HEALTH PROBLEMS FORCE GRIGSBY TO SKIP ELITE 50S

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Professional fishing will be missing one of its brightest stars and most popular anglers for the remainder of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, as Shaw Grigsby is forced to take a hiatus from competition to undergo heart bypass surgery.

The Florida pro, who turns 48 on Tuesday, will take time off as doctors correct a blockage that was discovered during routine diagnostic tests a few days ago in his hometown of Gainesville. The procedure, which will be performed later this week, is not considered life threatening and a full recovery is expected.

"I'm disappointed to miss the rest of the season," said Grigsby, who has no history of cardiac problems. "The Bassmaster Elite 50s are so cool and I really feel like I'm on top of my game. I've had good finishes the last three tournaments and felt real good about the next three E-50s.

"Being a competitor, I didn't want to quit. As professional fishermen, we work through the pain and injuries, usually. But it's the right thing to do. I'll be able to fish the E-50s for years and years to come. Right now, I'm just concentrating on getting through this and back, ready to go in time for the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in eight weeks."

BASS announced today that Grigsby will be awarded a guaranteed last place check of $20, 000 for his Bassmaster Elite 50 participation and that series will continue with one fewer angler.

"We wish Shaw a successful operation and a speedy recovery," said BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel.  "It is our sincere hope that the prize money he has earned by qualifying for the series will help his family through this difficult time."

A member of the BASS Millionaires Club, the eight-time BASS tournament winner was stunned when he learned that he had blockages that will require a triple-bypass operation. He had experienced no symptoms typical of cardiac problems despite a rigorous week that included spending two grueling days poling a flats boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's important to emphasize that Shaw has suffered no damage to his heart whatsoever," added Dr. George Benchimol, Grigsby's family physician and close friend. "There is no reason that he shouldn't recover quickly and completely. It won't be long before he is competing as hard as ever."

Grigsby emphasized that he feels blessed and appreciative of the support and well wishes he and his family have received in recent days.

"This is all God's great timing," he said. "He set into place a chain of events that began at the last Tour event at Santee-Cooper and eventually led to an echo cardiogram that we all expected to be normal.

"When I think of the sequence of things that led to this being discovered, I'm amazed because I had no symptoms of anything. To me, it just shows how much God is in your life. I definitely know that Jesus had a hand in this."

The Bassmaster family and fishing fans everywhere wish him the best and eagerly await his return to action this summer.

A PINCH OF SALT. Triton Boats pros Stephen Browning and Jeff Coble proved they are equally adept at fishing both fresh and saltwater last week by winning the Redfish Cup tournament on Galveston Bay in Texas. It was the first redfish tournament ever fished by the former CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifiers.

"It was a lot of fun," said Coble, who was a last-minute substitute for CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle, Browning's original partner.

Browning and Coble won the event with a two-redfish limit totaling 17.35 pounds. They did it with bass tackle and crankbaits - although Coble quickly learned that he needed to beef up his hooks and switch to braided line to combat the hard-charging game fish.

Coble emphasized that they enjoyed an advantage over most the field that used flats boats and were limited by rough water conditions that led to the cancellation of one competition day. The Bassmaster pair traveled in a Triton 240 LTS 24-foot bay boat that enabled them to make a 25-mile run to their most productive area each day.

After their unexpected immediate success, Coble will replace Swindle for the rest of the Redfish Cup season.  Fans can catch the victory on ESPN2, Aug. 14 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT.

KENTUCKY COUP. It was a big moment for Kevin Wirth and the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail when the former Kentucky Derby jockey was featured as a guest on ESPN's Breakfast at the Kentucky Derby special that ran throughout the morning of the 103rd Derby. Wirth, a five-time Classic qualifier who rode in the 1981 Derby, was interviewed about his Derby experience as well as his career as a Tour pro.

Wirth handled the interview with ease as interviewers played video of both his Derby appearance as an 18-year-old jockey and scenes from the CITGO Bassmaster Tour.

DID YOU KNOW? That Bassmaster Magazine is the world's largest fishing magazine in terms of circulation and readership?

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Eight-time BASS winner Shaw Grigsby celebrates his 48th birthday on May 11, while Tim Loper of Mississippi becomes 45 two days later. Michigan pro Gerry Gostenik will blow out 45 candles on May 16. Former Classic champion Davy Hite will be 39 two days later. Another former Classic winner, Paul Elias (53), California's Robert Lee (36) and Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet (35) all share May 19 as their birthday.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... Alabama pro Boyd Duckett, who won a CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Busch Beer, would be able to concentrate full time on his business leasing tank trailers pulled by 18-wheelers.

THEY SAID IT. "I would want people in the fishing world to know how much I appreciate the older pros because when I was 12 and 13 years old, they made it so exciting for me. That's what gave me the drive and ambition to go out and do this. I would want those guys to know how much respect I have for them and how they still kick our butts all the time out here, too." Former CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Tim Horton pays his respect to the pros that blazed the trail before him.