Inside BASS

The City of Russellville and Lake Dardanelle have a definite love affair with the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, as evidenced by the tremendous reception the tournament received for the second consecutive year.

Last year, the final weigh-in crowd of 7,500 set a BASS record for a regular-season tournament turnout. Last Saturday, the spectator total set a new standard according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Here are a few other highlights you might have missed:

• Davy Hite was the big winner — and the tournament started on his 40th birthday.

• The South Carolina pro has enjoyed a terrific career, but it’s been more than three seasons since his last BASS victory.

• Hite’s win is his first since 2001 when he won two consecutive Tour events en route to winning the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.

• With the $100,000 payday, Hite joined the elite BASS Millionaires Club. Other members include Denny Brauer, Larry Nixon, Rick Clunn, Jay Yelas, Shaw Grigsby, Kevin VanDam, Gary Klein, Roland Martin, Ron Shuffield, George Cochran and Mark Davis.

“Breaking the million-dollar mark in BASS was a big goal of mine,” Hite said. “That’s an elite group, and it’s an honor to be among the greats like Larry Nixon, Gary Klein, Rick Clunn and Denny Brauer.”

• The victory put Hite in a position to salvage the 2005 season by getting one of the final 10 spots in the upcoming Classic in Pittsburgh, July 29-31. He’s second in the Elite 50 standings with two events remaining. He finished a dismal 54th in the Tour standings.

Hite had the somewhat dubious distinction of winning the Toyota Horizon Award in 2004 as the Tour pro who made the biggest improvement in the Angler of the Year standings from 2003 to 2004.

• Many in the record crowd got a special treat by seeing Klein, Aaron Martens and runner-up Michael Iaconelli matching casts in the last hour of the finals. A sizable gallery watched them fishing within a few yards of each other.

REDFISH WRANGLERS. Two Bassmaster pros are plying their trade on the ESPN Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup circuit, but they didn’t fare well in the most recent tournament at Mobile Bay.

Arkansas’ Stephen Browning and Dave St. Pierre finished 80th with 2.33 pounds. Oklahoma pro O.T. Fears, teaming with former Tour pro Bobby Wilson of South Carolina, finished dead last. They didn’t weigh-in a redfish. Both were a far cry from the two reds that won the event (14.65 pounds).

THE INTERPRETER. No, we’re not talking about the new movie staring Nicole Kidman.

Japanese native and Tour pro Kotaro Kiriyama worked for five years in that profession a decade ago before launching his tournament career.

“I was living in Manhattan,” the former Classic qualifier said. “I went to college in New York, and I was working part-time as a translator for a Japanese company to help it work more closely with American companies.

“I always loved fishing – always. I used to go to Central Park and tried to catch some bass there. I’d catch them on Texas rig and topwater and everything. I like this (career) much better.”

GREATEST ANGLER DEBATE. Texan Jay Yelas was one of the 10 finalists in the ESPN Greatest Angler Debate. Inside BASS asked him whom he would vote for as the best of the best.

“I’d cast my vote for Roland (Martin),” Yelas said. “It’s a really good debate. You could make a case for about four or five guys.

“I’d go with Roland because his statistics are just unbelievable. Nineteen wins, nine Angler of the Years. He won three in a row one time in the ‘80s. He has 90-some top-10s. If you look at the stats, he wins hands down. The one thing he has against him is he hasn’t won the Classic, but I’m saying that the greatest angler of all time has never won the Classic. That’s just the way it is.”

The Greatest Angler Debate series is part of BASS Saturday on ESPN2. The programming features biographical shows on the top 10 anglers as well as debate among experts. Fans will find stats and stories in the pages of Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times, Bassmaster.com and on the weekly ESPN Outdoors radio show. In June and July, the debate will heat up again as the fans choose between the top two anglers during a second round of voting on Bassmaster.com.

The debate will conclude in Pittsburgh — at the 2005 Classic — when two champions are crowned. One will be given the Classic trophy and the other – or perhaps even the same angler! – will be hailed as the greatest angler of all time.

WEIRDEST CATCH. Eight-time BASS winner Ron Shuffield weighs in on the oddest item he has ever hooked while fishing.

“I caught a cat,” he said. “I was fishing a black spinnerbait on Lake Hamilton one night and I made a cast just a little bit too long, and I heard the bait hit on the edge of the seawall. It skipped up in the grass, and I didn’t know there was a big tomcat up there. I went to jerk it off of the grass, and I heard something start howling. Then a big old tomcat splashed in the water.”

The cat quickly dislodged the spinnerbait. Shuffield has not idea whether or not it was a black cat.

DID YOU KNOW? With his ticket to Pittsburgh assured, California’s Ish Monroe is the first African-American angler to qualify for more than one Classic.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Alabama pro Dalton Bobo and longtime Texas pro Zell Rowland both turn 48 on May 30th. Tennessee’s Jack Wade becomes 49 on June 8th.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Tour rookie Andre Moore would have more time to focus on his lure company, Reaction Innovations.

THEY SAID IT. “It really looks like it’s going to be pretty good, especially for guys like me. It might even things out a little bit. We’ve had so many shallow-water tournaments the last few years. Not that they won’t still mostly be shallow-water tournaments, but maybe there will be a fairer Bassmaster Angler of the Year from this, since it will involve more than just one type of fishing. It suits me perfectly. I’d love to get back out there and give some other baits a fair chance. Soft plastics have been so dominant the last few years. Now we’re going to get some of the other things back in like crankbaits and spinnerbaits and some other lures that deserve more than what they’re getting right now.” Former Classic champion David Fritts is a big fan of the expanded 2006 Tour, which will include tournaments in three seasons.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the 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.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.Bassmaster.com.