- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society national tour of fishing competitions, now known as the Citgo Bassmaster Tournament Trail, has expanded and increased its purses. Wonder if it had anything to do with recent complaints and threats by some of the big-name touring pros that they might quit the Bassmaster tour and pay more attention to a higher-paying, competing group, the FLW Tour? Be that as it may, the 2002-2003 competition season will see all-cash payouts in the pro division and increased payouts in the amateur bracket, with the total purse exceeding $9million.
While the professional tour anglers, referred to by BASS as the "world's best anglers," will be awarded all cash a departure over previous practices, when merchandise made up a part of the prize package the people who fish as amateurs will compete for new boats and motors, along with some cash. (In addition to the traditional first prize, the amateurs will have an opportunity to earn a bonus from title sponsor Citgo in the form of a year's worth of free gasoline.)
The new schedule represents a 44 percent increase over the current tour's payout, which stands at $6.4million.
Under the new Bassmaster format, the touring pros will begin the season with 175 anglers, all of whom will fish the first six events on the schedule. Following the sixth event, the field will be cut to 100 competitors for the next two events. The final cut will reduce the field even further, to just 50 anglers for the season's last two events. The tour's 40 qualifiers for the 2003 Citgo BASS Masters Classic championship will come from this final field of 50.
"As the season progresses, fields will narrow in numbers, allowing the top anglers to emerge from the pack and permitting us to conduct our events in some wonderful fisheries that weren't quite large enough in the past," tournament director Trip Weldon said.
Tournament formats will see some changes as well. For example, events on the tour will see all anglers competing for the first two days. Following the second day, the field will be cut to 12 and then to the "Super Six" for the final round. Also, before a contest, fishing locations will be off limits for 30 days instead of the current week.
Amateurs who traditionally have been able to fish only during the full-field days of competition will now have the opportunity to participate following the cut. The top 12 amateurs will be paired with one of the top 12 pros for the third day of competition. Amateurs will be able to register for tour events by mailing in an entry card from Bassmaster magazine's September issue.
Qualifying as a pro for the Citgo Bassmaster Tournament Trail also will be tougher because of a revised Open trail format. The current Bassmaster series of 12 events will be reduced to nine on three circuits the Citgo Bassmaster Northern Open Pro-Am, the Citgo Bassmaster Central Open Pro-Am and the Citgo Bassmaster Southern Open Pro-Am. The top 15 pro anglers on each Open trail will advance to the 2003 tour, in which the top 100 of 175 pros will retain their tour status. The remaining 75 will have a guaranteed slot in the pro division for the next season's Open trail of their choice. Registration information for the events will be in the May issue of Bassmaster magazine.

Catch a rockfish The Maryland General Assembly's Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee has passed the Department of Natural Resources' 2002 recreational and charterboat striped bass fishing seasons package.
In the upper Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River Flats special catch and release fishery is open now and will continue through May3.
The much awaited Chesapeake Bay (and tidal tributaries) spring trophy season starts April20 and runs through May15. You will be allowed to keep one rockfish a day, but it must measure at least 28 inches. From May16 through Dec.15 you can keep two striped bass a day that are between 18 and 28 inches long, or you may keep one of that size and one over 28 inches.
The Maryland-controlled waters of the Atlantic Ocean and coastal bays will observe a year-round striper fishing season. The creel limit is two a day, but the fish must measure at least 28 inches.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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