DAVIS AIMS FOR FOURTH ANGLER OF THE YEAR TITLE IN 2004

Inside B.A.S.S.

Mark Davis, otherwise know as Mr. Consistency on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer, has finished up a fall of deer hunting and now turns his attention to his other passion. The BASS wars.

The 40-year-old Arkansas pro has plenty of motivation heading into the 2004 Tour and Elite 50 seasons. First, there's the internal drive to win a fourth CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Then there's the momentum of a strong finish in the 2003 Angler of the Year race where he finished third behind Alton Jones and Jay Yelas.

And then there's his new ride. After 18 years of running a Bass Cat, Davis is the newest member of Team Skeeter.

"I'm real happy to be part of the Skeeter team and to be running a Skeeter," he said. "I don't think that's going to be a big adjustment for me. We're constantly spending tournament days in Skeeter and Triton boats anyway. So I was very confident in the Skeeter product line. I don't think it's going to affect me that much. There's going to be some adjustments. It will probably take me two or three weeks of fishing to get accustomed to fishing out of different boat brand. But that's just part of it. We all go through that from time to time.

"I'm pumped. I like the schedule. I hope we have a mild winter, although we're hitting a lot of these lakes too early calendar-wise. But hopefully Mother Nature will do us a favor and we won't have the bitterly cold winter that we could have.

"I like the schedule as far as the lakes we're going through. The Harris Chain is a good lake. We all know that whole system is kind of down but it seems like it's coming back. Once we get away from there, I'm going to really like it. We're going to some clear lakes this year like Table Rock and Smith Lake, and I'm really looking forward to fishing those lakes. And the other lakes as well."

Although the Elite 50 Tour won't be launched until April, Davis is already looking forward to competing on this unique big-money, no-entry-fee 50-man circuit.

"I really like the concept," he said. "Naturally I'm going to like that because it rewards consistency. I like this format. Of course, I think all of us are happy to fish some events where we don't have an entry fee. I had hoped for this for many, many years. You look at other sports and there's no reason why it can't be that way in bass fishing. We're seeing that now. We're seeing that actually happen. So it's great.

"The E-50 Tour we're fishing all rivers. But we're going to some new waters, and I look forward to going to those as well."

Although Yelas walked away with the Angler of the Year title, Davis was probably the most consistent performer during the 2003 Tour. He cashed a check in all 10 Tour events.

"I think if a guy does that every year, you're going to be right there for Angler of the Year," Davis said. What hurt me last year was that two of best events were at the end of the season when we weren't getting as many points. If it had been switched around, I would have won Angler of the Year.

"But it won't work that way this year with the new points system."

Davis admits that he badly wants a fourth Angler of the Year title, which would separate him from Kevin VanDam and Bill Dance. Roland Martin's nine Angler of the Year titles looks like one of the safest records in all of sports.

"I think Kevin and I both think about it a little bit," David said. "I don't worry about it. I feel like if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. It should have happened last year. If I hadn't started the year out the way I did, I feel like I would have won that title. But it wasn't meant to be.

"I had a consistent year and that's what I always strive for."

IRON MAN. When it comes to CITGO Bassmaster University appearances, apparently not even excruciating pain can keep David Fritts from his appointed rounds.

The North Carolina pro had just finished a Bassmaster U Saturday in San Jose, Calif., and was in the airport awaiting a flight to Phoenix where he was scheduled to work another school the next day when the pain struck. Fellow pro George Cochran was with him when an ambulance was called.

Ambulance attendants diagnosed the problem as a kidney stone. Instead of flying out, Fritts returned to his hotel room where he passed the stone that night. Refusing to be deterred, he caught a 6 a.m. flight to Phoenix and arrived in time to make his Bassmaster University presentations.

SPEAKING OF BASSMASTER U. Kudos to the Bassmaster University staff and its 42 pro instructors who somehow pulled off seminars in seven cities this past weekend that stretched from Florida to California.

DID YOU KNOW? Fifteen different pros have won the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award in the 33-year history of the honor.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Missouri's Mark Tucker will blow out 43 candles on Jan. 31. A pair of former Classic champions (Ken Cook, 57, and Denny Brauer, 55,) will celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 2 and 3, respectively. California pro Mark Rizk, who lives in Alabama part of the year, will be 40 on Feb. 7.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... BASS winner Greg Hackney would likely still be a logging contractor in Louisiana.

THEY SAID IT. "(The pros enjoy teaching at Bassmaster University) for the same reasons that I liked going to them as a student, I think the teachers like teaching them. At those University classes, I've never looked out at so many faces that are eager for knowledge. You look out and you see 500 people that's hanging on your every word. That's awesome. They're there to learn, and you can feel that. When you're up there giving your presentation, you just know that half of these guys are potentially the next bunch of professional fishermen. That's a neat deal. You know that you're giving a little bit to help these guys get to the next level. Reigning Classic champion Michael Iaconelli.