Inside BASS: BUSCH $1 MILLION BONUS HAS ROJAS FIRED UP

Last week's announcement of the new Busch Shootout program for 2004 has created a buzz among the competitors on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer. That is understandable - after all, it includes the first chance that professional anglers have had to fish for a cool $1 million.

If any angler is fortunate enough to break the BASS single-day record of 45 pounds, 2 ounces during the upcoming Bassmaster Tour and Elite 50 events, Busch will pay them a million bucks.

Among the most enthused is Dean Rojas, the current record holder.

"Something like this can only build excitement throughout the Tour," he said.  "What's nice about it is, it's building excitement around me and the record."

Rojas destroyed the existing five-bass record during a memorable tournament on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga in January of 2001 on his way to a record four-day winning catch of 108 pounds, 12 ounces.

"It was such a great year that it's good for me to hear something positive again," Rojas told the San Diego Union Tribune recently. "It's like when guys win the Bassmaster Classic, they say that about them as part of their history.

"I'd like to add the Classic championship to my name, too, but for right now the record is still a big part of what I've done out here on the Tour."

EX-CLASSIC QUALIFIER DIES. Two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jimmy Rogers died Friday at a Tampa hospital where he was being treated for heart vessel disease. He was 63.

Rogers, a 20-year host of a Florida fishing show, was granted a new lease on life in 1990 when he received a heart transplant after nearly dying from congestive heart failure. He rebounded and lived a full life until his heart was weakened by attacks in May and July.

Rogers, who was recently inducted into the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame, is survived by Rachel, his wife of 41 years, as well as a daughter and granddaughter.

BASS SUPPORTS BILL.  BASS is urging its members and others to support a bill now before the Wisconsin General Assembly's Committee on Tourism that would bring more tournaments and tourism dollars to the state.

Assembly Bill 569 would change state fisheries laws to allow culling. Existing regulations require that anglers stop fishing after catching their limit. The inability to cull has made the state unattractive to tournament organizations.

"BASS supports the proposed 2003 bill to create 29.425 of the Wisconsin Statute and believes the bill represents a change to progressive sportfish management," BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel wrote to Wisconsin BASS Federation president Mike Hoffman. "On behalf of the 10,767 Wisconsin BASS members, we want to thank you for your efforts towards modernizing Wisconsin's bass fishing regulations."

A BASS Conservation Department analysis determined the following facts about the existing no-culling regulation:

1. No-culling regulations prevent fish from being released or, if released, count against a daily bag limit.

2. Such regulations are useful for fragile species like trout and walleye, but have little or no value for bass held in modern livewells.

3. No scientific data exists that concludes culling has negative impacts on bass populations.

4. These regulations discourage tournament fishing by not allowing anglers to cull for larger fish.

5. The Wisconsin BASS Federation has been instrumental in the development of this legislation to exempt permitted bass tournaments from the no-culling/no-sorting regulations.

6. The resulting legislation will facilitate an increase in tournament activity and a resulting boost to local economies.

In order to pass the bill, anglers and anyone in support of the legislation should attend the public hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28 at the Capitol Building, Madison, Wis.  Or, they can write to Rep. Mark Pettis, Tourism Committee Chairman at rep.pettis@legis.state.wi.us.

LABOR OF LOVE. Despite his challenging schedule, Arizona pro John Murray continues to teach a fishing course at Glendale Community College. He has been doing it twice a year for the last 18 years.

"It's basically an introductory basic bass fishing class about Arizona," he said. "So many people move to Arizona from other parts of the country, and the lakes in Arizona don't look like anywhere else in the country. So I do a basic Arizona course two times a year.

"At one point we were the largest non-credit class in the college. We were huge. It's a couple of nights once a semester, so I do it every semester. It's sort of one of those things where I say I'm not going to do it anymore, but I always end up doing it. Once you get into the class and start talking fishing to these guys and see how excited they are about bass fishing, it gets you motivated to get back out there.

"It's not a moneymaker. It's fun and I've done it for so long. I used to go to college there, and my mom taught there."

DID YOU KNOW? Only one father and son have ever won the Classic crown: Guido (1988) and Dion (1997) Hibdon.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. California's Mike Tyler will be 31 on Nov. 1. Missouri pro Tim Sainato turns 43 on Nov. 10. North Carolina's Guy Eaker, who becomes 63 on Nov. 23, keeps getting better with age. Missouri's Randy Blaukat turns 41 a day later.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO... J.T. Kenney, winner of last week's Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee, says he would likely still be guiding on Maryland lakes and rivers.

THEY SAID IT. "I missed the Classic the last two or three years, and I would really love to get back there. That's always the goal of every angler, obviously. My style of fishing isn't very conservative, so it would be wonderful to qualify on the Opens so that I could just run around doing stupid stuff all year long in the Tour events and hopefully hit a home run now and then." Former Classic champion Denny Brauer is leading the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open standings (after first- and sixth-place finishes) entering the final event on Alabama's Lake Eufaula.