But that is exactly what the final BASS professional tournament of 2006 will represent. The CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Wildcard event, set for Nov. 16-18 on Central Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, is the first of its kind in BASS history.
The Wildcard tournament gives pros on both the 2006 Elite Series and CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours a last chance to qualify for the lucrative, high-profile 2007 Elite Series. In total, the top 81 Elite Series anglers in points as well as the top five finishers in each of the Tour circuits already have qualified.
“I think it’s a neat idea,” said pro angler Terry Segraves of Kissimmee, Fla., who finished 96tth in points in the Elite Series and will try to re-qualify through the Wildcard. “I’m fishing it to get back in the Elites. Plus, the payback is better than most tournaments that we fish and we’re fishing in a field of about 60 anglers.”
An invitation to the Wildcard was extended to pros who finished in sixth through 25th places on the Southern and Northern Tours. The balance of the field will be filled by Elite Series pros that did not re-qualify for 2007. (In addition, the top 30 co-anglers from each Tour will have their own competition.) The competition will be aired on The CITGO Bassmasters on ESPN2 on Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. ET.
The top 10 performers in the three-day tournament will earn a spot in the 2007 Elite Series. The winner will receive Elite Series entry fees (a $55,000 value) as well as a Triton boat package valued at nearly $50,000. Second and third place also get a Triton boat and $10,000 in entry fees. Third through 10th place takes home $10,000 in Elite entry fees and the 11th- and 12th-place performers earn $5,000 cash. Total payout for pros and co-anglers is nearly $470,000.
The Harris Chain should be a great site for the year-end tourney, according to anglers. The once beleaguered 10-lake system seems to have almost completely recovered from poor water quality in the 1990s. BASS was last there in February 2005 with an Elite-level tournament won by Florida pro Peter Thliveros with a four-day total of 69 pounds, 5 ounces.
“I think it’s going to be normal Harris Chain fishing for this time of year,” Segraves said. “It’s going to be either feast or famine. The Harris Chain has got some big fish in it. Some guys are going to have pretty good-sized catches and the rest of the field is probably going to struggle a little bit.”
November in Florida is notorious for being a transition month for native largemouth bass, making them difficult to locate. “I was there the other day and missed six straight flipping bites,” Segraves said. “It felt like I should have got them, but this time of year those fish are just not aggressive enough to really catch them. You might get the bites, but there’s a good possibility you will miss a lot of fish.”
Segraves looks for flipping to be a primary strategy among the Wildcard anglers, as well as shallow cranking. He predicts that the winner will have about 45 pounds for the three days.
The field cuts to the top 12 pros and co-anglers on the final day. Daily weigh-ins will take place at Venetian Gardens, 201 E. Dixie Ave., in Leesburg. Anglers launch at 6:30 a.m. and weigh-in at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Local sponsors include the City of Leesburg.
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and TheraSeed®.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS sanctions and stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit http://www.bassmaster.com.