HIGH WINS FORCE EARLY END TO CITGO BASSMASTER WESTERN OPEN

Desaro, Murray, Reese Win Classic Berths

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. - Fierce winds and dangerous conditions on Lake Havasu Saturday forced BASS officials to cancel the final day of the CITGO Bassmaster Western Open presented by Busch Beer.

"The National Weather Service reported winds between 20 and 40 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph, getting worse in the early afternoon, when anglers would be making their way back to the weigh-in site," said BASS Tournament Manager Randy McBride. "Although we hate to cut a tournament short, especially with so much on the line, we won't risk losing a boat because we sent our anglers out in dangerous conditions."

The conditions disappointed many of the anglers, who hoped for a third day in the competition that decides which Western boaters will compete in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, scheduled for July 30-Aug. 1, 2004 in Charlotte, N.C. BASS rules state that, if a tournament is called before the final day, the day two standings will be the final standings for that event.

That was good news for Kentucky's Jack Gadlage, who led the field after day two and became the tournament winner. It was even better news for Idaho's Bink Desaro, a rookie on the BASS circuit who wrapped up the Western Open points championship and will be heading to the Classic along with Arizona's John Murray and California's Skeet Reese.

"I can't believe it," Desaro said. "I'd rather be out there fishing, to be honest with you, for a fair competition for everyone else. But, we're competing against Mother Nature and this is what she threw at us today, so we have to deal with it."

Desaro, a Boise resident who has been fishing tournaments since age 8, said his next target is the inaugural CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer, scheduled for Dec. 4-7 on Louisiana's Toledo Bend Reservoir. The 2003 Open Champion will earn a berth in the Classic, if he has not already qualified, and the top five anglers will win $10,000 and be exempted from paying entry fees for the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer.

"I'm going to Louisiana to see if I can make the top five there and get my Tour entry fees paid for," Desaro said. "I'm confident. I'm not cocky by any means, but I'm confident I have a good shot at it. I'm just going to put my head down and grind."

Third place finisher Reese, who won last season's Tour opener on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes, has his eyes on a different prize.

"I'm hoping (qualifying for the Classic so early) is not one of those kiss of death type of things," he said. "A lot of the guys who qualified for the Classic through the Opens didn't fish really well on the Tour last year, I think because they lost their motivation. My motivation is to qualify for the Elite 50s. A lot of us - not everyone - need motivation, some goal each season."

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer 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.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local sponsors include Lake Havasu Tourism Bureau.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.