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Thursday, November 4, 1999
Updated: June 22, 8:53 PM ET
North Carolina native out to early lead

CYPRESS GARDENS, Fla. --His name is not Tiger Woods, Jeff Gordon or Pete Sampras, but David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., is leading the competition in an event that could produce one of the richest paydays in professional sports - $1 million in the Ranger Millennium M1 bass fishing tournament being held at Florida's Cypress Gardens. And if the Ranger Millennium's purse - a potential $3.6 million - is not enough to make established sports stars envious, the tournament's finalists also will be featured in a 90-minute live television broadcast on FOX Sports following the network's Sunday NFL coverage. The broadcast is the first of its kind in network history.

A recent cold front and blustery winds made first round fishing difficult for many anglers, however, extended forecasts call for steadily warming temperatures through Sunday's final round of action.

"Fishing was tough, and I had to work hard all day long for the bites that I got," said first day leader, David Fritts. "I should have had at least 17 pounds today," Fritts said after landing 5 bass weighing 13 pounds during the opening round of competition. Fritts also landed the big bass of the day weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces to collect $5000.

In the Co-Angler Division, Danny Moore of Henderson, N.C., is leading the way with 5 bass weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces. Six women anglers are also competing in the co-angler field.

During the two-day first round of competition, 200 pro and 200 co-anglers fish for a total weight heavy enough to propel them into Saturday's second round. Only the top 50 anglers from each division (based on heaviest catch) will make the cut. On Saturday, anglers start over and compete for the heaviest one-day weight. Only competitors placing in the top 10 spots in each division Saturday will advance to Sunday's final round, which will be broadcast live on FOX Sports from 2:30 to 4 p.m. ET. Anglers are allowed to weigh five bass each day.

Emmy-winning Major League Baseball play by play announcer Joe Buck and former all-star catcher and baseball analyst Bob Brenly will call the action on FOX, along with expert commentary from fishing legend and Ranger Boats founder, Forrest L. Wood. The live broadcast is the first of its kind in network television history, exposing tournament fishing to its largest audience ever.

The total purse for the Ranger Millennium M1 could reach $3.6 million. A guaranteed $400,000 will go to the Pro Division champion, who could also receive an additional $600,000 if he meets sponsor bonus cash requirements. The winner of the Co-Angler Division is guaranteed $150,000 and could win an additional $100,000 in sponsor bonus money.

Weigh-ins begin at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lake Eloise Amphitheater, Cypress Gardens, Fla. Sunday's final round Pro Division weigh-in begins at 3:45 p.m. at the Lake Eloise Amphitheater. The final Co-Angler Division weigh-in begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Banyan Area Family Fun Zone, Cypress Gardens.

The Family Fun Zone and Outdoor show featuring seminars from pro anglers, an in-water Ranger boat show, a catch and release pond, casting contests, and a exhibition area for fishing products will be open to the public Thursday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Banyan Area, Cypress Gardens.