At stake is a $100,000 top prize and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic and the new Bassmaster Elite 50 Tour.
Situated on the Arkansas-Missouri border, the 46-year-old impoundment of the White River provides 52,300 acres of haven for three bass species. Table Rock is home to quality populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
And local anglers like veteran Missouri pro Stacey King are anxious to show the fishing world that Table Rock has recovered nicely from a nasty bout with Largemouth Bass Virus.
"It's really coming back," King said. "We've had a couple years of pretty good spawns here and high water during the spawn or right after the spawn so the fish have gotten off a pretty good spawn and then had enough cover in the water that the small fry have had a chance to recover and live, and get up to a size they can maintain on their own.
"So really we're starting to see quite a few more quality fish than we did for a couple of years. And numbers on largemouth are real good, too.
"I think it's the best spotted bass fishery in the world. I don't know of any place that is a big lake like this that has more quality spotted bass from one end to the other. I know there's lots of wonderful spotted bass fisheries in the country, but a lake that's got so much water in it and it just has the spot numbers in here are phenomenal."
Just how cooperative the big lake will be during the Bassmaster event depends on Mother Nature.
"It all depends on the weather," King said. "If we can have a little warming trend before, the fishing will be wonderful. You'll see fish caught on several different patterns, and there will be a lot of good quality sacks of fish. Good spots, smallmouth and largemouth.
"If it's real cold, it will be a dead winter-type deal. There will still be some good sacks caught, but a lot of the field will have a real tough time if it's cold weather."
Southwestern Missouri has been enjoying a mild winter. The extended forecast calls for more of the same.
The tournament will be the eighth BASS stop on Table Rock. Reigning Angler of the Year Jay Yelas was the victor the last time the Tour visited (2001) with 43 pounds, 13 ounces.
Daily weigh-ins take place at What's Up Dock Marina at 2:45 p.m. Anglers launch beginning at 6:30 a.m.
THE CITGO BASSMASTERS ON ESPN2 Fans can catch the fourth event of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail on Table Rock Lake, Saturday, March 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
NEXT STOP The CITGO Bassmater Tour travels to Eufaula, Ala., for the fifth event of the 2004 season on Lake Eufaula, March 18-21.
CITGO BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR Pros will be competing for CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year points throughout the 2003 season. Anglers are awarded points based on their finishes in each of the six Tour events. The tournament winner receives 300 points. The scoring decreases in 5-point increments to fifth place, 4-point increments through 10th place, 3-point increments through 15th place, 2-point increments to 99th place and 1-point increments for the remainder of the field.
PUROLATOR BIG BASS New for 2004, Purolator, the official oil filter and air filter of BASS, is instituting an incentive to the angler who catches the heaviest fish each day. Pros catching the largest fish will receive a $1,000 bonus while the amateurs can look for a $500 reward per tournament day. An additional $1,000 will be awarded to the angler (pro or amateur) who catches the largest fish of each tournament.
BUSCH SHOOTOUT Another new program for 2004 is the $200,000 Busch Shootout contingency program. Qualifying Tour pros will receive a $1,000 bonus for the largest sack brought in per tournament day.
The top 10 "Busch Heavy Weights" from the Tour and Elite 50 events will be joined by anglers with the top weights from the 2004 Classic, the 2004 Federation Championship and the 2003 Open Championship to compete in the single-day Busch Shootout tournament, Sept. 18, on a mystery lake. The winner will receive $100,000, with everyone else taking home a $5,000 check.
Arizona's John Murray was the first to qualify for the Busch Shootout tournament by having the heaviest sack at the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on Toledo Bend Reservoir last November. Murray's Day 3 catch of 21 pounds qualified him for the tournament.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD Newcomers to the Tour this season have the opportunity to earn not only a $10,000 bonus, but also the title of Rookie of the Year. Mark Kile was the top newcomer in 2003, with a 12th place finish based on Angler of the Year point standings at the end of the 2003 Tour season.
HORIZON AWARD At the conclusion of the 2003 season, Takahiro Omori was awarded the Horizon Award for the angler who posts the greatest improvement over the 2002 season. Omori finished 40th in 2003, a 98-place improvement from the previous year. The award, which will be given out again in 2004, includes a check for $25,000.
CLASSIC WATCH The top 25 anglers in point standings from the CITGO Bassmaster Tour will earn a berth in the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, however, there are already 12 anglers who have already qualified for the 2004 Classic through the CITGO Bassmaster Open divisions. These 12 include:
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Southern Division Tim Horton David Walker Denny Brauer
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Central Division Edwin Evers Tim Carroll Steve Sennikoff
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Northern Division Art Ferguson III Kevin Wirth Chuck Economou
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Western Division Bink Desaro John Murray Skeet Reese
BASSMASTER ELITE 50 New for 2004, BASS introduces the $1.6 million, no-entry-fee Bassmaster Elite 50 series. Fifty anglers, comprised of the top 20 active anglers on the BASS All-Time Money List, the top 27 in cumulative points from the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Tour seasons, and the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the 2004 BASS Rookie of the Year and the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, will compete in the four-event series with the winner taking home a $100,000 check.
Currently 2003 Classic champ Michael Iaconelli is the only angler with a guaranteed spot. Anglers are sure to be jockeying for position in the points and money during the 2004 Tour season with hopes of gaining entry into the series.
LAST TIME AT TABLE ROCK The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail returns to Kimberling City, Mo., for the fourth event of six on the 2004 Tour schedule. This visit will mark the 8th time BASS has visited Table Rock Lake. The last BASS event the impoundment hosted was in 2001 where Texan Jay Yelas took home the victory with a weight of 43-13.
BASS RECORDS AT TABLE ROCK
Previous BASS Events: 7
Previous Winners: 2001 Jay Yelas 43-13 2000 Jim Dopp 39-5 1999 Wayne Crumpton 58-13 1997 Lee Bailey 47-15 1996 Gary Klein 41-1 1971 John Powell 59-13 1970 Bill Dance 52-6
Heaviest winning weight: John Powell 59-13 (1971)
Lowest winning weight: Jim Dopp 39-5 (2000)
BASS IN MISSOURI The Table Rock event will mark the 24th event conducted in the "Show Me State," however it is the first time in the modern tour era, which began in 1994, that BASS has hosted a Tour event in Missouri.
ORIGINS OF THE TOUR While BASS has conducted tournaments since 1967, records for the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer begin with the 1994-95 season, as that was the first year the pro-am tournaments earned points toward the Angler of the Year award.
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 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.
CASTINGKIDS The CastingKids program, sponsored by CITGO will be held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday, March 6, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the What's Up Dock Marina. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest with the chance to earn a scholarship.
The event and instruction to youngsters will be facilitated by the local BASS Federation.
BASS SPONSOR EXPO (ADMISSION IS FREE) A popular component of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season is the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expos take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 12 p.m. until 6 Sunday at the What's Up Dock Marina.
SCHEDULE - CITGO BASSMASTER TOUR EVENT 2
Registration: Wed., Feb. 25, 3 p.m. American Legion Post
Briefing - Wed., Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m. American Legion Post
Day 1 launch - Thurs., Feb. 26, 6:30 a.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 1 weigh-in - Thurs., Feb. 26, 2:45 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 2 launch - Fri., Feb. 27, 6:30 a.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 2 weigh-in - Fri., Feb. 27, 2:45 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 3 launch - Sat., Feb. 28, 6:45 a.m. What's Up Dock Marina
BASS Sponsor Expo - Sat., Feb. 28, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
CastingKids Competition - Sat., Feb. 28, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 3 weigh-in and cut - Sat., Feb. 28, 3:30 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 4 launch - Sun., Feb. 29, 6:45 a.m. What's Up Dock Marina
BASS Sponsor Expo - Sun., Feb. 29, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
Day 4 weigh-in - Sun., Feb. 29, 3:30 p.m. What's Up Dock Marina
2004 CITGO BASSMASTER TOUR SCHEDULE
Site: Harris Chain of Lakes - Leesburg, Fla. Winner: Marty Stone - 61-12 Site: Smith Lake - Jasper, Ala. Winner: Charlie Weyer - 32-10 Site: Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, Ala. Feb. 26-Feb. 29 Site: Table Rock Lake - Kimberling City, Mo. March 4-7 Site: Lake Eufaula - Eufaula, Ala. March 18-21 Site: Santee Cooper Reservoir - Manning, S.C. March 25-28
2004 BASSMASTER ELITE 50 SCHEDULE
Site: Lake Dardenelle - Russellville, Ark. April 14-17 Site: Tenn-Tom Waterway - Columbus, Miss. May 19-22 Site: Alabama River - Prattville, Ala. June 2-5 Site: Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee Rivers - Paducah, Ky. June 16-19
BASS ON THE INTERNET For information and news about BASS events, www.bassmaster.com is available to members of the media and the general public and provides daily wrap-ups and standings from each event as well as schedules of events and other BASS news. Working media can access stats, stories and photos at www.espnoutdoorsmedia.com. Please apply for a password today.
BASS SPONSORS 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 and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors include the Kimberling City Lodging Association.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.