“The deadline came up and it was time to commit,” said Thliveros, 45. “BASS is where I’ve made my living and built my reputation. If I fished, I needed to fish BASS and finish out my career with them.”
The 10-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier – nicknamed “Peter T” – has built an impressive resume since his first BASS tournament on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., in 1982, earning 62 top-20 finishes and career winnings totaling nearly $900,000.
Meanwhile, Ken Cook, 58, has been equally as successful, fishing BASS since 1974 and competing in a whopping 255 BASS-sanctioned events including 14 Bassmaster Classics. Cook won the hotly contested 1991 Bassmaster Classic at Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Md., by less than 1 pound.
“BASS is the only place I feel you can make a career in this sport,” he said. “With ESPN, you have greater visibility than anyone else. The only way for me to advance my career professionally is to fish BASS.”
Both Thliveros and Cook are negotiating with potential sponsors on their boat and truck wraps, and both are confident the prestige associated with the Elite Series will help them secure title sponsors.
“I have several ideas and proposals in the works,” said Cook, whose current sponsors include Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Lowrance Electronics, Pure Fishing, fishing lure company Rapala-Normark Group, Biosonix fish attractant, Tru-Tungsten and Flowmaster, Inc. “Where we’re going and when … that’s the best thing about the ‘06 schedule. We’re going to have great catches each tournament and that’s what creates excitement on TV and for the sponsors. It’s going to be a slugfest and I didn’t see how I could pass that up.”
Additionally, Thliveros credits the Elite Series’ smaller field size for creating more opportunities for potential sponsors. “The smaller field will make it much more positive for non-endemic sponsors to join.”
Thliveros’ current branding includes Mercury Marine, Ranger Boats, Minn Kota trolling motors, Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle Co., Solar Bat Enterprises Inc., Zoom Bait Co., Tru-Tungsten, Flowmaster, Inc., Stren fishing line, American Rod Smiths, tackle manufacturer Team Supreme Tackle, and Atlanta-based outdoor sports management company JDC Marketing Group.
Lately, both anglers are spending time with their families and relaxing before the start of the 2006 season. Thliveros will join Team CITGO angler and fellow Elite Series competitor Marty Stone at “Angling Against Cancer” on Nov. 12-13, a charity tournament hosted by the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitor’s Bureau benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research. He also plans to fish the final CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Tohopekaliga, Nov. 17-19.
Cook, meanwhile, keeps his angling skills sharp by fishing the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open events. He finished 12th in the points standings and will compete in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on the Alabama River in Alabama, Dec. 1-4. An avid hunter, Cook also is in the midst of transforming his Oklahoma farm into a trophy hunting ranch.
With just days left for other before the Nov. 1 Elite Series registration deadline, Cook offered advice to fellow pros who may be wavering: “They need to look at the big picture,” said Cook. “You have to have sponsors that will pay enough money to support your way of life, and tournament winnings are considered a bonus. To attract sponsors, you need visibility and that’s where BASS is successful. I want to continue to make it in this sport and this is the only place to be, long-term.”
The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is:
The Southern Sprint #1 March 9-12 Battle on the Border - Lake Amistad, Del Rio, Texas #2 March 16-19 Lone Star Shootout - Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Jasper, Texas #3 March 30 – April 2 Santee-Cooper Showdown - Santee-Cooper, Manning, S.C. #4 April 20-23 Southern Challenge - Lake Guntersville, Guntersville , Ala. #5 May 4-7 Pride of Augusta - Clarks Hill Reservoir, Columbia County, Ga.
The Turn #6 June 1-4 Sooner Run - Grand Lake, Grove, Okla. #7 June15-18 Bluegrass Brawl - Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Dam Village, Ky.
The Northern Swing #8 July 6-9 Empire Chase – Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y. #9 July 13-16 Champion’s Choice - Lake Champlain, Plattsburg, N.Y.
The Final Charge #10 Aug. 10-13 Capitol Clash - Potomac River, Charles County, Md. #11 Sep. 14-17 The Rock - Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City, Mo.
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 www.bassmaster.com.