2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Attracting Big Names

CELEBRATION, Fla. — The lineup for the new and innovative 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series is starting to gather steam with the commitment of the entire, star-studded CITGO pro team this week — well in advance of the Nov. 1 entry deadline.

CITGO pros Shaw Grigsby, Gerald Swindle and Marty Stone became the latest to send in their deposits for the 11-event Elite Series, which will kick off on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, March 9-12. BASS will unveil the groundbreaking Elite Series following the season-opening 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic (Feb. 24-26; Lake Tohopekaliga, Kissimmee, Fla.)

The CITGO team consists of a trio of accomplished anglers. Grigsby, 49, is an eight-time BASS winner, earning more than $1 million in his BASS career. Swindle, 35, is the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and six-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier. Finally, Stone, 40, is a two-time BASS winner who finished second in the 2005 Angler of the Year race.

All three see the new Elite Series as a circuit with unprecedented potential to create wealthy anglers and elevate the sport to the next level.

“My heart and soul are with BASS,” Alabama’s Swindle said. “That’s where I established my name and my career. That’s where I’ve been successful.

“The Elite Series is where my business philosophy fits best. So that’s why I sent my money in advance and I’m ready to fish.

“I think the guys that stay with BASS are going to find it will be very lucrative before it’s over. ESPN has never failed at growing a sport. I think we’re going to grow. I feel like the guys that stay are going to make a lot of money.”

Grigsby shares Swindle’s sentiment in regards to the potential of the Elite Series.

“There was no doubt the CITGO team would be fishing BASS,” the Florida pro said. “It’s an awesome circuit and they’re doing the right thing with the Elite Series.

“BASS is giving us an opportunity to make a very, very healthy living this year. If we perform at the top of our game we can have an outstanding year (financially). There’s no doubt that BASS is the premier circuit in the country and will continue to be. I’m fully behind their efforts to bring the sport of bass fishing to the next level.”

North Carolina’s Stone couldn’t hide his enthusiasm about the new limited-field circuit that will distribute $11 million in payouts, with the Elite series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Majors, the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies. The circuit also promises to provide pros with increased exposure and media opportunities.

“I’m excited about next year for several reasons,” he said. “I was one of the anglers that wanted to fish for more money. I’m getting that opportunity. I was one of the anglers that wanted to fish more events. I’m getting that opportunity.

“I was one of the anglers that wanted to start having no-entry-fee events. Twenty-five percent of the events next year have no entry fees (the Classic and three Majors). Three will pay $250,000 for first place and the Classic will pay the winner $500,000.

“In addition to all those opportunities, the exposure that the anglers fishing BASS will get should be unbelievable. I’m truly excited about next year.”

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation 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 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 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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