Anglers vie for final Memorial spots

CELEBRATION, Fla. — The countdown is on! Anglers and fans are getting revved up for the first Bassmaster Major on the tournament trail, the Bassmaster Memorial in Fort Worth, Tx., May 18-21. With a $250,000 top prize on the line and same-day television coverage on ESPN2, this weekend's CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Pride of Augusta presented by Lowrance, May 4-7, will be a turning point for many anglers on the bubble.

 Following in the wake of five tremendous Elite Series events, the excitement and pomp of this one-of-a-kind tournament is fresh in anglers' minds and there are 250,000 reasons why.

 "I am excited and scared at the same time," Texan Brooks Rogers said of his position on the Majors qualifying bubble for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year combined standings. "This is just an awesome series of tournaments from a number of perspectives and the top prize is certainly attractive."

 Leading into the first Bassmaster Major (Bassmaster Memorial; Fort Worth, Texas; May 18-21), the fifth CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series event of the year — The Pride of Augusta presented by Lowrance at Clarks Hill Lake in Columbia County, Ga.— takes on added significance for anglers on the bubble.

 The allure of the three Majors is not strictly limited to the huge payout possibility, a $250,000 grand prize in addition to checks to the top 25 finishers. For the first time at a regular-season BASS event, the tournament will receive same-day coverage on ESPN2 Sunday, May 21 at 7 p.m. ET.

 "Qualifying for the Majors is very, very important to me," said Alabama's Randy Howell, who won the first Elite 50 event in BASS history, a precursor to the Majors. "That Elite 50 win had a huge impact on my career and winning a Major now would boost my career to a new level."

 Those qualifying for the 2006 Majors include the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and the 2005 Toyota Rookie of the Year. Additionally, the angler leading the 2006 Toyota Rookie Race will compete as well.

 Also, the top 10 anglers on the all-time BASS money list and the top 40 on the combined Angler of the Year standings from 2004, 2005 and 2006 will qualify. All anglers who qualified based on previous announcements also are invited to fish in the specialty events.

 So far, Kevin VanDam, by way of his 2005 Classic victory, Aaron Martens, reigning Angler of the Year, and Dave Wolak, 2005 Toyota Rookie of the Year, have secured spots at the Bassmaster Memorial. The rest, including bubble boys Howell and Rogers, will have to sweat it out at Clarks Hill.

 "These are like mini-Classics," Howell said. "I have to do well at Clarks Hill to make absolutely certain I qualify."

 Daily tournament weigh-ins begin at 3:30 p.m. CT, May 18-21. The final day's weigh-in will include same-day coverage on ESPN2, May 21 at 7 p.m. ET.

 Local sponsors include the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information visit

 Sponsors of the Bassmaster Majors include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed.