BASS Flash: BUSCH Shootout's nostalgic format

VanDam is the only returning angler from last year's inaugural Shootout — by virtue of his 24-2 catch at Texas' Lake Lewisville. 

The BUSCH Shootout, the most unique tournament in the country, may be coming to a venue near you this week, but you likely don't know it's on the way.

That's because the Shootout remains the only big-league, mystery-site fishing tournament — a throwback to the infancy of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic when competitors were not informed of the Classic waters until they were 35,000 feet or so in the air on a plane.

The 13 anglers who qualified for the Shootout by posting the largest single-day catch of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour season have no idea where they will compete when they board a plane Thursday.

What they do know is they will vie Friday and Saturday for the $100,000 top prize in the most lucrative and limited-field tournament on the American bass scene. (The other pros will pocket $5,000).

Shootout participants run the gamut from Morizo Shimizu, who caught the largest one-day sack (30 pounds, 5 ounce) at Alabama's Lake Guntersville, to Jimmy Mize of Arkansas, who weighed in 6 pounds, 2 ounces at the Classic in Pittsburgh. The only returning angler from last year's inaugural Shootout is newly crowned Classic champion Kevin VanDam — by virtue of his 24-2 catch at Texas' Lake Lewisville.

"After experiencing the Shootout last year and as well as Anheuser Busch ran the event and treated us and our wives, I worked and scrapped hard all year long to try and qualify for it because I know what kind of event it is," VanDam said. "Other than the Classic, it's the event I look forward to more than any other.

"There's no pressure. It's not a points event. It's winner takes all. It's one of those deals where you know you're going to have a great time and you can just let it all hang out."

VanDam is intrigued by the Shootout's mystery lake format.

"I like the challenge involved in not knowing where it's going to be held and trying to be prepared for it," he said. "It's such a skill-driven event where you have to find fish quick."

Other Shootout competitors include Edwin Evers of Oklahoma; Gerald Swindle of Alabama; Jim Bitter of Florida; Frank Ippoliti of Maryland; Scott Rook of Arkansas; Zell Rowland of Texas; Brent Chapman of Kansas; Guy Eaker of North Carolina; Greg Hackney of Louisiana; and Ed Cowan of Pennsylvania.

New this year, 13 lucky anglers will get the opportunity to fish alongside the Shootout pros.

Coverage of the BUSCH Shootout will air on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. EST on Sept. 24.

BASS aid

BASS Conservation recently spent nearly $20,000 to provide each state BASS Federation chapter with a free YSI 200 Dissolved Oxygen Meter. The meters will help the state chapters improve fish handling in tournaments, as well as set an example for other tournament organizations, according to BASS Conservation's Chris Horton.

"These are valuable tools for assessing the level of oxygen in livewells, weigh-in bags, backstage tanks, live release boats and anywhere else tournament caught fish might be held," he said.

Sufficient dissolved oxygen is one of the most important components in ensuring tournament-caught fish return to the water healthy, making it possible for them to be caught again.

"It'll be an educational tool for our anglers because… when we can show people their results, it will help them better manage their catches," said Tim Cook, state conservation director for the Texas BASS Federation. The Federation does not currently own an oxygen meter.

Wireless anniversary

Dwango Wireless, a leading developer and publisher of mobile entertainment content for top lifestyle brands, is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its hit game, "ESPN Bassmaster: Legendary Lunkers."

Since the official launch of the game one year ago, "Legendary Lunkers" has sold at a brisk pace while receiving industry accolades and award nominations from key mobile game experts, including GameSpot Mobile, Wireless Gaming Review and the Mobile Entertainment Forum. The mobile game title is currently available for a $2.99 to $3.99 monthly subscription on all major U.S. wireless carriers.

"It's gratifying for our entire team to see how well this game has been received by consumers throughout North America as well as industry pundits," said Alexander U. Conrad, president of Dwango Wireless. "Fishing experts and game experts alike have been hooked by the technical innovation and spectacular development work demonstrated in this game."

Weirdest catch

Larry Nixon doesn't hesitate when asked to name the strangest thing he has ever hooked with a rod and reel.

"About a 20-pound snapping turtle on a spinnerbait on the James River in Virginia," the former Classic champion replied. "He bit it just like a largemouth bass and I hooked him right through the nose. I mean, he almost jerked the rod out of my hand he hit it so hard.

"I thought I had a 5- or 6-pound bass. Then I thought it was a big catfish. It was a shocker."

The turtle was later released.

Did you know?

There are 12 remaining slots in the 2006 Classic, Feb. 24-26, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.: The five top finishers in December's CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship, the six top divisional representatives in the Federation Championship and the champion of the ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series.

Pro birthdays

Mississippi native and new Tennessee resident Robert Hamilton turns 46 on Sept. 16.

If I hadn't become a BASS pro ...

"I'd probably be doing something in business or marketing," Washington's Luke Clausen said. "I was a marketing and management major at Western Washington University."

The said it

"It was a great Classic. I was just telling somebody that this Classic probably did more for the sport than just about any in the past. A lot of positives came out of it (like) the amount of people attending and interest generated. I think we exposed it to a whole different part of the world." — Florida pro Peter Thliveros, who didn't qualify for Classic XXXV but worked the ESPN Outdoors Expo presented by Under Amour for his sponsors..

For more inside information on the world of pro bass fishing, check out BASS INSIDER.