Those pros included Roland Martin, Tim Horton, Peter Thliveros, Kevin Wirth, Paul Elias, Chuck Economou, Pete Gluszek, Carroll Hagood, Elton Luce, Rick Lillegard, Scott Martin, Terry Scroggins, Sam Swett, David Walker and Charlie Younger,but the event was most important to BASS pro Terry Seagraves.
During the planning for the event four years ago, his wife of 29 years, Jeva, was killed in an auto accident. She was 48.
At the time, Terry and Jeva had been working with the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau on a tournament and evening concert to promote fishing in the central Florida region. After Jeva's death, a special dinner benefiting cancer research was added in her memory. Seagraves said that, although his wife was never afflicted with the disease, their family was connected with both cancer victims and research groups at the time of her death, which makes the event a fitting tribute to her memory.
"She was my partner in planning this event and working with the Kissimmee-St. Cloud CVB," Seagraves said. "As soon as we put the contract together, she died in a car accident. Shortly after that, a high school buddy that I fished with all of my life was diagnosed with cancer. I had a brother-in-law die of cancer, and every time you turn around it seems like somebody you know is being touched by it.
"When she passed away, we wanted to do something special for her. And my daughter worked for the (American) Cancer Society at the time. I think anybody who knew her knew how loving she was, and anything like this that's done for such a good cause, I think she would have been so proud of it."
Money raised at last weekend's event is going to the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jimmy Valvano, the V Foundation has raised more than $30 million and funded 190 research grants.
For Seagraves, the event fulfills an unspoken promise to his cherished life partner.
"I would have just quit if it wasn't for her and her inspiration," he said. "I really was one of the luckiest guys out here. When she passed away, I really hadn't made it yet in this sport, but I felt like I was on my way, and I had the best support you could ever have. She was behind me 100 percent, and she was there every step of the way.
"When she passed away, I really just wanted to fold up and disappear, but she had put so much into it that, really, I just couldn't walk away. It was something I had to stick with and make her hard work produce something."
INTERESTED SPECTATOR. For the past few Monday evenings, Stephen Browning's eyes have been glued to ESPN's The Wild Rules prime-time show. And for good reason — he's one of the competitors still in the hunt for the $100,000 prize.
"I keep up with it, even though I know how it turns out," the Arkansas pro said. "I think it looks pretty much like I remembered it. It kind of brings back those memories of how cold and how tough it was. It's like a big fish in a tournament that you remember — it makes your hair kind of stand up."
Under threat of a multi-million dollar penalty, Browning cannot reveal any details about his two-week survival jaunt in the wilds of British Columbia. But he's quick to point out that he was able to do what he does — catch fish.
"After about four days I started catching a fish and a couple of days I caught two fish," he said. "And that was fishing a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening."
Browning was less eager to talk about the skills contest that he struggled to complete. "I don't even want to talk about knife throwing and ax throwing," he said, laughing. "That was definitely not my cup of tea."
His fellow fishermen have responded enthusiastically to his prime-time appearances.
"I get a lot of feedback from the fishermen," he added. "I think it's that Triton hat that got their attention."
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY. Fight songs, mascots and pep rallies — some of the great times related to college bass fishing? Okay, not yet, but it's coming.
The 2003 Big Ten Classic in collegiate bass fishing is a good start. This year, the eighth installment of the one-day tournament was held in Shelbyville, Ill., with the help of BASS Federation members (who provided boats).
Indiana University won the tournament with a total weight of 8.49 pounds. The big-bass award went to Brian Mauzy from Michigan State University with a 3.22- pound bass. Next year's tournament is slated to be held in Michigan on Lake St. Clair.
According to Stacy Twiggs, Federation Youth Manager at BASS, the Big Ten is the only conference that has a conferencewide college bass fishing tournament, but participation from other conferences could be on the horizon.
"After the exposure it got on ESPN, it created a lot of interest and stirred some emotion up. More and more people started to gain interest in the program," Twiggs said.
Twiggs is not the only person who is hopeful for the future of college bass fishing. Rusty, Reinoehl, vice president and advisor for the University of Illinois Bass Fishing Club, sees a huge future in it, and believes that there may even be a national championship someday.
"People everywhere are interested in collegiate fishing," Reinoehl said. "It's growing every day. This year's Big Ten Classic had six teams in it and 68 participants. Next year it looks like nine teams and up to 90 participants."
"I would say this will grow to national levels within two years," Reinoehl added. "We're working on an all-college tournament for this spring."
Kansas, Missouri and Rhode Island are possible sites for the spring tournament.
DID YOU KNOW? The January 2001 CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga produced the three largest four-day (20-bass) tournament totals in BASS history: Dean Rojas — 108-12; Mark Davis — 93-10; and Aaron Martens — 85-15
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Missouri pro Tim Sainato turns 43 on Nov. 10. North Carolina's Guy Eaker becomes 63 on Nov. 23, while Randy Blaukat turns 42 a day later. Jim Bitter (61) and Terry Baksay (43) share Nov. 28 as their birthday.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Former Classic qualifier Steve Daniel believes he would "probably be boilermaking like I was doing before I quit. Welding boiler tubes. I don't miss that at all. In fact, I'll get around power plants sometimes when I'm fishing, and it reminds me how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing."
THEY SAID IT. "I'm a guy that fished the West for the last 18 years. Living in Arizona and Nevada, I fished all the circuits out there for years and fished the Bassmaster Tour from 1992-94. But then it got to be too expensive and too much travel. And I didn't really have any friends fishing it, so I went back to fishing on the West Coast. When ESPN bought BASS a lot of my friends started fishing BASS, like Skeet Reese and Mark Kile. So I decided this was the place I needed to be." Western standout angler John Murray on his return to the BASS circuit two years ago.