SUGGS LEADS CITGO BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR RACE

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - His friends will tell you that Scott Suggs attracts good news like a magnet, but even Suggs was surprised when his latest stroke of good fortune came in a double dose.  Following the second event on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer, Suggs learned that he leads not just the BASS Rookie of the Year race, but also the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year points list.

"It's been a wild ride," Suggs said.  "I feel like I have confidence going into tournaments now and I think my confidence is peaking.  I hope it keeps going."

While both awards measure the same thing - the number of points an angler accumulates over the course of a season, based on his finish in each tournament - there's a huge difference in magnitude.  To win the $10,000 Rookie of the Year prize, Suggs is competing against a field of 11 other Tour newcommers.  To become Angler of the Year, he has to out perform a field of 146 veteran anglers, all hungry for a share of the $311,500 prize purse.

Suggs has built a 26-point margin against the pack nipping at his heels, thanks largely in part to an 11th-place finish at the second Tour stop that gave him a 257-point boost.  Suggs, who zeroed on day one of the event and roared back with a 12-pound, 12-ounce catch on day two, is well aware that a guardian angelfish has been sitting on his shoulder.

"As tough as the fishing was on day one, (day two) was like a miracle," he said.  "It was like it was meant to be.  I like tournaments like that though, when they're tough.  It gives you the opportunity to be a one-day wonder."

Suggs often seems to find himself in the right place at the right time - both at work and in his personal life.  One example?  The courtship between Suggs and his wife, Kim. 

"That's a pretty funny story," Suggs said.  "I was going out with my wife's best friend. My wife was living with her at the time, but it seemed like whenever I would go visit, my wife and I would have more in common than the girl I was dating.  We would get to talking and finally I said, 'Wait a minute, here, maybe I'm with the wrong girl.'

"My wife was brought up in the outdoors with her grandfather like I was  ...  My buddies tell me that it's a dream come true.  I could never find a better soul mate than her."

The 37-year-old father of two has been an angler since he was old enough to get in the boat with his father, a tradition that he and his wife have passed on to his two daughters.

"I have an 11-month-old and a 7-year-old who have spent more hours on the water, for their age, than most people do in a lifetime," he said.  "We also have a cabin on a lake, and when I'm on the road, they go up there with their mother and are on the water."

When Suggs does travel, he is generally on the road with fellow BASS pro Pete Ponds.  The two have been friends for years and Ponds has seen Suggs in some rather interesting situations - a few of which belie his currently charmed existence.

"Scott's a jokester but he can be kind of clumsy at times," Ponds said.  "When we were at the Harris Chain, we were staying there in Florida and he was getting his boat ready for the event.  It was cold and rainy and he lifted the door up on the center compartment of his boat.  Well, as soon as he stuck his head inside, the door fell on the back of his head and scraped all the way down to the front. 

"Needless to say, he grabbed his head and said a couple of choice words.  Then he jumped up, grabbed onto that door and I thought he was going to bend the door off.  I saw it all happen and just went back in the room, fell on the bed and laughed my head off.

"He is a comical guy anyway and he never meets a stranger.  It really doesn't surprise me that he is in the position he is in right now, leading the Angler of the Year race.  He can look at the banks and the terrain of a lake and just know where the fish are in it.  I think he'll do well.  It'll surprise me if he doesn't win the Rookie of the Year and I wouldn't be too surprised if he got the Angler of the Year as well."

Suggs will be on the road again soon as BASS travels to Lake Guntersville for the third event of the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season presented by Busch Beer.  Guntersville, known for its grass beds, could be another good finish for Suggs, who is a fan of grass fishing. 

"I've never seen the lake," Suggs said, "but I'd never seen the Harris Chain or Smith either.  I hope it fishes like the lakes around here.  I wouldn't say I have an advantage, though.  Years ago, in Arkansas, we learned about this kind of fishing, but it doesn't take long to catch on.  I have to continue to learn to be a more versatile fisherman." 

Fans - and future anglers - can meet Suggs and the rest of the pros at the next CITGO Bassmaster Tour stop at Lake Guntersville, Feb. 26-29.

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.