CELEBRATION, Fla. –Tim Horton, a six-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier and three-time BASS winner, will join fellow elite anglers Kevin VanDam, Aaron Martens, Shaw Grigsby, Rick Clunn and others fishing the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

Since turning pro seven years ago, Horton has built a reputable resume, cashing in on 64 of the 85 total BASS-sanctioned tournaments he’s fished and raking in nearly $700,000 in tournament winnings. Horton now is putting his support behind the Elite Series, which in 2006 will feature smaller fields, bigger payouts, more fan spectacle with sponsor-wrapped boats and more media exposure.

“This is the most excited I’ve been about changes BASS has done,” said Horton, 32, of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Known as an outspoken and persuasive representative of the angling community, the 2000 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year said the Elite Series is offering him a tremendous opportunity to boost his career and build his own unique brand.

“The 100-angler field will be the most enjoyable fishing we’ve had in a long time,” said Horton. “It won’t be as crowded, and fishing from our own boats on the majority of those days is the best step BASS has taken to be angler-friendly.”

Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager, said: “I was thrilled when I heard Tim accepted his invitation to fish the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series. The entire organization is excited to add this former CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year to the growing list of elite anglers.”

Horton said his choice to fish in the Elite Series was supported by his sponsors, who saw value in both BASS as a membership organization and the Elite Series’ premier level of competition. The reduced field size, sponsor-wrapped boat and truck deals and expanded media coverage also were factors, Horton said.

“With this new wrapped-boat scenario, it’s interesting to them and beneficial to the anglers,” said Horton. It’s neat to see them taking an interest in where they’re going to get placed on the boat. It’s given them more reasons to do business with a pro angler.”

Horton will sport a Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine Group wrap on both his boat and truck. Horton’s other sponsors include Mercury Marine, Lowrance Electronics, Pradco Outdoor Brands, Silver Thread line, Bomber lures, Minn Kota trolling motors, Plano tackle boxes, Pflueger Fishing Tackle, All Star Graphite Rods and sunglass company Smith Optics, Inc.

“Pradco Fishing is committed to BASS and very excited about Tim Horton signing up for the Elite Series,” said Andy Caroll, Pradco’s director of sales and marketing. “The opportunity that BASS and ESPN bring us through our sponsorship gives us the exposure we need for our target consumers and we’re happy to be part of it all as we move the sport forward.”

With a smaller field in ‘06 and nearly $11 million dollars up for grabs in the tournament series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Majors, the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies, Horton is confident in his ability to cash in. “The smaller field size and expanded schedule are the best moves BASS has made in a long time,” he said.

Of the 14-scheduled Elite Series and Bassmaster Majors events, Lake Amistad in Texas and Lake Guntersville in Alabama are two bodies of water Horton can’t wait to fish. “We’re not going to go wrong with any of the events,” he said. “They’re all knockout tournaments and will really make for good television.”

In September, Horton fished the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Guntersville in Alabama, finishing 11th. He plans to fish the final Southern Open on Lake Tohopekaliga, in Kissimmee, Fla., Nov. 17-19. Horton also will join fellow Elite Series competitors Marty Stone and Peter Thliveros at “Angling Against Cancer,” Nov. 12-13 at Lake Toho, a charity tournament benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research and hosted by the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The 2006 Classic contender, who finished the ’05 Classic in 10th place, said the Elite Series is a positive response to angler and fan requests for a premier level of competition that focuses on the world’s top anglers. “This is going to be cool,” Horton said.

The complete 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.

The 2006 Bassmaster Majors schedule is:

May 18-21 Bassmaster Memorial on Eagle Mountain Lake, Fort Worth, Texas July 27-30 Bassmaster American on Lake Wylie, Charlotte, N.C. Aug. 24-27 Bassmaster Legends on the Arkansas River, Little Rock, Ark.

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.