The new Elite 50 series will be a part of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer and will follow the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour.
Meanwhile, the Tour — the primary component used to qualify anglers for the Elite 50 — will return to a six-event series.
"We've listened to anglers and created four best-of-the-best events with no entry fee, while maintaining the integrity, credibility and prestige of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer," said Dean Kessel, BASS vice president and general manager.
"The Angler of the Year will be determined by points standings through the six-event Tour. Those points and additional criteria will be utilized to determine the Elite 50 field."
Elite 50 features no-entry fee for top anglers
"I am tremendously excited that BASS is taking this sport to a level of professionalism that we have never seen before," said reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Jay Yelas.
"The concept of no entry fee professional events has been the desire of every angler and this is a new frontier for bass fishing."
The Elite 50 series will combine the top 20 anglers from the all-time BASS money list, the top 27 anglers in the Busch BASS Angler of the Year points standings over the previous three years, the current Busch BASS Angler of the Year, the current CITGO Rookie of the Year winner and the reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic Champion.
"Never before in the history of the sport of professional angling has a series of events been created for the sport's top competitors," Kessel said.
"The Elite 50 series will feature a mixture of anglers that have performed at a high level over their careers as well as the top anglers in recent years. This unique grouping of anglers will offer fans the opportunity to see the best of the best competing against one another."
A total of $1.6 million in cash will be on the line for anglers in the Elite 50 series with no entry fees. All anglers qualifying for the series will be guaranteed a prize check. Additionally, the top 10 anglers in the final Elite 50 points will advance to the 2004 Classic.
Tour returns to six events
The 2004 Tour will return to its traditional length of six events. Anglers will still be striving to earn coveted spots in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, as well as the Angler of the Year award. A total of 25 anglers will advance to the Classic from the Tour in 2004.
The 2004 Tour season will see anglers compete for a total of $448,000 at each of its six events. As in 2003, this will be an all cash payout for the pros. .