YELAS WINS ESPY AWARD FOR BEST OUTDOOR SPORTS ATHLETE

LOS ANGELES - Pro bass angler Jay Yelas added to his recent string of prestigious sports titles Wednesday.  The reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion received an ESPY award for Best Outdoor Sports Athlete at ceremonies at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre that aired live on ESPN.

"It was just a thrill," said Yelas.  "It was a unique thrill and just a tremendous honor to be recognized by the whole sports universe in America for my fishing accomplishments.  I've had a lot of recognition in the fishing community, but this is the first time and the biggest recognition I've had from the sporting world as a whole."

Yelas is just the second person to win an ESPY in the outdoor sports category that debuted in 2002, following fellow BASS angler Kevin Van Dam.  The Texas angler is also the 2003 Busch BASS Angler of the Year and picked up similar honors on the Forrest L. Wood Tour in 2002.  Yelas accepted his ESPY award amidst a crowd of celebrity athletes that included Emmitt Smith, Michael Vick, Serena Williams and Barry Bonds.

In 2003, the field of finalists offered Yelas some stiff competition, and included:

* New Zealand's Sheree Taylor, who came back from a career-threatening back injury to win the women's timber endurance gold medal at the 2002 ESPN Great Outdoor Games.  Taylor was also the first New Zealand Women's Sports Person of the Year for Region 20 and broke the world record for women's single buck competitions three times.

* Day's End Super Sue, handled by Jerry Day of College Park, Ga.  Sue is the only retriever in the world to have earned top titles from all three major retriever sport organizers.  She is an HRC/UKC Hunting Retriever Champion, and AKC Field Champion, Amateur Field Champion and Master Hunter, and an NAHRA Master Hunting Retriever.

* Princeton, La. shooter Jerry Miculek, an 11-time International Revolver Speed Shooting Champion, a USPSA World Revolver Champion, a six-time USPSA National Revolver Champion, a four-time USPSA 3-Gun Champion, and the holder of three world record titles for revolver speed shooting.

* Little Morgan, handled by Mike Jackson of Shakopee, Minn.  Little Morgan's 26-foot, 6-inch Big Air jump, set at the 2002 ESPN Great Outdoor Games, remains the unrivaled world record, a full 3 feet farther than any other dog has jumped in competition.

A panel of 14 judges, including sport organizers like Olympic archer Jay Barrs and outdoor sports writers from newspapers across the nation, selected the five ESPY award finalists from a list of 16 nominees that ranged from the Billfishing Xtreme Release League's Team A-Fin-Ity to shotgunner Robbie Purser.  In the end, the ESPY Academy voters tapped a bass angler for the second year in a row.

"Really, it caps the last year," Yelas said.  "It says a lot for our sport; our sport's really growing and going out into mainstream America."