CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For five talented bass pros, the 34th CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer is shaping up to be an unusually special event.
The Classic, which will be held in Charlotte July 30-Aug. 1, is the sport's only true world championship and the high-water mark that all Bassmaster pros strive to reach each year. But this one holds a special allure for the five anglers who will be representing the Carolinas on state waters.Lake Wylie straddles both North and South Carolina.
Marty Stone, 38, Linden, N.C., is a two-time BASS winner and two-time Classic qualifier.
All are excited about competing in a Classic on Lake Wylie, which BASS has only visited once, in 1982.
"I am very excited to have the Classic so close to home," said Hite, winner of the 2004 Bassmaster Horizon Award. "Charlotte is an awesome city and Lake Wylie is a great lake. I'm sure there will be lots of fish caught."
Quinn, a heavy pre-Classic favorite thanks to his guiding experience on Lake Wylie, earned one of the last Classic invitations after a number of anglers double qualified from the Tour and Elite 50 circuits. He only found out a few days ago that he would be getting his biggest wish.
"I was really watching the standings (of the final Elite 50 event) every day," Quinn admitted. "I think I had it calculated before BASS did. I'm thrilled to be going back. I was really sweating it out. I was on pins and needles since the last Tour event (in March). It was on my mind all the time, every day.
"So, I'm real excited about how things worked out. I've always wanted to fish a big tournament on this lake and now I'll have the chance."
Wilks will be one of the youngest anglers in the Classic field. He fished just well enough in the four Elite 50 tournaments to claim the 10th and final Classic spot from the four-event series.
"I was sweating it more and more as it got down to the last day," he said. "Then I couldn't sleep the first two nights after I knew I had made it, I was so excited.
"Being in Charlotte, it's going to be special. A lot more people know me in North Carolina so I'd rather be fishing in it than working in it for my sponsors, and hearing from all of my buddies, 'How come you didn't make it?'"
Wilks expects Lake Wylie to provide a classic setting for the world championship event.
"I fished the lake two days when it was announced last summer," he said.
"I just went out on my own and messed around. I caught some fish. It's going to be a good tournament, I believe. There are fish on that lake that will suit anybody's style, so it can possibly be won doing anything."
ESPN and ESPN2 are dedicating 11 hours of coverage to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer from Friday, July 30 to Sunday, Aug. 1 including a breakfast show, live updates from Lake Wylie, the Classic ESPN Outdoors Show and the Charlotte Coliseum, and live daily coverage of the weigh-ins.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, Visit Charlotte, the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill Sports and Tourism Council and Time Warner Cable.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media credentials for the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer are available online at www.espnoutdoorsmedia.com.