Rowland Joins BASS Millionaire’s Club

Inside BASS

Somewhat lost in the big-bass mania that enveloped the season-opener of the new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series on Texas’ Lake Amistad was the fact that Lone Star State native son Zell Rowland joined one of the most exclusive groups in professional fishing – The BASS millionaire’s club.

By pocketing a check for $10,250, the 48-year-old Texas pro became the 13th BASS angler to top the $1 million mark in career earnings.

“It’s nice to join the elite group of guys that are on that list,” Rowland said. “It’s not like there are 20 or 30 of them. It’s just an honor to be with that elite group of guys who’s won over a million dollars fishing BASS.

“It’s been a long road to that mark. And now I just hope that I can fish well enough to win a lot more than that in a shorter period of time.”

Rowland has a long and storied history with BASS.

He fished his first tournament at age 13, which prompted founder Ray Scott to establish an age limit of 18. Five years later, he rejoined the circuit and proceeded to fashion a strong career that includes five victories and 15 appearances in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

His immediate concern now is getting ready for the March 30-April 2 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Santee-Cooper Reservoir … as well as preparing for back surgery.

Rowland will fly to Tyler, Texas, immediately after the South Carolina tournament, where the same surgeon who solved Denny Brauer’s back problems will treat him. If all goes right, he hopes to be on the starting line for the next Elite Series event, on Lake Guntersville in Alabama, two weeks later. Guntersville is where he won a Bassmaster event last season.

“It’s pretty good,” Rowland said on his way home from last week’s Elite Series stop at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas. “I still have a lot of soreness. I try to stand up as much as I can and not sit. It only hurts when I sit down for a long period of time.

“I can stand up and fish pretty well. But if I take a real rough boat ride, I know it when I get up. I’m not as quick at hopping out of that seat and jumping up on that front deck.

“I’m sure it affected me some here at Rayburn. It got real rough, and I wouldn’t make the boat rides I would normally make.

“I’m going to have about 11 days of recovery time after Santee and my doctor made me promise him that if I go to Guntersville and the wind blows I won’t make one of those 20-mile boat rides. He said I need to be careful and, if I do, the recovery time will be three to five weeks.”

The back problems come on the heels of a heart ailment that was corrected in 2005.

“My heart doctor told me that for 48 years old, I’m probably in one of the best shapes that he’s ever seen — to be able to keep up the pace that we do fishing,” Rowland said. “He said I’m in better health than 70 percent of the guys that are 48 years old.

“I feel pretty good. I feel like I’ve got plenty of years left in me to fish, once I get the back issue cleared up. It seems like it’s been one thing after another.”

YOUTHFUL DONATION. BASS recently donated 200 rods and reels to the University of Florida's Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in Gainesville.

The department runs Fishing for Success, a multifaceted youth-education program that includes monthly Family Fishing Days when families and children can fish for free.

"We loan fishing equipment to all who come to our events but don't have their own fishing gear," Daniel Canfield, the program's director, wrote in a response to BASS. "Your donated equipment will positively affect the lives of many youth."

Stacy Twiggs, senior manager of BASS youth programs, said Fishing for Success was just one of several programs that received the donated Zebco rods and reels. Its management also helped execute the 2006 Bassmaster Family Fest in Leesburg, Fla., in February.

"We love to give to organizations that help support BASS and its sponsors, including Zebco," Twiggs said. "We think the kids will really enjoy the equipment."

FEDERATION NATION IN ACTION. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana BASS Federation Nation are teaming to give areas devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita a much-needed boost toward resource recovery.

Project Jumpstart collected fish from the Atchafalaya Basin that were caught during the Federation Nation's March 11-12 spring qualifying state tournament and released them into waterways impacted by last year’s storms.

The first areas to receive fish from Project Jumpstart were those hardest hit by Katrina, east of the Mississippi River, including rivers and bayous around Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain.

WEIRDEST CATCH. “I’ve caught lawn chairs, rocks, beer cans, buckets, boxer shorts,” Arkansas BASS pro Scott Rook said. “I don’t know which one is the weirdest.”

DID YOU KNOW? A total of 106 pros took a chance on the pioneering Bassmaster Elite Series — the exact number of anglers that took a chance on Ray Scott’s fledgling efforts in that first tournament on Beaver Lake in 1967.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Bassmaster Elite Series pros Dustin Wilks (29) and Darrin Schwenkbeck (38) have birthdays March 29 and April 5, respectively.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … Women’s Bassmaster Tour competitor Courtney Williams of Texas would have more time to concentrate on her job as a marketing researcher for a lumber dealer. She recently completed her master’s degree.

THEY SAID IT. “All I can do for him is pray. I don’t know what you call it; he needs help.” Women’s Bassmaster Tour pro Kimberlee Striker, who owns a hair salon in Cullman, Ala., when asked what she would do with Skeet Reese’s unique hairstyle, called a “faux-hawk,” that he sported during the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

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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 1-877-BASS-USA or visit