The first of three Western Open events will feature 175 boaters and their randomly selected non-boater partners competing in a three-day tournament with a cut to the top 50 boaters and non-boaters after the second day. At the end of the season, 20 boaters from each division will advance to the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer, which will send its top five finishers to the 2005 Classic.
For once, all eyes will not be on Robert Lee in the battle for the $50,000 top prize.
The Angels Camp, Calif., pro has won the last four BASS tournaments held on the Delta, including three Opens and a CITGO Bassmaster Tour event. His four consecutive wins on the same body of water are a feat unprecedented in the long history of BASS. But he will miss this tournament due to a conflict with the Bassmaster Elite 50 Tour event in Mississippi the same week.
"We all have a shot now," fellow California pro Mike O'Shea said, laughing. "He's the best there is on the Delta. I think he understands it better than anybody in recent years.
"It's going to be nice that he's not in the picture. It gives us all a little better chance now."
The vast San Joaquin River Delta, better known as the California Delta, comprises 700 square miles of obscure canals, sloughs and channels that harbor one of the country's best bass fisheries. The Delta is formed by five large rivers that that come together for a 50-mile stretch between Sacramento and San Francisco.
The fishery is renowned for its abundance of big bass. It produces the largest bass caught in northern California each year - as evidenced by a 12-pound, 6-ounce bass caught during a recent tournament there.
O'Shea expects the fishing to be even better when BASS comes to town.
"That is usually a great time of year," the 43-year-old pro from Thousand Oaks, Calif., said. "We'll have a new moon when we're there and the tides should be real good for us."
O'Shea expects buzzbaits, frogs and Senko-type baits to be especially productive during the competition. By tournament time, the Delta's bass should be finished spawning and locked into predictable shallow post-spawn spots out on the main channels.
"It's going to take 22 to 23 pounds a day to get into the top 10," he predicted. "The fishing's going to be that good."
Daily weigh-ins take place at Russo's Marina at 2:30 p.m. Anglers launch beginning at 5:30 a.m.
The Bassmaster CastingKids program sponsored by CITGO will be held at Russo's Marina, Saturday, May 29, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest with the chance to earn a scholarship.
The second Western Open will be held Oct. 21-23 on Lake Shasta in Shasta Lake, Calif. and the Western Opens will conclude Nov. 18-20 on Clear Lake, near Lakeport, Calif.
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.