SAM RAYBURN, Texas – The second stop on the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Central Open series presented by Busch Beer will be a familiar site for anglers – Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

The famed east Texas impoundment has been host to more BASS events than any other fishery in the nation, with the October 9-11 event bringing the total to 27 events.

Why has the fishery attracted the world's top anglers for the last 35 years?

According to Sam Rayburn resident and longtime BASS pro David Wharton, the answer is simple.

"Even after all these years, it is still a really good lake," said Wharton, who claimed victory at the CITGO Bassmaster Tour stop on Toledo Bend Reservoir last season. "The lake has a tremendous population of fish. It is a large lake that offers a lot of different ways to fish and people enjoy fishing it.

"Up until the Largemouth Bass Virus affected the lake a few years ago, it was one of the premier big bass fisheries in the nation. Even still there are some 8-, 9- and 10-pounders in there.

Four-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn, who claimed victory last season on Rayburn, attributes Rayburn's popularity to the abundance of aquatic vegetation.

"Year in and year out there is a good concentration of vegetation there," Clunn said. "That's what the fish need. It is important habitat for them to spawn in, it is important for the young bass for shelter, and it is important for their food source."

Clunn explained that the loss of aquatic vegetation is the downfall of many older lakes. Despite Rayburn's age – it was impounded from the Angelina River in 1965 – Clunn says it is still one of the premier fisheries in the nation.

"I would definitely say it is one of the top 10 in the nation and, if you eliminate some of the smallmouth fisheries, it is probably in the top five."

So what can anglers expect during their upcoming visit?

"There is a lot more hydrilla than last year," said Wharton. "There is more in the north area of the lake and the water has been higher than normal all year long. It will fish different as a result. We will see fish caught in all different ways, from Carolina-rigging to cranks to topwaters."

The stakes will be high for anglers in the second event as the race for spots in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship and CITGO Bassmaster Classic invitations will be on the line. The top 15 anglers in the season point standings after three events will earn invitations to the Open championship and the top three in points will earn automatic invitations to next summer's 34th CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. Top prize for the Central Open is $50,000 out of the $300,000 prize purse.

Anglers will launch at 7 a.m. daily from Twin Dikes Marina. Weigh-ins will be at 3:15 p.m. each day at the marina.

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, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local sponsors include the Jasper/Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.