ALBA, Tex. - Make room, Toledo Bend.  Make room, Okeechobee.  This year Lake Fork joined this elite list and just may have established itself as a center of bass fishing
That's because four of this year's contenders in the Bass Masters Classic world championship Aug. 2-4 in the Louisiana Delta call the 27,000 acre Texas impoundment their home lake: Kelly Jordon, Takahiro Omori, Dean Rojas, and Gary Yamamoto.  Rojas, who set one-day and four-day tournament weight catches in winning the Florida BASSMASTER Top 150 earlier this year, recently moved to Lake Fork from Arizona, after looking at property all over the Lone Star State.
Three other Lake Fork anglers have also qualified for past Classics, including Mark Pack, Richard McCarty, and Stan Gerzsenyi.
"The decision to come here wasn't really that hard," laughs Rojas, who previously lived on Lake Havasu.  "Lake Fork today is one of the best all-around bass fisheries in the nation.  Because it has such a high fish population, it's a great training ground for practicing different techniques  I may use in competition on other lakes."
Over the past two decades, both Toledo Bend, located on the Texas/Louisiana border, as well as south Florida's famous Lake Okeechobee, have also been described as being the center of the bass fishing universe.
"All three lakes have one thing in common, which is that every single day you can fish several different techniques and catch bass," says long-time Okeechobee resident and former guide Roland Martin. Martin qualified for this year's Classic, his 23rd appearance in fishing's biggest event, as the top angler in the Eastern Division.  "When you can do that, it builds your confidence and your experience level much faster."
Toledo Bend was probably the first lake to claim the unofficial title.  In 1980, no less than seven Bass Masters Classic contenders either guided on the lake or fished it regularly.  Three of them, Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon, and Rick Clunn, have six Classic championships between them, and this year Clunn will compete in his 28th consecutive world championship.
"At that time, there wasn't another lake like Toledo Bend anywhere in the country," remembers Nixon.  "There were so many bass in the lake that you went out every single day knowing you were going to catch them, no matter what technique you used.  Those types of conditions allow you to experiment and learn things about bass that other anglers may not be exposed to.
"My years guiding on Toledo definitely shaped my entire fishing career."
Jordon has lived near Lake Fork the past five years but fishing the reservoir for more than a decade.  He has a degree in pre-med  biology and had planned to be a doctor, but the quality of fishing at Fork pulled him out of the classroom.  He started guiding, then turned pro, and this year won the Alabama Top 150 on Lake Wheeler.
Yamamoto, like Rojas, moved to Lake Fork from Arizona (Lake Powell), where his lure company is still located.   He viewed Fork as perhaps the premier testing ground for his lures.  At least six other lure manufacturing companies have also set up shop near the lake for the very same reasons.
"There are a lot of excellent fishermen on the water here every day making their living as guides," Yamamoto says.  "Many of them are using my lures, and that brings in a huge amount of information about how the lures are performing and what changes I may need to incorporate."
 Interestingly, Yamamoto will be competing in this year's Classic against one of his prime testers, Takahiro Omori, who has lived on Lake Fork since 1996.  This season Omori won the Texas BASSMASTER Invitational on Sam Rayburn, after finishing second the week before in the Louisiana BASSMASTER Top 150 on Toledo Bend.
"In 1992 when I fished my first B.A.S.S. tournament I had heard stories of Lake Fork's big bass, so I went fishing on Lake Fork and I caught my biggest bass up to that time, 8 lbs., 10 oz.," says Omori.  "Every year for the next four years, whenever I came to the United States to fish tournaments, I spent at least a week at Lake Fork before returning to Japan.  To me, it's the best lake in the world."
Jordon and Rojas regularly use lures produced by Lake Fork manufacturer Mark Pack, who is a Top 150 contender and who himself competed in the 2000 Bass Masters Classic in Chicago. 
"It's great to have local pros testing my lures," Pack notes, "because not only can we test together on the tournament lakes, we can all relate to the very same conditions and locations right here on Fork.  Communication between anglers and the manufacturer is critical, and here it's the easiest it could ever be."

The 45 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.

Classic  XXXI is a week-long celebration for those who love the sport of
bass fishing. Notable activities during the 2001 Classic Week in New Orleans include the Kids Klassic which takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 1st at Lafreniere Park. The event is highlighted by a Meet the Pros autograph
session from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the contest taking place from 9
a.m. to noon.

The Morial Convention Center will host the popular Classic Outdoor Show,
which showcases new products in the fishing and outdoor industry.  The show will be open to the public from Thursday through Saturday. In addition to the Classic Outdoor Show the Morial Convention Center will also host the first two days' weigh-ins. There is no admission charge.

The annual BASSMASTER CastingKids national finals, sponsored by Chevy Trucks, will also be held at the Morial Convention Center on Friday.

The final day weigh-in and the award-winning BASS Masters Classic weigh-in show will take place at the Louisiana Superdome on Saturday, Aug. 4th. The show will be complete with a laser light show and will feature the crowning of the new BASS Masters Classic Champion.

The 31st BASS Masters Classic will air on Saturday, Aug. 18th, at 9:00 p.m.
(Eastern) on ESPN2.

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 Outwear, 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.   

For more information contact:
B.A.S.S. Communications
(334) 272-9530