Desaro Saved His Season Early

Inside BASS

Bink Desaro is taking the biggest financial risk of his life by investing in himself and his abilities to the tune of $55,000 — the cost to compete in the inaugural CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

After the series’ first two tournaments, it appeared he was in danger of losing the high-dollar gamble. The Idaho pro opened the season with a 102nd-place showing at Lake Amistad, followed by a 92nd-place finish at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He was glad to see the circuit’s swing through Texas pass out of sight in the rearview mirror of his RV.

“It was a tough start,” Desaro said, “I can tell you that. I know I wasn’t in the groove. Being from where I’m from, I didn’t get a chance to fish all winter long, as far as tournaments. That just puts you out of the mode. It’s not necessarily that you forget how to fish, the fundamentals. But on the water you make some bad decisions.

“I caught them really good in practice at Amistad and at Rayburn. I don’t know if I put too much pressure on myself during the tournament; I needed to cash a check so dang bad I could taste it. And I don’t think you fish real well in those times when you’re thinking about needing to survive and all that. You don’t relax. I just didn’t make real good decisions those first two tournaments.”

Other distractions, including a back injury, probably contributed to Desaro’s frazzled start.

“I left home with my truck and all of my stuff packed up in it,” he said. “I didn’t have a boat. I picked up a motor home in Dallas and a boat in Houston. I left home four days before the Amistad event, and it was such a whirlwind. All of a sudden, bam, I was at Amistad. Then I threw out my back two days before the tournament in Dallas when I was up on the roof of the motor home.

“It messes with your concentration. You’re trying to fight the pain and fish. I don’t want to make excuses, but I’ve heard Denny (Brauer) say that when you’re feeling good you fish better.

“My back’s feeling pretty good now. It’s still a little sore. I’ve been trying to stretch every morning and every evening to keep the muscles as loose as I can … just trying to get it popped back into place.”

Desaro got back on track in a big way during the most recent Bassmaster Elite Series stop on South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Reservoir by finishing 10th. He considered the tournament a make-or-break event.

“Absolutely,” he said, “I had to cut a check. It was definitely a do-or-die situation. A Catch-22 with me knowing I had to catch them was bad, but that was definitely the situation there.

“I had to cash a check there, and I pulled it off. And making the top-12 was great. That’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling when there’s so much on the line and you pull it out. That’s happened to me twice in my career now, where it came down to I had to do it right now and it happened. I want to keep it rolling.

“I want to keep the momentum going. I feel like I’m in the right mode, and we get to fish for some smallmouth later this year. I like putting on 6-pound line and a spinning rod.”

ROOKIE’S ROLL. Steve Kennedy might be considered a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but he certainly isn’t fishing like one.

The Alabama angler has posted a pair of top-five finishes in his first three tournaments and is sixth in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. He also is leading the Toyota Rookie of the Year race.

“All this Rookie of the Year stuff and getting in the Majors has got me pretty excited,” he said. “I’d love to accomplish that.”

Kennedy was so eager to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series that he was willing to lose his largest sponsorship deal (from a company that backs a rival tournament circuit) to do it.

“I had to turn it down to fish BASS,” he said. “I want to go to the Classic. That’s pretty important to me. I’m pretty focused on making that.”

He barely missed making the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic by finishing eighth in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December. Kennedy’s father, Van, qualified for the 1982 Bassmaster Classic.

Kennedy, who runs a Kinami Baits-wrapped boat, is not among those who are surprised to find a rookie near the top of the Bassmaster Elite Series standings.

“To do this well against these guys might be a little bit of a surprise, but I was really looking forward to this schedule,” the two-tour pro said. “The lakes are perfect for me and the way I like to fish. Big-fish lakes, power fishing, reaction bites. I like it.

“I have a tough time where you have to finesse them into biting.”

OFF-DAY SUCCESS. What does a professional fisherman do when he has a spring day off? If it's Ken Cook, he is probably hunting wild turkeys on his Tarbone Ranch.

With just two days at home between Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, the Oklahoma angler downed a big gobbler at 20 yards with a bow. The Rio Grande trophy bird weighed 20 pounds and sported a 9 7/8-inch beard with 1¼-inch spurs.

AWARDS TIME. An ESPN SportsCenter feature on Alabama bass angler Clay Dyer was recently nominated for a Sports Emmy. SportsCenter was recognized in the Long Feature category with its profile of Dyer, who has no arms and no legs.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will announce the winners May 1. This year, ESPN and ABC Sports earned a total of 57 Sports Emmy Award nominations, their most ever.

ON THE WEB. Comprehensive and exclusive BASS tournament coverage is bringing in 21 percent more page views to compared to the first quarter of 2005, according to web traffic reports. Combined with, page views are up 26 percent year-to-date over 2005 and unique visitors are up 57 percent year-to-date over 2005.

"We’re seeing record-breaking traffic on and attribute it to the overall excitement from fans and anglers and to the depth and quality of our coverage," said Christine Godleski, vice president and general manager of ESPN Outdoors. "It features the most comprehensive photography from all angles of BASS tournaments and exclusive stories from seasoned writers and columnists."

HOTTEST RIG. Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., was the first angler to advance to the final round of's Hottest Rig Running contest, which is inviting fishing fans to pick the most unique boat design in the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

Clunn's design - which features Nitro and Bass Pro Shops - captured 48.4 percent of all votes. Runner-up Preston Clark - who snagged 12 percent of the votes with his Beef O'Brady's boat design - will be entered into a second-chance round of voting in July. The overall winner of the contest receives $15,000 cash.

WEIRDEST CATCH. “I’ve caught a bunch of weird stuff,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Dustin Wilks from North Carolina, “but two things stick out in my mind. “When I was a kid, a tornado came through Raleigh and tore up a K-Mart. I was fishing a lake about three miles away, and I was reeling up hats with a K-Mart sales sticker on them two years later. “On the same lake, a buddy of mine fell out of the boat and got stuck in the mud. He lost a flip-flop. And I caught that flip-flop in the same spot about two years later.”

DID YOU KNOW? The Bassmaster Elite Series is setting the stage to provide some anglers with what could be the most financially rewarding season of their careers. For example, CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader Greg Hackney has already pocketed $132,500, which is about the same amount he earned in all of 2005. Ish Monroe has earned $113,000, which dwarfs his 2005 earnings of $63,000. And Preston Clark already pocketed $113,000, which is nearly triple his 2005 earnings.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO …“I guess I’m qualified to be a fisheries biologist,” said Wilks, who graduated with a degree in fisheries at North Carolina State University and qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic during his senior year of college.

“But I didn’t have any interest other than professional fishing, and I never intended to pursue that. I always intended to be a bass pro.”

THEY SAID IT. “The Elite Series has an incredible schedule with a lot of potential for great catches, and it’s going to test your fishing skills across the board from every season there is. So it’s the true test of the best anglers.” — Elite Series and Florida pro Shaw Grigsby

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