Crews, Rojas, Clark make huge jumps

CELEBRATION, Fla. — With strong and consistent performances in the first half of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series season, three anglers have made huge jumps in the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, a system that ranks an angler by his average weight caught during his last 12 qualifying tournaments in the last two years.

And you'd better believe the three anglers have noticed their upward movement in the standings.

The Power Index has been updated seven times since it was introduced before February's 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Several anglers have improved their standings, but none as dramatically as John Crews of Virginia, Dean Rojas of Arizona and Preston Clark of Florida. The Power Index is based on the total weight an Elite pro angler catches at Elite Series tournaments, the Bassmaster Majors and CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

"I'm watching it and keeping up with it," said Clark, who won the Santee Cooper Showdown presented by MotorGuide in record-setting fashion earlier this season and is now 13th on the Power Index, catching an average of 32-15 per tournament. "Everybody on the tour is so competitive that you want to lead any category you can."

Clark, who was not ranked prior to the start of the season because he had not fished in 12 qualifying tournaments. Clark's meteoric rise was aided greatly by his record-setting Elite Series victory at Santee Cooper in South Carolina when he hauled in 115-15, the heaviest BASS four-day tournament catch. He also finished sixth in the Bassmaster Classic in February.

Crews also has improved his position in the Power Index, going from 45th in the pre-season ranking to fifth place, with an average catch of 37-10 per tournament and an index score of 81.90 percent. While he has yet to win a BASS event, Crews has been amazingly consistent so far this year, with three top 10 finishes in Elite Series action and no finish lower than 33rd.

"I pay attention to it," said Crews. " ... The Power Index is a pretty neat way to track how people have been fishing over a longer period of time. A little bit of everybody — family, friends, fans, a few of the other fishermen, we all talk about it some. The PI definitely rewards consistent high finishes, not just finishing in the money but finishing in or around the top 10, and that's absolutely what I want to do."

Rojas, meanwhile, has risen from 31st in the pre-season to fourth place, catching an average of 38-4 per tournament. Rojas is a two-time BASS tournament winner in his career and has scored two top 10 finishes this year, including the Lone Star Shootout presented by Triton Boats on Lake Sam Rayburn in Jasper, Texas.

"You see it, and people bring it up and want to talk about it," said Rojas. "It's good for your sponsors and for the diehard fans that follow each individual angler. It gives them that much more information about how they've been performing the past six months."

Greg Hackney of Louisiana leads the Power Index with an average catch of 45 pounds, 15 ounces per tournament and an index score of 100 percent. Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey is right behind with 44-9 per tournament and an index score of 97.01 percent. The next qualifying event is the Sooner Run at Oklahoma's Grand Lake, June 1-4.

Though BASS introduced the Power Index this year, the organization is continuing to celebrate the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of Year program, which qualifies anglers for the Elite Series and awards a $600,000 total prize purse in 2006, including a $125,000 top prize. Iaconelli currently leads that race.