"I'm pretty happy, no complaints over here," Murray said. "When you win and do it in good style, it makes you feel good. One day I didn't really get to fish my fish that well and another day I didn't really understand how many were there.
"I learned as I went. I think I could have had another big bag today. I had one break off and another 4-pounder come off so, there were good fish there if I could have put them all in the boat."
Murray caught the majority of his fish drop shotting Yamamoto 7-inch and 5-inch split tail worms in grass beds, and cranking a Rat-L-Trap in 3 to 5 feet of water.
"This is a good day," Murray said, in a major understatement. "We've got a lot of good sponsors and I'm happy to do it for them as well."
With the win, Murray took home a $10,000 check, free entry to the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour, the $1,000 big bass award for his 7-5 lunker and was the first to qualify for the all-new Busch Shootout, scheduled for September 2004 on a mystery lake. Had Murray not already qualified for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic through the Western Opens, he would have a berth to that as well.
Second place Klein (48-5) knew he would have a hard time catching Murray, but worked a shallow-running crankbait to find his fish. Between that and his jerkbait, Klein gave it his best shot.
"First place is bragging rights in this tournament," said Klein, whose second place finish also netted $10,000 and entry fees. "For me to fish the Open Division is good. To me, I didn't want a break. I want to fish. I wish I had a tournament to fish next week. I am really looking forward to the Tour next year and I didn't want to have a four-month break and not compete …and show up at the first tournament and get a spanking."
In addition to Murray and Klein, the top five included Louisiana's Greg Hackney, 48-0; Tennessee's Jack Wade, 45-4; and Missouri's Stacey King, 42-7. They will also receive paid entry fees for the '04 Tour. King said the entry fee payment, in particular, is a major help.
"It's just a nice thing to know that you don't have to come up with it to pay those entry fees in the next three weeks," King said. "It's kind of an investment for the future and you have the opportunity to win some big money in six to 10 events."
The CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer will be telecast on ESPN2, Jan. 3, 2004.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.
Local Sponsors include the State of Louisiana and the Sabine River Authority.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit http://www.bassmaster.com.