ANGLERS ON THE CUSP WORRIED ABOUT MAKING THE BASSMASTER ELITE 50

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - As the first event of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series on Lake Dardenelle in Russellville, Ark., draws near, pro BASS angler Roger Boler is getting a little less sleep at night.

If the series started today, Boler, a Louisiana angler who zoomed into national spotlight during the 2003 season of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer, would squeak in just under the wire.  The criteria for a berth in the 50-angler field requires anglers to either be the in the top 20 on the BASS All-time Money List, or be in the top 27 based on CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year point totals from the past three Tour seasons, with the remaining three spots going to the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and the 2004 BASS Rookie of the Year.

Boler, who's 27th on the points list with 1,311 cumulative points, is only three points ahead of Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet, who has amassed 1,308.  For Boler, the situation is less than comfortable, particularly since the 10 anglers hot on his heels are all within 64 points of his slim lead.

"I think there is less than 100 points separating me from the 10th place guy on the bubble," Boler said. "And with the new points system now, things could change in a hurry.  I just have to put some fish in the boat.  I was 14th going into the season, and now it's just a matter of putting the fish together.  I feel good about the lakes we're going to from here on out.  I think Smith Lake was hard on everyone, though. 

"I'm just going to do the best I can and fish my hardest," Boler added.  "It won't affect me that much.  I don't let things like that bother me.  I really hope I do get in, though.  It's a real special, unique program BASS is introducing." 

Oklahoma's Ken Cook, a contender for the one of the money list slots, is currently on the outside looking in and longs to become the next angler to qualify.  With $640,067.20, he currently sits 21st on the list, with a little over $30,000 separating him from the 20th-place money winner, Peter Thliveros, whose current winnings total $671,654.

"I've gotten myself in a little hole," Cook said.  "I think if I can win an event, I could get in, though.  I've just got to get myself turned around.  I'm pretty disappointed with the way I finished these first two events, but it all comes down to getting the fish in the boat.

"I'm not giving up, I can promise you that," added the 1991 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion.  "It's tough, once you're out of it, but I think with a couple of good tournaments, I could be back in it."

The Elite 50 qualifiers from the points and the money will continue to shift as the Tour heads to Alabama's Lake Guntersville, Feb. 26-29, for the third event of six on the 2004 Tour schedule. 

Only four events remain until the opening tournament of the Elite 50 series, taking place on Lake Dardenelle in Russellville, Ark., April 14-17.


TOP 20 ALL TIME MONEY
1 Denny Brauer $1,715,664.21
2 Rick Clunn $1,532,419.53
3 Larry Nixon $1,527,133.58
4 Jay Yelas $1,248,432.00
5 Shaw E Grigsby $1,210,555.23
6 Kevin VanDam $1,175,683.33
7 Gary Klein $1,159,568.97
8 Ron Shuffield $969,996.00
9 Roland Martin $967,142.16
10 George Cochran $864,501.45
11 Davy Hite $842,800.00
12 Mark Davis $842,771.30
13 David Fritts $824,805.00
14 Zell Rowlan $768,190.90
15 Tom Biffle $740,978.80
16 Jim Bitter $727,018.60
17 David Wharton $705,030.80
18 Randy Blaukat $678,792.70
19 Alton Jones $671,916.67
20 Peter E Thliveros $671,654.00
TOP 10 ON BUBBLE FOR MONEY
1 Ken Cook $640,067.20
2 Woo Daves $538,210.80
3 Stacey D King $510,676.00
4 Paul L Elias $462,114.73
5 Takahiro Omori $439,625.00
6 Dean Rojas $439,248.31
7 Guy H Eaker $404,647.40
8 Harold Allen $380,468.69
9 Joe Thomas $365,048.47
10 Aaron Martens $361,022.33

TOP 27 2002, 2003, 2004 POINTS
1 Bud Pruitt 1811
2 Edwin Evers 1785
3 Kelly Jordon 1781
4 Brent Chapman 1749
5 Tim Horton 1725
6 Dustin Wilks 1684
7 John Murray 1660
8 Mike Wurm 1601
9 Skeet Reese 1570
10 Kevin Wirth 1550
11 Bernie Schultz 1524
12 Ishama Monroe 1506
12 Elton Luce Jr 1506
14 Brian Snowden 1477
15 O T Fears III 1469
16 Randy Howell 1458
17 Todd Faircloth 1457
18 Gerald Swindle 1455
19 Tommy Martin 1430
20 Kotaro Kiriyama 1426
21 Todd Auten 1421
22 Mike Auten 1370
23 Kenyon Hill 1365
24 Tom Mann, Jr 1347
25 Scott Rook 1328
26 Ben Matsubu 1327
27 Roger Boler 1311
TOP 10 ON BUBBLE FOR POINTS
1 Jeff Kriet 1308
2 Dean Rojas 1301
3 Marty Stone 1299
4 Gary Yamamoto 1290
5 Jack L Wade 1276
6 Takahiro Omori 1274
7 Mark Menendez 1266
8 Jack A Gadlage 1265
9 Chad Brauer 1255
10 Guy H Eaker 1247

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation.  This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.