- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) has changed its fishing tournament schedule and prize money for 2006. While the 2005 events are set, next year’s BASS Tour will be expanded, and the Bass Masters Classic, which is billed as a world championship of bass fishing, no longer will be held in the summer.

The Bassmaster Tour will go from six to 11 events. The popular Elite 50 Series will turn into three individual tournaments known as the Bassmaster Memorial, the Bassmaster American and the Bassmaster Legend. And what BASS calls “fishing’s most prestigious event,” the Bassmaster Classic, will move to late February or early March.

What? The Classic will be held in cold weather? That only can mean it never will be held on the Potomac because it will be far too cold, and it certainly won’t be held north of the Mason-Dixon Line again unless BASS figures to have the contestants sit in ice-fishing shacks with tip-ups under their baited rods. Besides, most northern states have a bass season that doesn’t kick in until May or June.

BASS also says it will increase its Classic prize purse from $700,000 to $1 million, including first-place prize money of $500,000, and the three new majors will feature a first-place prize of $250,000.

“It’s all part of our plan [to bring] the best possible value and experience to our fans, members, anglers and sponsors,” BASS general manager Don Rucks said. “We’re making the announcement now so our anglers will be aware of the qualifying process for the 2006 Classic.”

Missouri’s Denny Brauer, 1998 Bassmaster Classic champion and BASS’ all-time leading money winner, was excited to hear about the new initiatives.

“I think it’s awesome,” Brauer said. “These are changes that we’ve been hoping to see, and it’s great that BASS and [the company’s owners] ESPN are working to make them happen so fast.”

The expanded tour season will begin in the weeks following the 2006 Classic and run through September rather than merely the late winter and early spring as in years past.

The 2006 Classic field will include 41 anglers, the Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the top 10 finishers from the 2005 Classic, the top 10 anglers from the 2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, the top five anglers from the 2005 Bassmaster Open Championship and six BASS Federation regional champions (up from the five qualifiers in years past to reflect the addition of one division for the 2005 season). The remainder of the field will be selected from the top-ranked pros on the Bassmaster Tour. In the event of double qualifiers, BASS will invite the top-ranked anglers from the 2005 Bassmaster Tour points standings who are not otherwise qualified. The 2005 angler of the year will be doubly rewarded with an automatic berth in both the 2005 and 2006 Classics.

The fields for the new Memorial, American and Legend tournaments will feature the top-10 anglers on the all-time BASS money list, the top 37 anglers from the Bassmaster Tour based on a three-year average in angler of the year standings, the 2005 and 2006 Bassmaster Classic champions, the 2005 angler of the year and the 2005 rookie of the year.

Rockfish violators caught — The Maryland Natural Resources Police recently apprehended three watermen for illegally harvesting striped bass (rockfish) in the Chesapeake Bay near Swan Point, on the Eastern Shore north of the Bay Bridges.

David L. Haas, 46, William A. Beck, 39, and David L. Haas Jr., 26, all from Rock Hall, were issued citations for violating the commercial gill net restrictions with an anchored gill net to harvest striped bass. They also were charged with fishing for rockfish with a gill net during restricted times and days. In addition, they were charged with failure to mark a gill net properly when fishing for striped bass and were found to possess striped bass less than 18 inches long, which is another violation.

Two gill nets, a mud anchor and 305 pounds of rockfish were seized as evidence. All of the charges carry a maximum fine of $500 for first time offenders. In addition, if found guilty, a person could be fined $1,500 a fish for a first offense and $2,500 a fish plus revocation of a fishing license for one to two years for a second offense.

Fourteen other illegally set gill nets were seized by the NRP in the Rock Hall area of the Chesapeake Bay. These nets are still under investigation.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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