Fishing & Boating News

Bassmaster Elite 50 Anglers Ready Themselves For The Big Finale

(Jun. 16, 2004 - PADUCAH, KY.) Anglers competing in the Bassmaster Elite 50 series are getting ready for the exciting finale on the Tennessee, Ohio and Cumberland Rivers in Paducah, Ky. In addition to wrapping up the first ever best-of-the-best series, the finale is the culmination of the 2003/2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer. Over $1 million in prize money will be handed out at the end of the event as well as the final 10 berths to bass fishing's world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. Two former CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year winners are sitting atop the points standings. Going into the last event, only five points separate Michigan's Kevin VanDam and Arkansas‚ Mark Davis. Although they've both focused on big catches all season, neither is optimistic about the turbulent waters that lifted to near flood levels this spring, only beginning to drop this week. "There is some pressure, but at the same time, there's not," Davis said. "I think, more than me having the pressure on me for winning the points, there's lots of folks who have pressure on them for making the Classic. You never know what's going to happen. "You know, the fishing is really tough. It's not good. I just don't think that many bass live here. I think the fishing might be better if the water was stable, but with the fluctuating water levels, it's really not helping. I think we'll see some double-digit weights, but nothing like we‚ve become accustomed to seeing." VanDam agreed, but thinks this is really his championship to lose. "I'm going to go out there and just do the best I can do," VanDam said. "I just have to execute and get the fish in the boat. It's going to be hard here. Mississippi was tough, but it looks like (famed Mexico lake) El Salto compared to this place. „I think the flooding really concentrated the fish here last week and with the water going down, that‚s gone. If a guy can catch a limit every day, I think he will get into the finals easily." Four remaining opportunities for the Busch Shootout tournament are also up for grabs this week. The angler with the largest catch each day of the tournament is eligible for a $1,000 bonus and - if his weight is one of the 10 largest caught this season - a berth in the September heavy-hitters tournament. Paducah native Mark Menendez thinks that it's possible to make the Shootout here, but said it‚s not a good bet this week. "I think it would be possible to break into the Busch Shootout under normal conditions," Menendez said, "but with the way things are going, it's going to be tough. "Conditions have changed drastically since last week's Federation tournament. The water dropped 13 to 14 feet since then, but it came up about a foot or so today. I think if someone is to catch 8 or 9 pounds per day, consistently, he's going to be in good shape." Competition runs Wednesday through Saturday, with launches at 10 a.m. and weigh-ins beginning at 7 p.m. at J.R.'s Executive Inn in Paducah, Ky. Fans can catch the final event of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series on the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in two parts, Saturday, June 26 and Saturday, July 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2. BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Bassmaster Elite 50 series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne. Local Sponsors include J.R.'s Executive Inn/McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau.