Frustrated Davis Heads to Classic

Those who know him well have seen the frustration building in mild-mannered Mark Davis throughout the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season presented by Busch Beer.

It isn't easy to spot. The 39-year-old Arkansas pro isn't the type to whine publicly about his problems and feelings. And he has enjoyed plenty of success. In the recently completed season, Davis qualified for his second consecutive top-six finals appearance and made a run at the Busch BASS Angler of the Year title for the second year in a row (before settling for third place).

But if you pin him down, the only pro to ever win the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and the Angler of the Year titles in the same season will admit that he has grown increasingly frustrated by not winning a tournament since that amazing accomplishment in 1995.

"That's a fair statement," the three-time Angler of the Year said recently. "The Hamilton event was really a heartbreaker for me. That was my tournament to win. I couldn't get the job done. That last day I had fish up all over my baits and everything, but I didn't put them in the boat.

"Yeah, I'm frustrated. But history tells us that that's good. When a guy is in that mode of being close, being close, being close and frustrated, it makes you work even ... harder to win one. I feel like I'm close, and I hope maybe that will all come together in New Orleans. You never know."

Davis, who finished third in the Lake Hamilton Tour event last month, was asked if it bothers him that he hasn't won a tournament other than the Classic.

"It does, in a way. In another way, it doesn't," he replied. "All I ever wanted out of fishing was to make a living. That's not to say I don't want to win. Yeah, it bothers me to not have won one of these events after fishing them for 17 years now.

"Consistency has always really been my calling card. I'm content with that. But, yeah, it's aggravating not to win these events."

GRACIOUS RUNNERS-UP. Davis and runner-up Alton Jones were full of praise for Jay Yelas' last-tournament heroics that sealed his first Busch BASS Angler of the Year award.

"I'm happy for Jay," Davis said. "It's been a good year for all of us. It's been one of the best Angler of the Year races that we've had in a long time. I'm not at all surprised that Jay won. He certainly deserves it."

"You know the saying that big-time athletes come through big at big moments?" Jones added. "That describes Jay. He came through with a big-time performance when he most needed it. That's the sign of a champion."

DID YOU KNOW? Four pros have qualified for more than 20 Classic appearances: Rick Clunn (28), Roland Martin (25), Larry Nixon (23) and Gary Klein (21).

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Tennessee's Jack Wade becomes 47 on June 8. New Jersey pro Michael Iaconelli and Chad Brauer of Missouri turn 31 on June 17 and 19, respectively. Western pro Ish Monroe will be 29 on June 20. Five days later veteran Pennsylvania pro Randall Romig becomes 53. Arkansas angler Ron Shuffield celebrates his 47th birthday on June 27, while California's Skeet Reese will blow out 34 candles on June 30.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... Oklahoma's Edwin Evers struggled for an answer to that question. "I've thought about that a couple of times," the 2003 Classic contender said. "I don't know. I really don't have a clue. I don't see myself doing anything else. I'd probably be a car salesman or a boat salesman. I mowed yards and worked at restaurants and a convenience store in between tournaments. And I drove a school bus when I was in college. But I never had a full-time job. I just did something that allowed me to work in between tournaments."

THEY SAID IT. "I thought that kind of thing only happened to Zell Rowland, the Tour's master of disaster." Texas pro Alton Jones, reacting to news of Harold Allen's Skeeter boat rolling backward down a 300-foot embankment at a hotel in Prattville, Ala.