"Late Friday, BASS was shocked and very disappointed to learn that the FLW Tour did a great disservice to the angling community by changing the dates of their season-ending tournament to July 28th - 31st from their originally announced dates of September 8th - 11th. Their new dates are now in direct conflict with the dates of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
"Over the past decade, BASS has held the Classic in the last week of July or first week of August and will do so again in 2004. Moving next year's Classic from July 30th - August 1st is not possible.
"Historically, BASS has sought to avoid these kinds of schedule conflicts whenever possible. We have done this to allow anglers the option to fish more events and have a better chance to make a living. We hoped the organizers of the other tour would work with us to accommodate the anglers, but past practice and their latest decision make it clear to BASS that they are not focused on that goal.
"Upon hearing of the schedule change, the BASS tournament department immediately contacted officials at the FLW Tour last Friday and asked them to reconsider their date change. They declined to do so.
"I have already read news accounts about possible reasons for this change. While I can think of many motivations for their actions, clearly they do not represent what is best for the anglers and the sport of bass fishing. Based on the history of the Classic, it is also very hard to believe that the FLW Tour organizers were not aware of the conflict.
"It is very unfortunate that the FLW Tour has now forced some of the world's best bass anglers to make a choice.
"The FLW Tour's decision will have a negligible impact on the 34th Bassmaster Classic. It is not a positive development for the participants or the sport."
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.