LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — At a news conference televised live on ESPN's "BassCenter," BASS General Manager Don Rucks announced that the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will be contested on Central Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee on Feb. 24-26.
"The Classic is coming home next year," Rucks said, referring to the site of BASS' headquarters in nearby Celebration. "It just makes sense for us to take advantage of our new location this time and bring bass fishing's biggest event to an area that offers some of the very best bass fishing in the world."
Competitors will fish the 22,750-acre lake at a peak time of year. Late February generally sees the bass population swell in the shallows and feed aggressively.
"We think the fishing will be great," Rucks added. "We're expecting to break plenty of Classic catch records next year and start our Tour season in high gear."
The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season begins just two weeks later with the "Battle on the Boarder" in Del Rio, Texas, on Lake Amistad, Mar. 9-12.
"Late February is a time when most of America's bass anglers are stuck indoors waiting for spring," said Rucks. "A Central Florida Classic in late February will be a great cure for cabin fever whether you're watching the event on ESPN or attending here in person."
Lake Toho is no stranger to BASS events or record catches. In 1977, the lake hosted Classic VII, won by legendary tournament pro Rick Clunn. Additionally, BASS visited Lake Toho for the Florida Top 150 tournament in 2001 and experienced a showcase for Central Florida bass fishing. On the first day of competition, BASS pro Dean Rojas brought a five bass limit to the scales that weighed 45 pounds, two ounces. His four day total of 20 largemouths tipped the scales at a whopping 108 pounds, 12 ounces. Both marks are BASS bests.
And to supplement the hearty waters, Rucks expects Central Florida's family friendly atmosphere to lure more spectators than ever before. "In addition to Toho being a great fishery, Central Florida and Walt Disney World are unmatched when it comes to family entertainment," he said.
Local organizers agree.
"This is the true Super Bowl of bass fishing, and it serves as a perfect way to compliment BASS' arrival to Osceola County and Central Florida," said Tim Hemphill, executive director of the Kissimmee-St.Cloud Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
"Osceola County and Central Florida have enjoyed a rich history and tradition of hosting other BASS events through the years, and this event serves to punctuate our commitment to building upon this already great partnership," said John Saboor, executive director of the Central Florida Sports Commission.