Elite moves north for stop #2

CELEBRATION, Fla. — The nation's top tournament circuit and one of the country's most storied bass fisheries will come together March 16-19 for the "Lone Star Shootout, " when the second stop of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series visits Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper, Texas.

 BASS and Sam Rayburn has long been a perfect match. BASS has visited the east Texas reservoir more than 30 times since 1968 — the most of any lake in the country.

 "It looks like we'll be there at a great time," veteran Texas Elite pro Alton Jones said.

 Anglers are expecting a smashing debut on Lake Amistad on March 9-12. Following that, America's best bass anglers and their co-angler partners invade Rayburn in search of their piece of the $788,550 total payout. At stake is a $100,000 top prize and points that qualify anglers for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

 Anglers say few bass waters wear its age as elegantly as Sam Rayburn, a 114,500-acre impoundment. By damming the Angelina River in 1965, the Army Corp of Engineers created the reservoir, a massive flood control project that encompasses five counties. Fed by the Attoyac River and Attish Bayou, Rayburn is 45 miles long from north to south and has more than 560 miles of shoreline.

 And the timing could hardly be better for the Elite Series tournament. Those in the know expect Big Sam to show off during the four-day event.

 "No matter what the weather does, there's going to be a good bite there," Jones said. "The fish will be so far along in the spawn or pre-spawn process that it doesn't matter if it snows or what it does — the bass are going to be shallow and ready."

 Like most of the lakes in east Texas, Rayburn suffered from a lack of rainfall in recent months and was considerably lower than normal. But that is changing — just in time for the Elite pros to take advantage of a habitat dynamic — the slowly rising water — that usually ignites a feeding frenzy. "It's low, but it's coming up," Jones said. "That's good news."

 The most recent BASS tournament held on the lake was a CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour event last week. Eric Netherly of Georgia won with a three-day catch of 67 pounds, 14 ounces.

 The Elite Series is a lucrative, top-tier circuit featuring 106 accomplished anglers who have earned the opportunity to compete in 11 high-profile events and possibly qualify for three Bassmaster Majors, which each offer a first-place prize of $250,000.

 Daily weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. at Umphrey Family Pavilion adjacent to the launch ramp on Hwy. 255 in Lake Sam Rayburn. Coverage of the event will air on The CITGO Bassmasters on ESPN2 on Saturday, March 25 at 10 a.m. ET.

 Local sponsors include the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce.

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

 Competing Elite pros, as listed in the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index