Few BASS events in recent years have been as eagerly anticipated as the $613,000 South Carolina CITGO Bassmaster Tour finale set for March 25-28 on Santee Cooper Reservoir. That is because they cannot shake memories of the incredible big-bass bonanza that lakes Marion and Moultrie provided there almost exactly a year ago.
"Everybody is excited about this tournament," BASS winner and native son Ray Sedgwick said. "It's the only tournament on our whole Tour that everybody has been talking about all season."
That is understandable, considering that in 2003 Santee Cooper surrendered dozens of 20-pound-plus, five-bass limits and allowed winner Zell Rowland to make a run at Dean Rojas' 2001 record catch of 108 pounds, 12 ounces. Bringing 25 to 30-pound sacks to the weigh-in stage each day, Rowland totaled an impressive 98-9, which was the second largest Tour catch on record until George Cochran's magnificent 99-10 catch recently on Lake Guntersville.
Further, anglers at the Santee Cooper event caught the third-largest weight of bass in Tour history: 4,971 pounds. Last March, Mark Davis finished second with 86-7, while third place finisher Larry Nixon had 84-6. Edwin Evers was fourth with 81-14; Chad Morgenthaler finished fifth with 79-10; and Kevin VanDam took sixth with 78-7.
Now, all of the leading bass-fishing indicators - weather, water and moon conditions - are all pointing to a delicious repeat of last year's remarkable Tour blast on Santee.
"It's going to be a smorgasbord of big bass, a slugfest just like it was last year," Sedgwick said. "The timing's going to be perfect. The tournament is a week later with warmer weather. The moon is a week later. The fish will be bringing their nose to the bank looking for a bed. The lakes have been up the last three weeks or so, and the fish are already moving shallow.
"It's the key moment, the key time of the spawn for our bass here at Santee. It will be a week before the moon in March. The water temperature is coming up and the water is up. Unless Mother Nature throws something unusual at us, it's going to be wide open.
"We will see the same kind of weights as last year. I definitely anticipate possibly breaking the record this year. It could happen. It's going to be scary. Everything is falling into place perfectly. It should be even more stable because it's a week later and the water is up already where it was low last year."
Sedgwick expects that "spinnerbaits and Senko-type baits" will be the ticket to catching the biggest bags of both prespawn and bedding bass. "There could be some sight-fishing," he added." It will be time for it. There will be quite a few fish already on the beds. Some are trying to get on the beds now."
Rowland's winning pattern last year revolved around a shallow, protected channel located behind an island in Lake Moultrie. He fished this area with a plastic lizard, spinnerbait and flipping tube to collect his phenomenal catch.
It will be the eighth BASS event on Santee, in a storied history that stretches back to 1975, when Roland Martin won the first BASS event there with 64 pounds.
Daily weigh-ins will begin at 2:45 p.m. at the John C. Land III Landing and are free to the public.
THE CITGO BASSMASTERS ON ESPN2
Fans can catch the sixth and final event of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail on Santee Cooper, Saturday, April 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The CITGO Bassmater Tour travels to the Lake Dardenelle in Russellville, Ark., for the first Bassmaster Elite 50 event, April 14-17.
CITGO BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR
Pros will be competing for CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year points throughout the 2004 Tour season. Anglers are awarded points based on their finishes in each of the six Tour events. The tournament winner receives 300 points. The scoring decreases in 5-point increments to fifth place, 4-point increments through 10th place, 3-point increments through 15th place, 2-point increments to 99th place and 1-point increments for the remainder of the field.
PUROLATOR BIG BASS
New for 2004, Purolator, the official oil filter and air filter of BASS, is instituting an incentive to the angler who catches the heaviest fish each day. Pros catching the largest fish will receive a $1,000 bonus while the amateurs can look for a $500 reward per tournament day. An additional $1,000 will be awarded to the angler (pro or amateur) who catches the largest fish of the tournament.
HARRIS CHAIN OF LAKES Day 1 Alton Jones 10-13 Day 2 Mark Rizk 10-03 Day 3 Bud Pruitt 6-03 Day 4 Tommy Martin 6-00
SMITH LAKE Day 1 Robert Hamilton Jr. 5-03 Day 2 Mark Tucker 6-11 Day 3 Ben Matsubu 5-08 Day 4 Charlie Weyer 3-12
LAKE GUNTERSVILLE Day 1 Danny White 9-03 Day 2 Dennis Kolender 9-01 Day 3 George Cochran 7-00 Day 4 Kevin VanDam 8-05
TABLE ROCK LAKE Day 1 Jarrett Edwards 6-10 Day 2 Jason Quinn 7-10 Day 3 Gerald Swindle 7-03 Day 4 Roland Martin 4-09
PUROLATOR BIG BASS OF THE TOURNAMENT Alton Jones 10-13 Harris Chain of Lakes Mark Tucker 6-11 Smith Lake William Robinson 9-10 Lake Guntersville Jason Quinn 7-10 Table Rock Lake
Another new program for 2004 is the $200,000 Busch Shootout contingency program. Qualifying Tour pros will receive a $1,000 bonus for the largest sack brought in per tournament day.
The top 10 "Busch Heavyweights" from the Tour and Elite 50 events will be joined by anglers with the top weights from the 2004 Classic, the 2004 Federation Championship and the 2003 Open Championship to compete in the single-day Busch Shootout tournament, Sept. 18, on a mystery lake. The winner will receive $100,000, with everyone else taking home a $5,000 check.
Arizona's John Murray was the first to qualify for the Busch Shootout tournament by having the heaviest sack at the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on Toledo Bend Reservoir last November. Murray's Day 3 catch of 21 pounds qualified him for the tournament.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Newcomers to the Tour this season have the opportunity to earn not only a $10,000 bonus, but also the title of Rookie of the Year. Mark Kile was the top newcomer in 2003, with a 12th-place finish based on Angler of the Year point standings at the end of the 2003 Tour season.
At the conclusion of the 2003 season, Takahiro Omori was awarded the Horizon Award for the angler who posts the greatest improvement over the 2002 season. Omori finished 40th in 2003, a 98-place improvement from the previous year. The award, which will be given out again in 2004, includes a check for $25,000.
The top 25 anglers in point standings from the CITGO Bassmaster Tour will earn a berth in the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, however, there are 12 anglers who have qualified for the 2004 Classic through the CITGO Bassmaster Open divisions. These 12 include:
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Southern Division Tim Horton David Walker Denny Brauer
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Central Division Edwin Evers Tim Carroll Steve Sennikoff
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Northern Division Art Ferguson III Kevin Wirth Chuck Economou
CITGO Bassmaster Open - Western Division Bink Desaro John Murray Skeet Reese
BASSMASTER ELITE 50
New for 2004, BASS introduces the $1.6 million, no-entry-fee Bassmaster Elite 50 series. Fifty anglers, comprised of the top 20 active anglers on the BASS All-Time Money List, the top 27 in combined end of the year position from the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Tour seasons, and the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the 2004 BASS Rookie of the Year and the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, will compete in the four-event series, with the winner taking home a $150,000 check.
Currently, 2003 Classic champ Michael Iaconelli is the only angler with a guaranteed spot. Anglers are sure to be jockeying for position in points and money during the 2004 Tour season, with hopes of gaining entry into the series.
LAST TIME ON SANTEE COOPER
The last time the CITGO Bassmaster Tour went to South Carolina's Santee Cooper, it had an unforgettable visit. Zell Rowland reeled in 98-9 in four days to claim the win in 2003.
BASS RECORDS AT SANTEE COOPER
Last BASS event hosted/winner: March 2003/ Zell Rowland
Previous Winners 2003 Zell Rowland (98-9) 1998 Scott Martin (39-2) 1997 Juan Reitzel (61-13) 1994 O.T. Fears (77-4) 1994 Kevin Wirth (39-15) 1976 Jim Houston (67-5) 1975 Roland Martin (64-0)
Heaviest winning weight: Zell Rowland (98-9) 2003
Lowest winning weight: Scott Martin (39-2) 1998
BASS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
The Santee Cooper event will mark the eighth time BASS has competed on the waterway and the 18th BASS event conducted in South Carolina.
ORIGINS OF THE TOUR
While BASS has conducted tournaments since 1967, records for the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer began with the 1994-95 season, as that was the first year the pro-am tournaments earned points toward the Angler of the Year award
The heaviest total-weight tournament in CITGO Bassmaster Tour history took place in April 2002 on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, where the field of pros brought in an astonishing 5,645 pounds, 4 ounces of bass.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. 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.
The CastingKids program, sponsored by CITGO, will be held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo, Saturday, March 27 from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the John C. Land III Landing. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest, with the chance to earn a scholarship.
The event and instruction to youngsters will be facilitated by the South Carolina BASS Federation.
BASS YOUTH OUTREACH PROGRAM
BASS understands that children are the future of professional bass fishing, which is why the BASS Youth Outreach Program has been instituted. BASS Federation Youth Manager, Stacy Twiggs has been instrumental in teaching children about conservation issues and the heritage, techniques and joys of bass fishing. Twiggs visits local schools at every Bassmaster Tour stop. BASS Tour pros have voiced their support of the program and are always available to sign autographs at events. For more information on the bass Youth Outreach Program, contact Stacy Twiggs at Stacy.S.Twiggs@bassmaster.com.
BASS SPONSOR EXPO (ADMISSION IS FREE)
A popular component of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season is the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expos take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Sundays.
SCHEDULE - CITGO BASSMASTER TOUR EVENT 6
Registration: Wed., March 24, 3 p.m. Manning High School - Gym
Briefing - Wed., March 24, 6:30 p.m. Manning High School - Gym
First-day launch - Thurs., March 25, 6 a.m. John C. Land III Landing
Day 1 weigh-in - Thurs., March 25, 2:45 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
Second-day launch - Fri., March 26, 6 a.m. John C. Land III Landing
Day 2 weigh-in - Fri., March 26, 2:45 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
Third-day launch - Sat., March 27, 6 :30 a.m. John C. Land III Landing
BASS Sponsor Expo - Sat., March 27, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
CastingKids Competition - Sat., March 27, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
Day 3 weigh-in and cut - Sat., March 27, 3:30 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
Fourth-day launch - Sun., March 28, 6:30 a.m. John C. Land III Landing
BASS Sponsor Expo - Sun., March 28, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
Day 4 weigh-in - Sun., March 28, 3:30 p.m. John C. Land III Landing
2004 CITGO BASSMASTER TOUR SCHEDULE
Site: Harris Chain of Lakes - Leesburg, Fla. Winner: Marty Stone 61-12 Site: Smith Lake - Jasper, Ala. Winner: Charlie Weyer 32-10 Site: Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, Ala. Winner: George Cochran 99-10 Site: Table Rock Lake - Kimberling City, Mo. Winner: Mark Davis 67-2 Site: Lake Eufaula - Eufaula, Ala. March 18-21 Site: Santee Cooper Reservoir - Manning, S.C. March 25-28
2004 BASSMASTER ELITE 50 SCHEDULE
Site: Lake Dardenelle - Russellville, Ark. April 14-17 Site: Tenn-Tom Waterway - Columbus, Miss. May 19-22 Site: Alabama River - Prattville, Ala. June 2-5 Site: Ohio/Cumberland/Tennessee Rivers - Paducah, Ky. June 16-19
BASS ON THE INTERNET
For information and news about BASS events, www.bassmaster.com is available to members of the media and the general public and provides daily wrap-ups and standings from each event as well as schedules of events and other BASS news. Working media can access stats, stories and photos at www.espnoutdoorsmedia.com. Please apply for a password today.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors are: Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.