfishing and is also a business manager for Tony Lind Paving.
Eastern Division qualifier George Acord, 40, is a partner in Susquehanna Fishing and Tackle.
Two of the five have competed in prior Classics. This will be Boyer's third and Acord's second appearance.
"All of the anglers in the Classic have relatively the same abilities," Corkran said. "In 1994, (Bryan) Kerchal won it and in '86 and '97 Federation anglers finished second, so, while the odds are stacked against them, mathematically, they all have the same chance to win."
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. 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.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.