CELEBRATION, Fla. — BASS announced major enhancements Friday to its tournament structure, creating the all new CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series — the highest level of competition featuring the world's top anglers and awarding more than $11 million. Additionally, BASS is introducing the CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours — events that qualify anglers for the Elite Series.
The changes mean a total payout of more than $11 million in 2006, exclusive television coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 and innovative ways to enhance the brand of individual anglers and the overall sport of bass fishing.
"BASS' strategy is to elevate tournament fishing to an all-new level," said Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager. "The Elite Series will be like nothing else offered in bass fishing. And we're replacing the Bassmaster Opens with a higher level of competition with the two CITGO Bassmaster Tours."
The CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series
Kicking off in March 2006, the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series will establish an unparalleled level of competition for the world's best anglers and will be the most visible and premier professional bass fishing league.
BASS is matching the Elite Series' prestige with a handsome payout. The 2006 payout schedule pays down to 50 places with a $100,000 first-place prize and 50th place paying $10,000. The first place non-boater takes home $45,000 in merchandise.
Beginning in 2007 and beyond, the Elite Series will consist of a 100-angler field. Because both the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles are held in the highest regard, the five previous Classic winners and Anglers of the Year automatically qualify to compete in the Elite Series.
Other invited anglers include:
" The top 70 in total point standings from the prior year
" The top 5 anglers on the Northern Tour
" The top 5 anglers on the Southern Tour
" The top 10 anglers in a second-chance qualifier tournament, described below
2006 will be a transition year which could result in more than 100 anglers competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series season. BASS is inviting the world's top anglers to compete.
Anglers who fish the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series earn an Elite Series card, which gives them access to a cache of benefits that will aid in sponsor recruitment and retention as well as provide access to a series of career-building success classes.
Entry fees into the Elite Series are $5,000 per event. Non-boater entry fees are $750.
BASS previously announced the introduction of the Bassmaster Majors in 2006, three stand-alone, no-entry fee competitions offering a total prize purse of nearly $2 million, including a $250,000 first-place prize per event.
For the first time since BASS was acquired by ESPN, a regular season tournament will receive prominent airtime on the network. Each of the Majors' final day weigh-in will be televised the same day on ESPN2, giving fans at home up-to-the-minute information.
Not only are these no-entry fee tournaments, the Majors also will feature an expanded Outdoor Expo for fans and anglers alike to enjoy. The 2006 Majors will have more spectators, big-time television coverage and generous payouts, rewarding the top 25 finishers.
To qualify for the exclusive, 50-field Bassmaster Majors, anglers must be a CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series professional in good standing.
As with the Elite Series, 2006 will be a transition year. The Majors fields will be comprised of:
" The top 10 anglers on the all-time BASS money list
" The top 40 anglers with the highest Angler of the Year standings, based on the 2004, 2005 and 2006 standings prior to that Major
" Other anglers who qualify based on previous announcements
In 2007, the field will be comprised of:
" The 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion
" The 2006 CITGO Angler of the Year
" The defending champion of that Major
" The top 47 anglers with the highest Angler of the Year standings, based on the 2006 and 2007 standings prior to that Major
The CITGO Bassmaster Northern and Southern Tours
The Bassmaster Tours — two Elite Series-qualifying tours — provide yet another level of professional tournament fishing. The Tours pay down 60 places, including $75,000 in cash and merchandise to the first-place boater and $30,000 in merchandise to the first-place non-boater, based on a 150-angler field. They will have five events each and are qualifying routes to the coveted Elite Series.
The top five pro point leaders from each division automatically qualify for the Elite Series and the top three pro point leaders from each division automatically qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
The CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour will take place in the spring and summer while The CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour will occur in the summer and fall, giving anglers the option to fish both Tours.
Pro anglers who finish in sixth through 25th place in each of these Tours will have an exciting second chance to qualify for the Elite Series. They will be matched up against Elite Series anglers who have not qualified for the next season to battle for the final 10 Elite Series spots in a wild card qualifier.
The wild card qualifier will award a total prize purse of $155,000 in Elite Series entry fees and cash to the top 12 professional anglers, including a top prize of one year of paid entry fees. The top 60 non-boaters will vie for more than $200,000 in cash, merchandise and paid entry fees for one of the following year's Tours.
Entry fees for the Bassmaster Tour are $1,500 for boaters and $350 for non-boaters per event.
BASS doubles Angler of the Year prize purse
2006 will feature a full 100 percent increase in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year prize purse, making the race for points in the Elite Series even more meaningful and exciting than ever before. BASS and CITGO also are doubling the number of anglers that receive money. First place takes $125,000 of the total $600,000 prize purse, which now pays down to 50th place.
CITGO Bassmaster Classic details
Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee, Fla., is where 51 anglers will compete for the $500,000 top prize in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, 2006. Only one angler can take top prize, but a full-field, $1.19 million payout in 2006 offers a bigger paycheck to every participant, including $10,000 for 51st place.
Though the 2007 Classic location and payouts are yet to be revealed, BASS has established the following qualifying guidelines for the tournament:
" Top 36 from the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series points standings
" 2006 Classic champion
" Top 3 2006 Northern Tour pro point leaders
" Top 3 2006 Southern Tour pro point leaders
" Six anglers from the Federation
" ESPN Outdoors Weekend Series champion
A cutting-edge appearance
The CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series and the Majors in 2006 will have a distinctive look for spectators and fans as anglers fish from their own sponsor-wrapped boats. In 2006, all anglers will be required to have their boat wrapped, following a BASS-approved template. This gives anglers the ability to promote themselves and provide more visibility to their sponsors in a unique and creative manner and build their individual brands.
Anglers will fish from their own boats on all competitive days of the Majors, including the final day when same-day coverage will air on ESPN2. Anglers will fish from their own wrapped boats on all days of the Elite Series except for the final day, when they will fish in a BASS-sponsor wrapped boat.
Since BASS encourages fans to become part of all the action on the water, an online poll will be offered on www.bassmaster.com where fans can vote for the top five hottest boat wraps. The angler with the most impressive boat and highest vote count will receive $10,000. Another $15,000 will be divided among second through fifth place winners.