CELEBRATION, Fla. — Two more accomplished BASS pros this week joined the growing group of anglers who have accepted their invitations to fish the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, a fishing league that will elevate the sport to a new level. Both Peter Thliveros of Jacksonville, Fla., and and Ken Cook of Meers, Okla., are hoping to cash in on the nearly $11 million dollars awarded through the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Majors, CITGO Bassmaster Classic, CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies.
"The deadline came up and it was time to commit," said Thliveros, 45. "BASS is where I've made my living and built my reputation. If I fished, I needed to fish BASS and finish out my career with them."
The 10-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier — nicknamed "Peter T" — has built an impressive resume since his first BASS tournament on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., in 1982, earning 62 top-20 finishes and career winnings totaling nearly $900,000.
Meanwhile, Ken Cook, 58, has been equally as successful, fishing BASS since 1974 and competing in a whopping 255 BASS-sanctioned events including 14 Bassmaster Classics. Cook won the hotly contested 1991 Bassmaster Classic at Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Md., by less than 1 pound.
"BASS is the only place I feel you can make a career in this sport," he said. "With ESPN, you have greater visibility than anyone else. The only way for me to advance my career professionally is to fish BASS."
Both Thliveros and Cook are negotiating with potential sponsors on their boat and truck wraps, and both are confident the prestige associated with the Elite Series will help them secure title sponsors.
"I have several ideas and proposals in the works," said Cook, whose current sponsors include Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Lowrance Electronics, Pure Fishing, fishing lure company Rapala-Normark Group, Biosonix fish attractant, Tru-Tungsten and Flowmaster, Inc. "Where we're going and when … that's the best thing about the '06 schedule. We're going to have great catches each tournament and that's what creates excitement on TV and for the sponsors. It's going to be a slugfest and I didn't see how I could pass that up."
Additionally, Thliveros credits the Elite Series' smaller field size for creating more opportunities for potential sponsors. "The smaller field will make it much more positive for non-endemic sponsors to join."
Thliveros' current branding includes Mercury Marine, Ranger Boats, Minn Kota trolling motors, Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle Co., Solar Bat Enterprises Inc., Zoom Bait Co., Tru-Tungsten, Flowmaster, Inc., Stren fishing line, American Rod Smiths, tackle manufacturer Team Supreme Tackle, and Atlanta-based outdoor sports management company JDC Marketing Group.
Lately, both anglers are spending time with their families and relaxing before the start of the 2006 season. Thliveros will join Team CITGO angler and fellow Elite Series competitor Marty Stone at "Angling Against Cancer" on Nov. 12-13 at Lake Tohopekaliga, a charity tournament benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research and hosted by the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention and Visitor's Bureau. He also plans to fish the final CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Toho, Nov. 17-19.
Cook, meanwhile, keeps his angling skills sharp by fishing the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open events. He finished 12th in the points standings and will compete in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on the Alabama River in Alabama, Dec. 1-4. An avid hunter, Cook also is in the midst of transforming his Oklahoma farm into a trophy hunting ranch.
With just days left for other before the Nov. 1 Elite Series registration deadline, Cook offered advice to fellow pros who may be wavering: "They need to look at the big picture," said Cook. "You have to have sponsors that will pay enough money to support your way of life, and tournament winnings are considered a bonus. To attract sponsors, you need visibility and that's where BASS is successful. I want to continue to make it in this sport and this is the only place to be, long-term."