But Kile's runaway one-day catch of 32-8 wasn't the day's biggest story: Saturday saw a host of new champions crowned. After the last bass had been weighed and released with the crowd holding its breath in excitement, BASS officials handed out CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors to Alabama's Gerald Swindle, who beat Rookie of the Year Greg Hackney by just three points. Hackney took home his Rookie of the Year trophy at the same time South Carolina's own Davy Hite collected the $25,000 Horizon Award for most improvement in season point standings since 2003.
Both Hackney and Swindle joined 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli with sealed berths for the upcoming Bassmaster Elite 50 tournaments. The remaining 47 spots for the four-event, $1.6 million series will be set following Sunday's weigh in. Berths to the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer will also be announced following the weigh-in. The top 25 anglers in the Angler of the Year points will qualify for the Classic in Charlotte, N.C., July 30-Aug. 1.
Kile said he has appreciated the drama surrounding the various awards decided at the Tour finale.
"It's kind of good," Kile said. "It takes a lot away from me. I'd have been the big show if (Hackney and Swindle) wouldn't have been here, so it's kind of gotten the focus off me and that's good."
Kile's catch included a 9-10 lunker that earned him $1,000 from Purolator for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day. If it holds out one more day, he will receive an additional $1,000 from Purolator for the Big Bass of the Tournament.
Second place angler Kelly Jordon brought in a huge catch on day two as well. His 28-9 sack gave him the $1,000 bonus for the Busch Heavyweight program. If the Texan's weight is in the top 10 heaviest catches for the remainder of the tournament and the Bassmaster Elite 50 events, he will qualify for the $160,000 Busch Shootout Tournament on a mystery lake in September.
The big news of the day was the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. Coming into the third day of competition, Hackney had to finish eighth or better to win the title. In a heartbreaker, Hackney brought in only 13-2, dropping him to ninth place, a mere three points from the championship.
Swindle was beside himself after winning the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award and was relieved that he could focus on other happenings.
"Even coming into the tournament with it standing right in front of me, I kept trying to focus on the event," Swindle said. "It never really sank in.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to guys like Davy Hite, who've won it before. I just can't really believe it."
Former Angler of the Year and Classic champ Hite was enjoying his own success on Saturday. The South Carolina native, who struggled into 163rd place in the 2003 season point standings, improved 151 spots to finish in 12th in the 2004 points race, earning him the $25,000 Horizon Award.
"When they first announced this award two years ago, I was the reigning Angler of the Year and I just kind of laughed and thought, 'There's no way I'll ever win that because I'll never fall far enough back,'" Hite said. "Man, it took me less than a year to become the number one contender. It's good and bad, but the bad was last year. I wanted to turn my bad luck around and not only did I turn it around, but I turned it around better than anybody else."
The amateur competition at the Tour finale ended Saturday with Alabama's Bill Logsdon taking top honors with a three-day catch of 25-8. Logsdon, who has fished many BASS tournaments as an amateur, recorded his first win and thanked CITGO for its participation in the amateur anglers' program. CITGO offers a year's worth of free gasoline to winning anglers, and provides professional-quality sponsorship clothing to the Top 12.
"I really appreciate them sponsoring this program," Logsdon said. "They do a super job and with the clothing, the jackets and shirts. ...We appreciate it."
Along with the jackets and shirts, Logsdon is going home with the $36,000 grand prize.
The Tour will wrap Sunday afternoon when the Super Six pros weigh in at John C. Land Landing at 3:30 p.m.
Fans can catch the finale of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer on the Santee Cooper Lakes, Saturday, April 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season feature the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expo will take place from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday at John C. Land III Landing.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces 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, 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 include Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.