CELEBRATION, Fla. — BASS is ending its 11-event, inaugural CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series season on Missouri's Table Rock Lake on Sept. 14-17. And once the four-day tournament — called The Rock presented by TheraSeed — is over, one angler will be $100,000 richer and 37 will receive invitations to the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
The culmination of the tournament also means there will be a new CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Toyota Rookie of the Year, another Toyota Horizon award winner and a finalized list of anglers invited to the BUSCH Shootout.
But first, 102 anglers must attempt to master Table Rock in September.
"Being on Table Rock in September, I would not make any bets about catching a fish there," said Denny Brauer, the legendary pro from Camdenton, Mo. "It really has the possibility of breaking some hearts or making some heroes. It's going to be interesting."
The 48-year-old impoundment is home to quality populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The picturesque lake sprawls through the valleys and hollows of the Ozark Mountains (mostly in Missouri). One of four White River lakes located between lakes Beaver and Taneycomo, a sizable portion of Table Rock's nearly 800 miles of shoreline lies in Mark Twain National Forest.
Brauer explained what challenges anglers may face there next week.
"…Many of the fish are so down deep and suspended in those treetops," he said. "A lot of them are 35- to 40-feet deep, which makes them very hard to locate. Most anglers, including myself, are a lot more comfortable shallow. So we're kind of thrown out of our element a little bit.
"And with the hot-water temperatures and the clear water it's probably mainly a night bite going on. And the lake is low. As a result, there will be a few guys that I'm sure will shine, but I think the majority of the field will have their work cut out for them."
Elite Series pro Brian Snowden, a guide on the lake, agreed. "There will be some guys that make the top-12 fishing shallow with crankbaits, Carolina rigs and topwaters early. But I think the most consistent guys will be the deep-structure fishermen with a drop shot or spoon."
The Table Rock event is shaping up to be one of the most pivotal regular-season tournaments in BASS history.
It will send 37 pros to the coveted 2007 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 23-25 on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala.
Most notable is the Angler of the Year battle, which is a duel between former Classic champion Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey and Elite rookie Steve Kennedy of Alabama. Iaconelli, who has led most of the season, has a 45-point head start over Kennedy, who appears to have clinched the Rookie of the Year title. Three veteran anglers round out the top five in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings: Dean Rojas, who also is leading the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index; Kevin VanDam, in second place on the Index; and reigning Angler of the Year Aaron Martens.
Brauer is leading the Horizon Award race, which rewards the angler that makes the most improvement from the previous year. Steve Daniel of Florida and Alton Jones of Texas are his closest pursuers.
Also, on Saturday the tournament excitement is doubled as the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats shares the stage for its weigh-in of its final event of the season. The top-six female pros and co-anglers after the first two competition days on nearby Bull Shoals Reservoir will cross the Elite stage to weigh-in their final-round catches. BASS also will name the first-ever Toyota Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year.
Daily launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public at What's Up Dock Marina, 49 Lake Road, in Kimberling. Anglers launch at 6:45 a.m. CT and weigh in at 2:45 p.m. CT.
Fishing fans can catch the action from The Rock on the CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.