June 17, 2004

Two days remain in hunt for Elite 50 title

PADUCAH, Ky. It's no secret that the anglers competing in this week's Bassmaster Elite 50 finale are hungry for the series' $150,000 grand prize and 10 CITGO Bassmaster Classic spots, but with only two days remaining in the four-event series finale, Michigan's Kevin VanDam is in the catbird seat to take home the big money.

VanDam brought in a five-fish limit of smallmouth that weighed 12 pounds, 13 ounces to move into the tournament's top spot and tighten his grasp on the lead in the Elite 50 points standings.

"I had a good day," said VanDam, whose two-day total is 27-1. "It's tricky to catch (smallmouth). They're really finicky. I was using a tube most of the day. Tubes are hard to beat with smallmouth. It's hard to say what's going to happen tomorrow. It's going to get tougher all the time."

Kevin VanDam: "It's not over 'til it's over." VanDam may have a virtual lock on the point standings, but he definitely has respect for the competition.

"It's not over 'til it's over," he said. "I've fished against these guys my whole life and these Elite 50 are good. We'll just have to see what happens."

CITGO Bassmaster Rookie of the Year Greg Hackney led Wednesday and brought in 7-2 on Thursday, enough for second place in the tournament. Hackney's title earned him the only rookie spot in the elite field, which is otherwise reserved for the Classic and regular-season points champions, the top anglers on the BASS All-time Money List or pros with the best cumulative finish over the past three seasons.

"I wanted to leave some there," Hackney said. "I could have brought in a big bag today, but I wanted there to be some left for tomorrow. I asked myself, 'What's more important to me, to win the championship, or to win the event?' I want to win this event really bad. I mean, it's the last Elite 50 and, since I'm a rookie, I'm not going to get the chance to fish in them unless I get the Angler of the Year or win the Classic, and those are the two toughest things to do."

Joining VanDam and Hackney in the top 12 are Texas' Alton Jones (20-13), Missouri's Rick Clunn (20-9) and Brian Snowden (19-5), Texas' Gary Klein (18-7) and David Wharton (17-0), Kentucky's Mark Menendez (16-6), California's Skeet Reese (16-4), Texas' Dean Rojas (16-4), North Carolina's Dustin Wilks (16-3) and Florida's Jim Bitter (16-1).

Rookie of the Year Greg Hackney took it upon himself to leave a few - just a few - fish for the rest of the field. With two days left, North Carolina's Dustin Wilks and 28-time Classic qualifier Rick Clunn are still mathematically eligible to make the Classic. Both anglers have to break into the top 10 in the points to qualify for the sport's world championship, but with them both making the cut to the top 12 in the tournament, points are extremely valuable.

"I would really like to make it," Wilks said. "I've got a lot of friends and fans that would be there, so I really hope I get in. I've just got to go out and do my thing tomorrow and hope I can get five in the boat. Hopefully that will be enough to do it."

Brian Snowden earned $1,000 from Busch Beer for the Busch Heavyweight award. His five-fish limit weighed 13-14 and was the heaviest catch on the second day of competition.

Gary Klein brought in the Purolator Big Bass of the Day. His 4-10 lunker earned him $1,000 from Purolator.

Another treat for the fans J.R.'s Executive Inn in Paducah was the return of BASS veteran and Florida pro Shaw Grigsby. Grigsby has been out of commission for the past two Bassmaster Elite 50 series events due to triple bypass heart surgery last April. Although Grigsby didn't compete, he was on hand to greet fans and pick up his $20,000 check for 50th place in the Elite 50 series.

"I really, really, really miss this," Grigsby said. "This is a part of me right here. I'm so glad to be back."

Competition will continue Friday from J.R.'s Executive Inn. Launch is daily at 10 a.m. with weigh-ins beginning at 7 p.m. Fans can enjoy the BASS Sponsor Expo beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday at J.R.'s Executive Inn.

The final event of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series on the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers will be telecast in two parts, Saturday, June 26 and Saturday, July 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2..

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.

Local Sponsors include the J.R.'s Executive Inn/McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

BASS Communications -June 17, 2004

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Posted by DODGE at June 17, 2004 05:29 PM in Tournament (BASS)