Majors winners lives changed

CELEBRATION, Fla. — There are three BASS anglers who significantly increased both their bank accounts and career statuses after winning one of the Bassmaster Majors tournaments in 2006.

Floridian Peter Thliveros, Dave Wolak of Pennsylvania and Scott Rook of Arkansas each received $250,000 for winning one of three Majors — a new series of big money BASS tournaments with coverage on ESPN2.

Two of the three inaugural winners will soon move into new homes partially funded by their winnings, and the most recent is going to take some time to reflect on the victory before deciding what to do with the windfall.

Thliveros, from Jacksonville, Fla., and winner of the Bassmaster Memorial in Fort Worth, Texas, in May, was already building a new home and said he's applied the $250,000 to the bottom line. "We didn't earmark it for anything extravagant. I just gave my wife the check," the 46-year-old said. Thliveros joined BASS in 1977 and has won four other BASS tournaments.

Wolak, on the other hand, has accelerated plans for his family to move into its own home rather than continuing to rent.

"I think when I get in my new house, and I look at how much I would have had to work to make that mortgage payment, and how much of a down payment I'll have, that's reality sinking in," said the Warrior Run, Pa., angler, winner of July's Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts in Charlotte, N.C. The tournament marked the 29-year-old's first BASS victory.

"We were waiting it out, waiting for something like this to happen," said Wolak. "Now we can upgrade the style and size of the house that we wanted, and we can get it a little sooner than we thought."

Rook, who won the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear on the Arkansas River last week, also had never won a BASS event and wanted to enjoy the feeling of victory before deciding what to do with the money. "Winning $250,000 for a tournament is just unbelievable," he said. "But getting that first win in a BASS event meant so much to me that I can't describe it." Rook has been a BASS member for about 20 years.

All three said the Majors concept was a positive move for professional bass fishing.

"I think the tournaments have gone really well and have been well received," said Thliveros. "Getting to use our own rigs throughout the tournaments and showcase our sponsors has been a tremendous step forward for the anglers and fishing."

The title also kept the anglers' names and sponsors in the spotlight. "This will definitely help with both existing sponsors and new sponsors," said Rook.

Also, an indoor weigh-in and adjunct outdoors expo offered the opportunity to bring in new fans. "I think it's been great because we're getting huge crowds, we're in big cities, and that's what it's all about," said Wolak.