Five Classic Spots To Be Awarded

WEST MONROE, La. — Five coveted invitations to the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer in Pittsburgh will be handed out at the conclusion of the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship held on the Ouachita River in West Monroe, La., Dec. 2-5.

Although lots of prize money is on the line, it’s the Classic tickets — which will be awarded to the five top finishers — that are most the sought-after elements of this tournament. In the world of professional bass fishing, there’s no greater luxury that owning a Classic invitation before entering the CITGO Bassmaster Tour season.

All of the competitors – 78 boaters and 77 non-boaters – will be on the water on Dec. 2 and 3, but the field will be pared to the top 10 in each category for the third round. That’s when the non-boater champion will be crowned. Weights are carried over after each day of competition.

On Sunday, only the top five boaters will be on the water, each having earned a spot in the Classic and now vying for the title of Open Champion and a first-place prize worth $45,000.

“It would be really nice to already have the Classic made,” said Texan Tommy Martin, who won the points title on the Central Open circuit. “That’s a big load off your shoulders.”

Martin, who turned 64 the day before Thanksgiving, is one of 80 pros who earned a spot in the Open Championship by finishing in the top 20 spots in the Northern, Central, Western or Southern Open standings.

Although the Ouachita River flows a total of some 510 miles from its source in west-central Arkansas, tournament competitors will be limited to about 100 miles of it in the Monroe pool — plus the few backwaters they will be able to navigate.

The last time the Bassmaster Tournament Trail came to the Ouachita River was in November of 2003 when Harold Allen posted his first BASS victory with a catch of 38 pounds, four ounces in a Central Open. He did it by targeting the D’Arbonne Bayou area where he fished a depression on a large flat with a creature bait and ringworm.

Unstable weather has created a situation where the visiting pros don’t know what to expect this time around.

“I think it’s going to be tough because they’ve had a lot of rain there,” Martin said. “The water’s real high, and the fish are scattered. I don’t know what it will be like.

“In certain areas there are plenty of fish. If you get in the right place, you’re on them, and if you don’t get on the right place you won’t catch anything. I like it up there. I’ve done well there, but I haven’t fished it when it’s flooded like this.”

Louisiana’s Greg Hackney, winner of the points title in the Southern division, was even less sure about what to expect.

“A lot’s going to depend on the water level and how much rain they have in Arkansas between now and the tournament,” he said. “It’s been high, and now it’s falling. It can really fluctuate a lot with the rain.

“It’s a great place to fish. It won’t be big weights like Okeechobee [the final event on the Southern Open series], but it ought to be pretty good.”

Other pros are a little less optimistic about the projected fishing.

“What Harold Allen caught last year is pretty good for that water,” veteran Arkansas pro Stephen Browning added. “Although the water is a little high, I don’t think it’s going to be a major factor. It’s just a tough place to fish. If a guy can catch 10 pounds a day he’s probably going to earn a ticket to Pittsburgh.”

Weigh-ins will be held each day at 3:00 p.m. CT at Lazarre Point Recreation Area.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new 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 CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, and Bass Pro Shops.

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