Elite Series attracts Western pros

The new 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series has attracted an all-star lineup of bass fishing professionals, and four successful anglers from the West are among the latest to announce their commitment to the Series.

CELEBRATION, Fla. — The new 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series has attracted an all-star lineup of bass fishing professionals, and four successful anglers from the West are among the latest to announce their commitment to the Series.

California anglers Ishama Monroe and Mike O'Shea, along with Arizona's John Murray and Mark Tyler, are some of the Western anglers competing in the 11-event Elite Series, beginning on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, March 9-12. The Series launches shortly after the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., the opening event of the year for BASS. Monroe will fish in the Classic.

The 100-angler-field Elite Series is just what its name entails: Elite. Combining the Elite Series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Majors, along with contingency programs, anglers will compete for $11 million in 2006.

"Basically, BASS is raising the bar in fishing," said O'Shea, of Westlake Village, Calif. "The days of just anyone hooking up a bass boat and going to the big tournaments are over. You have to be somebody."

The four veteran anglers have all enjoyed success in professional bass fishing. For example:

• Tyler holds the record for the heaviest bass caught in BASS tournament history, a 14-pound, 9-ounce largemouth boated in 1999 on the California Delta.

• Murray won an Open Championship event in 2004 on Louisiana's Toledo Bend and has qualified for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic three times.

• O'Shea finished second in the 1999 California Invitational.

• Monroe has qualified for two editions of the Classic and has finished in the money 42 times in 87 BASS tournaments.

And the common thread among these top anglers for fishing the Elite Series? The largest prize purse ever offered in BASS history.

"The money plays a big part," said Monroe, of Hughson, Calif. "There are a lot of opportunities to make some good money. You win a couple of these tournaments and suddenly you could be up $500,000 really quick, and I don't know many anglers that a half-million dollars wouldn't change their lives."

Murray agreed. "Anytime you have that kind of payout in bass fishing, a payback like that is just something you've got to get into."

The anglers also were enthusiastic about the Elite Series schedule, which crisscrosses the nation and stops at some of the hottest bass fishing locations.

"I was really happy to see BASS finally commit to going to exceptional fisheries at the right time," said Tyler. "I think it's important to the fans and the excitement to have them seeing us catch big fish."

Tyler, who will travel to Elite Series events from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., was enticed by another innovative aspect of the Series. "The biggest appeal was the decrease in field size," he said. "Hopefully it will allow ESPN to put more focus on individual anglers and increase the exposure. I think that was a great move."

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla. 

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