Defending Classic Champion Travels the World as Sport's AmBASSador

NEW ORLEANS, La. - July 30, 2001--- The whirlwind tour that comes with being king of the bass fishing world - the reigning BASS Masters Classic champion - is winding down for Woo Daves. But the Virginian hopes to make it crank back up for another year as he attempts to defend his championship Aug. 2-4 in New Orleans.

Woodford Ellis Daves has proved to be one of the sport's most popular champions. And why not? His is a great human-interest story in which he became the oldest pro (54) to ever win the prestigious Classic after 14 consecutive tries (including one where he finished an agonizing 6 ounces short in his hometown).

On the eve of the 31st Classic and his first title defense, Daves can't recall the final moments of his heroics in Chicago without getting goose bumps. "When I realized I had finally won, a big burden was lifted off of my shoulders that very second," he said. "It was joyous elation for me because of my fan-base all over the country, which had supported me all these years. I felt like I had let them down a lot of times. So getting over that hump was great.

"One of the most exciting things about winning the Classic was taking that victory lap around Soldier Field in that boat, waving to the crowd, holding the American flag and my wife (Patty) holding her roses - with the Classic trophy at my side. Really, it went by too quickly. It was great. I really loved it."

At that moment, the world changed dramatically for the Daves. They arrived home in Spring Grove to a celebration cookout attended by several hundred friends and fans. That would be just one of four such events staged for Woo in North Carolina and Virginia over the next two weeks. Then, predictably, the phone started ringing. Daves remembers one morning when he was preparing to cook himself breakfast and the phone rang; he later found himself still hungry and clad in his pajamas well into the evening. He documented nearly 800 calls in the first two weeks ("I wrote nearly all of them a thank-you note for thinking of me," he said).

>From there, Daves was besieged with business opportunities, media inquiries, endorsement offers, requests from his sponsors, and show promoters wanting to book an appearance. Since a return ticket to the Classic was assured, he decided to take the year off from competitive fishing and milk the Classic crown for all it is worth.

That goal kept him on the road almost all of the past year, including a fishing/promotional trip to Spain and even a moment of recognition by Atlanta Motor Speedway prior to last November's NAPA 500 NASCAR Winston Cup season finale.

"I traveled everywhere representing B.A.S.S. and the Classic," Daves said. "And it's just been wonderful. B.A.S.S. has the most coveted title in all of b fishing. It always has and always will. Being the Classic champion has given me notoriety all over the country in restaurants, airports and other places.

"There's been a lot of great things that have happened to me this year. I'm looking forward to riding this thing out and, hopefully, having another chance to win the Classic. But if I don't, I'll still be happy. I think I've served my country well - my country being B.A.S.S. and the bass fishermen who have supported me all of my life."

Daves is excited about competing in the upcoming Classic and fishing the Louisiana Delta, which he sampled during two BASSMASTER Top 150 events in the past.

"New Orleans has so much great fishing and there's so many places where you can fish," Daves said. "You can go in any direction, and that opens up a lot of areas for fishing.

"At times, I think there's probably more bass in the Delta than any place in the world. They talk about catching 200 bass a day down there. And with the Mississippi River flooding recently, I think it has renewed the Delta (after a severe drought significantly expanded saltwater intrusion into the freshwater marshes). Now the fresh water is putting bass back in places where they used to be. I'm really looking forward to fishing it.

"But there's so much more to New Orleans than just the fishing. The whole New Orleans area is known as a sportsman's paradise. You can always see a lot of bass boats going up and down the highways, and a lot of trucks with B.A.S.S. decals. I've met a ton of people down there, and they're really great. I think this Classic will break all attendance records. I really love to hear those Cajuns talk, and I've been fortunate enough to get to go to a couple of houses where I got to eat some of that real good Cajun home-style cooking. I love New Orleans."

Daves and the 44 other 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.

The BASS Masters Classic 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 Wednesday, August 1 at Lafreniere Park. The event is highlighted by a Meet the Pros autograph session from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The Kids Klassic takes place from 9 a.m. to noon.

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 Silver's, Gore-Tex Outwear, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC/ B.A.S.S. Vehicle & Boat Insurance, B.A.S.S. Platinum Visa/First USA.

Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Boats, G3 Boats

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