CELEBRATION, Fla. — Some of today's most well-known professional anglers were inspired to pursue their dream career after attending a CITGO Bassmaster Classic activity designed especially for families and children.
BASS is hoping to once again inspire fledgling youth anglers with this year's Junior Bassmaster World Championship, CastingKids championship and Bassmaster Family Fest, all in conjunction with the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26 on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.
Greg Hackney, a CITGO Bassmaster Classic competitor this year, attended the 1984 Bassmaster Classic in Little Rock, Ark., as a teenager. Vividly, he recalls being inspired by watching Rick Clunn weigh in a record catch before a capacity crowd that included then Gov. Bill Clinton and then vice president George Bush. "Going to the Classic had been a dream of mine since I watched Rick Clunn win in 1984," said Hackney, "That's what really got me to thinking that pro fishing would be a great way to make a living."
Davy Hite, another 2006 Classic contender, remembers the 1986 Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he watched Charlie Reed win the world championship. Nearly 15 years later, he stood on the Classic stage and hoisted the championship trophy over his own head. "I was 13 or 14 when I went to the Classic in Chattanooga with a friend and that really set me on fire," the two-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year said. "I got to see all of my heroes up close. And I got all the autographs on my hat just like I do for people now."
This year, youngsters will participate in the Junior Bassmaster World Championship on the famed Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla., which will award $27,000 in scholarship money, and state and Club Federation Nation awards. Participants advanced through a system of qualifying tournaments. The practice day for the Junior World Championship, in which the young anglers are paired with a pro to scout the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, is Saturday, Feb. 18th. The Family Fest and tournament competition day will be the following day.
For the first time in 16 years, Bassmaster Family Fest is being held in conjunction with the Junior Bassmaster World Championship. Family Fest is scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Venetian Gardens in Leesburg. Participants receive a Zebco rod and reel, a Federation Nation-sponsored Youth membership as well as a T-shirt and cap, and giveaways from CITGO Bassmaster Classic sponsors.
Other activities include a Bassmaster CastingKids exhibition, a sponsor area, interactive displays, other entertainment and concessions. BASS will accept on-site registration based on availability. The cost is $10 each, is limited to the first 1,000 entrants and adult supervision is provided.
Some of the sport's future stars could be on display during the finals of the Bassmaster CastingKids program on Saturday, Feb. 25th in the Orange County Convention Center. Two of the 12 finalists in two age groups will be named CastingKids champions. Plus, there will be plenty of family-oriented activities at the Classic ESPN Outdoors Expo presented by Under Armour, including autograph sessions with the pros.
Local sponsors of both the Bassmaster Junior World Championship and Bassmaster Family Fest are the City of Leesburg, Lake County Water Authority, Lake County Economic Developmental Tourism Department, Central Florida Sports Commission and Hardees® Restaurants.
Sponsors of the Junior Bassmaster and CastingKids programs include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide and Advanced Auto Parts. Plano sponsors Junior Bassmaster program and Captain D's sponsors the CastingKids program as well.
The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will be hosted by the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Central Florida Sports Commission.