With an excellent season on the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open circuit, the 36-year-old from Auburn, Ala., qualified for the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series in 2006. And he will be among more than 100 Elite pros competing on the lucrative and highly visible 11-event circuit next year.
“I’m pretty excited about it. It does mean a lot to me,” said Kennedy, who finished eighth in the recent Open Championship in Alabama. “I’ve worked really hard to get there and I’m not going to turn down the opportunity.”
Kennedy said he worked tirelessly to qualify, after not qualifying from the Opens for several years. He first attempted it in 1992 and then tried again in the early 2000s. “I finally got to qualify, so I’m not giving it up.”
Kennedy, who still is working on a sponsor deal for his wrapped boat for the Elite Series, is a trained mechanical engineer. But he’s always wanted to fish competitively at the highest level.
“I was always working toward this,” he said. “When I got out of school, I wanted to do it and I couldn’t get in. I really didn’t understand what it took to get to this level.”
CLASSIC PRACTICE. Competitors in the upcoming CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, in Kissimmee, Fla., have just four days of official practice (Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 22) to scour Lake Tohopekaliga, instead of the traditional six-day scouting period. And it will take place just 10 days before the event instead of the usual 30-day off-limits period.
“It was a request of the anglers,” BASS tournament director Trip Weldon said. “They didn’t like it being a month ahead of time because they felt like the fish changed, especially at Toho in late February. If they were (scouting) at the end of January, the fish certainly would change a great deal by the time the Classic started.
“And, the pros felt like six days of practice was just too long.”
GETTING HOOKED. Arizona pro and former Classic contender John Murray recalls one of his first BASS tournaments in 1986.
“It was up in New York in the Catskills,” he said “I went up there as a young kid who didn’t know any better. I learned a lesson from other anglers and just got hooked on this sport.”
Murray finished 224th out of 288 anglers in that Hudson River tournament with 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
WEIRDEST CATCH. Women’s Bassmaster Tour pro Lucy Mize has caught “several different shoes” during her time on the water.
“I’ve caught shoes on a crankbait,” the Arkansas angler said. “And I caught a shoelace on a Carolina rig one time.”
Mize is expecting a better performance when the women’s tour debuts on Toledo Bend in Texas on March 16-18, 2006.
DID YOU KNOW? Lake Amistad, site of the “Battle on the Border” season-opener of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series (March 9-12, Del Rio, Texas), has never hosted a BASS event.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite angler and Lake Fork guide Brooks Rogers would likely be working in his family’s construction business.
THEY SAID IT. “To me, it’s still flattering every time somebody comes up and asks for an autograph or recognizes me. And the letters I get from kids and even from grown men. It’s quite an honor and something I never really planned on. When I got into the sport, I just got into it for the competitive aspect of it. I didn’t go out there for any fame or fortune or anything. I just wanted to compete.” Defending CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
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