Matsubu Earns Paid Entry Fees for 2007 Elites; Top 10 Qualify for 2007 Elite Series

LEESBURG, Fla. – Ben Matsubu’s consistency reigned supreme in Saturday’s final round of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Wildcard tournament on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes. The Hemphill, Texas, angler earned his first BASS victory, paid entry fees into the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series and a Triton boat/Mercury outboard package valued at nearly $50,000.

Fishing fans can watch Matsubu’s victory and the rest of the tournament action on ESPN2 Saturday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. ET.

“This is great,” the 44-year-old said. “I’m really happy. It’s been a long time. I’ve been close several times, but never could pull it off in the past.”

Matsubu has been fishing BASS tournaments since 1999 and had posted seven top-10 finishes without a win. The former CITGO Bassmaster Classic contender posted his third consecutive double-digit, five-bass limit Saturday with 13 pounds, 11 ounces, the day’s largest catch.

His three-day total of 40-15 easily outdistanced Georgia’s Jim Murray (33-8) and Florida’s Bryan Hudgins (32-13). Rounding out the top five were Marty Robinson of South Carolina (32-7) and Matt Amedeo of Ohio (31-9).

The Wildcard tournament is a second-chance event designed to give pros on both the 2006 Elite Series and CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours a last chance to qualify for the lucrative, high-profile 2007 Elite Series. The top 10 finishers in the event locked up a spot in the Elite Series next season and earned money toward the entry fees.

Much like the first two rounds, Matsubu’s success came fishing shallow vegetation in Lake Eustis with a Lucky Craft RC 2.5 crankbait and Texas-rigged Yamamoto Cut-Tail worm.

“Today, I just made the rounds (to several spots) and kept on fishing,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to catch a limit. I was after big fish today.”

By finishing second, Murray, 32, will have an opportunity to return to the highest level of BASS competition for the first time since 2003. On Saturday, he moved up from fourth place with a catch of 11-12.

“It was a great week,” said Murray, an independent salesman who retired a year ago to concentrate on fishing and guiding. “It’s nice to make the finals again. It’s been a while.”

Murray used a pair of Zoom soft-plastic baits and a Yozuri lipless crankbait to score in 2 to 3 feet of water. The key was targeting wind-blown lanes in the vegetation, which was mixed with lily pads.

Hudgins, 27, lives in Orange Park, Fla., and is a student at the University of North Florida. He has a vast amount of knowledge of the Harris Chain, but only caught 8-2 Saturday to drop from second to third. He was the first-round leader with a catch of 17-3.

Hudgins’ success came running a shallow-water pattern using a Devil’s Horse topwater and a pair of different Zoom worms.

Robinson took the Purolator Big Bass award with a 6-pound, 5-ounce largemouth and the $1,000 premium.

The co-angler division was won by Earl Purcell of Massachusetts with 28-2. Purcell earned a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at nearly $46,000 for his first BASS win.

The top six co-anglers took home boat packages. Arkansas’ E.P. Fletcher finished second with 24-2, followed by Howard Stephens of South Carolina with 23-6.

Local Sponsors: Local sponsors include the City of Leesburg

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation 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 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.