South Africa, Canada, Italy Lead 3 of the 6 Competitive Divisions

LEESBURG, Fla. – International anglers took the field by storm on Day 1 of the BASS Federation Championship on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla.

Of the six Federation divisions, Italy’s Alessandro Debbi led the North with 11 pounds, while Canada’s Garrett Green edged the East with 11-5 and South Africa’s Anré De Villiers swept the South - as well as the entire field - with a sack of 14 pounds, 15 ounces. De Villiers also took Purolator Big Bass honors and an extra $1,000 when he tipped the scales with an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth.

For fans who couldn’t see that largemouth and other action live, ESPN2 to will air coverage of the Federation Championship on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m. EST. It will re-air on Jan. 27 at 7 a.m. and again on Jan. 30 at noon.

Though he normally power fishes, De Villiers slowed down his fishing to bring in a five-fish limit. “Today, I fished really slow,” he said. “I had to fish slow during practice … plus it’s been cool so I knew I’d have to slow down.” De Villiers, 43, of Cape Town, was focused on deep-water structure and cast worms.

Meanwhile, Green of Bracebridge, Canada, had a nearly 2-pound lead in the Eastern division where he caught his five-fish limit by fishing slow around boat docks and in grass.

Debbi of Sassuolo, Italy, led the Northern division by 5 pounds, 14 ounces. He is using techniques he employs in his home waters, including flipping and pitching soft-plastic creature baits into cattails 5 to 6 feet deep. He keyed in on canals and rivers, looking for transitioning bass. He’s also looking for the golden ticket in the tournament – a berth into the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. “It’s been my dream for 20 years,” he said. “If I achieve this, I’ll be really excited.”

Leading the other three divisions are state-side anglers. Kevin Miller of Augusta, Kansas, commands the Central division with 7-11; Bill Golightly of Preston, Idaho, is winning the Western division with 12-3; and Greg Alexander of Hebron, Md., is on top in the Mid-Atlantic division with 10-4.

Bobby Lane, the local favorite from Lakeland, Fla., was in eighth in the Southern division, but said he was eager to change tactics and improve his performance for tomorrow. “I’m going to have to make some adjustments,” he said.

All 55 anglers will return to fish on Thursday and Friday, with their weights carrying over. In addition to $50,000 in total prize money awarded at the Federation Championship, the top angler from each division will advance to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.

Local sponsors: The City of Leesburg, Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake County Water Authority and The Lake County Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

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