The Southern Tour is part of the new, two-division, five-event CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours (formerly the Bassmaster Opens). With their $75,000 first-place payoffs, $3.93 million overall purse and routes to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and the lucrative CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, the Southern and Northern Tours are designed to be vehicles of dreams for anglers with big hopes.
And the Southern Tour may be the perfect circuit for a pair of pros on opposite ends of the tournament spectrum.
Humphreys, 56, has competed in the BASS wars since 1980. He has entered 201 tournaments, posted two BASS victories and qualified for the Classic — pro fishing’s high-water mark — on two occasions.
“I really like this new Tour,” the Louisiana pro said. “I like the schedule and the chance to win $75,000 in each tournament.
“To tell you the truth, I just couldn’t afford the $55,000 (total entry fee for the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit), like a lot of guys. This Tour gives me a chance to fish for decent money on some good lakes, continue to get some exposure for my sponsors and hopefully make the Classic.”
A feeder system into the big leagues of bass fishing, the Northern and Southern Tours will send a total of six anglers to the 2007 Bassmaster Classic (three from each division). In addition, five pros from each division qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Along the way, the events on the Northern and Southern Tours will get plenty of exposure through Bassmaster magazine, BASS Times and www.bassmaster.com, as well as on BassCenter and other parts of the BASS Saturday block of television programming on ESPN2.
“Mercury and Bass Cat really wanted me to fish the Tour,” Humphreys said. “In fact, I might even fish the Northern Tour, if they want me to.”
Balon, 35, has been a fishing guide out of Roland Martin’s Marina on Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Fla., for 15 years, all while also dabbling in the BASS tournament scene. He has fished 17 BASS events and cashed a check five times, four of which were for top-10 finishes.
His ultimate goal for the Southern Tour (which begins on the Big O this week), Balon explained, is “to do well enough to qualify for the Elite Series and hopefully be able to attract a few sponsors … and live a dream.”
Balon, who finished third in last week’s ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series National Championship, said he was attracted to the new Southern Tour because of the schedule and payout.
“It would be great to actually be able to make a living fishing tournaments,” he said. “I’ve tried off and on for years, since I first fished a few Bassmaster tournaments in the early ’90s.”
WOMEN’S BASSMASTER TOUR NEWS. The last thing a tournament director wants to do is move a tournament. But that is exactly what Women’s Bassmaster Tour director Bruce Mathis had to do before its inaugural season even began.
A lingering drought has made Toledo Bend Reservoir unsafe for boating, so BASS officials have moved the Women’s Bassmaster Tour season opener, originally scheduled for March, to Sept. 14-16 at Bull Shoals Lake.
The Women’s Bassmaster Tour events are held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, and this WBT event will be teamed with the Bassmaster Elite Series season finale on Table Rock Lake.
“Due to unsafe conditions on Toledo Bend, we made the decision to change the date and location of the first Women's Bassmaster Tour tournament,” Mathis explained. “The water level is more than 10 feet down, creating unsafe conditions. It was unfortunate; but in the best interest of safety for the anglers, the decision was made.
“We also wanted to be able to give all the participants enough time to rearrange their schedules and still be able to keep the tournament alongside one of the Elite Series tournaments located in the central portion of the country. The decision was made to have it on at Bull Shoals, out of Theodosia, Mo.”
The women pros have adjusted nicely to the switch, according to Mathis.
“The feedback we have gotten has been all favorable,” Mathis said. “Unfortunately, a couple people are unable to make the adjustment, but they have been fully supportive of the final decision.”
CALLING ALL ANGLERS. BASS members have been asked to participate in a survey of fishing participation, trends and purchasing behaviors at www.anglersurvey.com.
Results from the survey will be used to help determine the most popular equipment brands, species hunted or caught, short-term and long-term preferences and participation trends, as well as report angler feedback to improve products.
Survey results assist fishermen by providing fish and wildlife agencies with information needed to protect and enhance hunting and fishing opportunities. The survey also offers anglers a way to provide input that may improve fishing products to meet their needs.
WEIRDEST CATCH. Texas pro Randy Dearman was thoroughly puzzled when something grabbed his jig twice on the bottom of Lake Eufaula, but each time released the bait before Dearman was able to set the hook.
“The third time, I decided to let him have it a while,” he recalled. “I peeled off a couple of feet of line and jerked. It was solid as it could be. It ended up being a big loggerhead turtle that weighed about 70 pounds. It was the biggest turtle I had ever seen. It had big old horns on its head. It was ugly.”
DID YOU KNOW? Aaron Martens will be attempting to become the second reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year to win the Bassmaster Classic. Mark Davis accomplished that feat in 1995.
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Missouri’s Mark Tucker will blow out 45 candles on Jan. 31. A pair of former Classic champions (Ken Cook, 59, and Denny Brauer, 57) will celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 2 and 3, respectively. Alabama’s Mark Rizk will be 43 on Feb. 7.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skeet Reese would likely be laying tile for a living.
“I wanted to have a trade in case fishing didn’t work out,” the California pro said. “So I learned how to be a tile setter.”
THEY SAID IT. “I think in Pittsburgh I got a greater appreciation for, more than anything, this loyal fan base that follows the Classic that I’ve seen there year after year after year after year after year. There’s new faces, but so many of them are old faces that have just been coming to these things religiously.” - Four-time Bassmaster Classic champion and 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic contender Rick Clunn
News exclusives, audio and video clips of bass fishing's biggest stars, loads of discounts and more are all part of BASS Insider, an exclusive membership, now available at www.bassmaster.com.
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. To join BASS, call 1-800-BASS-USA or visit www.bassmaster.com.