Inside BASS and the Tournament Trail

Rarely has there been a sweeter victory, a more appreciated win than Harold Allen's recent triumph in the $300,000 Louisiana CITGO Bassmaster Central Open on the Ouachita River.

The 58-year-old Texan had competed in 231 BASS events since launching his career in 1974. His 0-for-29-year streak rivaled such winless marks as Michael Waltrip's 462 consecutive NASCAR events without a trip to victory lane or the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs' 0-14 season.

It wasn't that Allen hadn't come close in his previous 230 BASS appearances. His resume included two runner-up finishes and four third-place showings — part of 25 top- 10 performances.

"It felt pretty good, I have to admit," he said. "I didn't get all blowed out and excited or anything because I've been doing this game for a long time. I've won a lot of good tournaments, but not a BASS event. But I have won before.

"I guess it's just a relief to know that it did finally happen, and I wouldn't finish my career without ever having won one. There's a lot of guys that fished their entire careers and never won a BASS event.

"Every tournament I've fished, I've worked as hard as I possibly could work. In the past, there's been three or four times when I could've won and should've won. But this little thing happened or that little thing happened that cost me."

It was a crowning moment for a pro whose career includes 14 Bassmaster Classic appearances and total earnings of nearly $375,000.

With that major weight removed from his shoulders, Allen feels like he's on a roll entering this week's CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer that is being held on his favorite lake.

"I love Toledo Bend," he said. "I guided there from 1970 to 1980. In '75 and '76, I guided more than 300 days each (year).

"The lake was wide open. It was awesome then. People were coming from miles and miles away just to fish the lake. And it's still a great lake — one of the best in the country. I've always wanted to fish a big tournament on Toledo in the winter. I feel good about my chances."

LOVING IT. The way Gary Klein sees it, there has never been a better time to be a professional angler.

"Of course, we've always talked about Classic berths, but, gosh, bass fishing is so much fun now because you have so many different things that you can qualify for, some many different angles," the veteran Texas pro said. "Look at the new Busch (Shootout) program and the CITGO Angler of the Year program. Having the Busch Shootout, that's neat. That's exciting.

"People say, 'Yeah, we'll never be able to break that 45-2 record and win a million bucks.' Baloney. I know of one lake we have on the (Tour) schedule this season that could kick it out pretty easily — Santee Cooper in March, you've got to be excited about that. And, yeah, it might be a fluke or whatever. But, hey, I've had some pretty awesome days on the water fishing. And now I have the opportunity to win a million bucks. And Santee is one of the lakes on the schedule that could kick that stringer out.

"That million dollars is not safe by any means, and its yet another award program, like CITGO stepping up to the plate for the Angler of the Year program."

HE DID IT FOR LOVE. Indiana native Koby Krieger is now a snowbird. And it's all because of love.

Krieger, a past BASS winner, met his wife, Lisa, five years ago while fishing a tournament on Florida's Lake Okeechobee. As a result, Krieger spent the last five winters in city of Okeechobee. After getting married in January, he soon decided to make the complete move.

"I'm a fulltime resident of the state of Florida now," he said. "I had been staying down there for three months and traveling back and forth from Florida to the tournaments. It's a lot warmer down there compared to going back to Indiana in mid-February. It's helped me a lot learning this lake. Plus, I get to fish year-round rather than just six or seven months a year."

DID YOU KNOW? Classic winners have run the gamut from 51-year-old Charlie Reed's 1986 victory to 21-year-old Stanley Mitchell's triumph in 1981.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Alabama's Gerald Swindle becomes 34 on Dec. 17th, while Chris Baumgardner of North Carolina turns 43 the next day. Kentucky pro Dan Morehead will be 36 on Dec. 21st, while Kim Stricker of Michigan will celebrate his 52nd birthday on Dec. 27th. Former Classic champion David Fritts (47) and Arkansas' Mike McClelland share (36) Dec. 29th.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Connecticut pro Terry Baksay would likely be working in the field of psychology. His college degree is in industrial psychology.

THEY SAID IT. "I'm kind of getting used to it. I've had three second-place finishes in six weeks now. But I'm tickled to death. My main goal was to make the Classic. It's going to be fun fishing next year without having that stress or trying to make the Classic. So I'm ecstatic." Alabama pro Tim Horton, the 2000 BASS Angler of the Year, finished second at the Southern Open on Lake Eufaula.