31ST BASS MASTERS CLASSIC BEGINS IN THE BIG EASY

45 Top Pros Invade Louisiana Delta Searching for Fortune and Fame

NEW ORLEANS, La.--August 1, 2001- As the 31st prestigious BASS Masters Classic unfolds beginning Thursday, the biggest topic of discussion among the contenders has centered around how challenging the fishing is expected to be.

During the official scouting period in June, the 45 Classic pros found the Louisiana Delta marshlands to be stingy when it came to surrendering bass. That has been attributed to a combination of drought conditions (which allowed the spread of saltwater intrusion) followed by floodlike water levels.

Although the water level was about 2 feet lower for Tuesday's lone Classic official-practice day, there was still plenty of gloom-and-doom predictions about the difficult fishing conditions.

But such discussions are part facade, part strategic posturing, according to legendary pro Roland Martin, who competed in the first Classic in 1971 and is making his 23rd run at the coveted crown.

"Everybody in this room probably shook off fish today," Martin said at the daily press conference. "The conditions are tremendously better in much of the waterway than they were, and I'm getting far more strikes than I did four weeks ago.

"The fishing is better than what everybody is saying. Everybody was just testing the water today and not trying to actually catch fish. But somebody is going to catch some 15-pound stringers in this tournament. I just hope I'm one of them. I'm on some fish, and I really feel good about it."

Martin admitted catching a quality, 5-pound-plus bass Tuesday.

Another pro who voiced optimism was Texan Alton Jones, who revealed that he had enjoyed a strong practice session in late June and managed to relocate the same schools of bass Tuesday. "I think the fishing will be better than what everybody is claiming," said Jones, who qualified for his sixth consecutive Classic appearance. "I think people will be surprised by what is caught."

The Classic was held on these same waters in 1999. South Carolina pro Davy Hite won that event with 15 bass weighing 55 pounds, 10 ounces.

The Classic contenders will be searching for the largest five bass possible each day. Legal-sized bass are 12 inches and longer.

In other Classic news on Wednesday, ESPN and B.A.S.S. announced that the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail will have a title sponsor for the first time in its lengthy history. CITGO Petroleum Corp. will be the title sponsor of the 2001-02 BASSMASTER Tour and BASSMASTER Open circuits, as well as the 2002 Classic.

The Classic contenders will be fishing for a $100,000 top prize and the most important title in the sport. Winning the Classic is the high-water mark in professional fishing and an accomplishment that has rewarded past winners with as much as $1 million in residual earnings. The Classic is the championship event of the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail.

By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the world's largest fishing organization. The BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism, and sportsmanship after more than three decades. B.A.S.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN.

Sponsors of the 2001 BASS Masters Classic include: Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Pennzoil Marine, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Stowaway Batteries, Kumho Tires, Long John Silvers, Gore-Tex Outerwear, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC Vehicle & Boat Insurance, B.A.S.S. Platinum First USA Visa Card.

Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Boats, G3 Boats

The 2001 BASS Masters Classic is presented locally in conjunction with: State of Louisiana, Jefferson Parish Tourism and Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

Story Courtesy of B.A.S.S., Inc.