CELEBRATION, Fla. Among the 195 anglers competing on the pro side of last weekend's Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes was a familiar face — former Bassmaster Classic champion Mark Davis.
It was the Arkansas pro's first return to BASS action since competing as a regular on the Bassmaster Tour [now the Bassmaster Elite Series] in 2005. He fished two other national circuits last year.
The five-time BASS winner has appeared in 13 Bassmaster Classics and is looking to qualify yet again for the marquee event.
"It's another chance to make the Classic," the 43-year-old said of his Southern Open appearance. "And I've got sponsors that want me to fish BASS tournaments. So here I am.
"My sponsors obviously would like me in the Classic. It's always been that your sponsors dictate basically what you do….. BASS tournaments are still the best deal going for sponsors across the board. And that's why I'm over here."
Davis, who won four tournaments in 13 months during his previous stint with BASS, picked up right where he left off in the season-opening event. He finished sixth in the Southern Open with 40 pounds, 11 ounces. Davis is one of 17 anglers to have amassed over $1 million in career BASS earnings.
He will next compete in the Southern Open event scheduled in Manning, S.C., on Santee Cooper Reservoir May 3-5.
CLASSIC FANS WINNERS TOO.
Besides champion Boyd Duckett, there were several winners at the recent Classic in Birmingham. Each year at the Classic, BASS holds a number of sweepstakes involving BASS sponsor products and randomly selects fans who attend the Classic to receive the coveted prizes.
• Ronnie Howell of Semmes, Ala., won a new 2007 Toyota Tundra.
• Mike Cullop of Forest Hills, Ky., won a new Triton/Mercury rig.
• The Winners of Mercury Marine's Big Catch Giveaway were Dwayne Allen Haynes - a Triton boat; Ben Moore - a Toyota truck; Chad Sanders - a Mercury outboard; Hubert Bennett, Jr. - a MotorGuide trolling motor.
• Rick Blackwell of Union City, Ga., was the $5,000 winner in the Purolator Big Bass Fan drawing.
Fishing fans might have noticed that Tammie Muse finished fourth in the recent Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship held on Alabama's Lake Mitchell. But fans probably didn't know Muse accomplished that high finish despite a case of walking pneumonia.
The Arkansas angler stopped at a hospital in Austin, Texas, after competing in the 2007 WBT season-opener on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, where she was diagnosed and urged to get bed-rest. The recommendation fell on deaf ears, and she continued on to Birmingham for the WBT Championship.
"I wasn't about to miss the championship," Muse said. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."
Despite almost debilitating fatigue, she persevered and amazingly made a run at the title.
"I got through it with the help of a lot of friends and nice people," she said. "The other pros and my co-anglers were all so helpful. They helped me in the boat when I needed it and they made sure I got my rest at the hotel. I couldn't have done it without them."
In addition to preparing for the second-season of the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, Robin Babb has been busy discussing sponsorship opportunities for her new mode of transportation for the 2007 season - a Zephyr travel system.
The Texas pro, who finished in 12th place at the WBT Championship, will employ the giant customized tractor-trailer luxury motorcoach as her method of transportation to travel around the country competing in WBT events. She is the first WBT pro to get a Zephyr Elite.
To help pay for the impressive rig, Babb signed new sponsors that include the Escapees RV Club, TackleTech.net, Missoulian Angler (a Montana fly-fishing outfitter) and two hometown tourism councils Livingston Specialty Merchants' Guild and Lake Livingston Tourism Council.
The Escapees RV Club is headquartered in Livingston - the city where Babb currently resides. Several of the 2007 WBT stops are within easy traveling distance of RV parks in the Escapees RV Club's Rainbow Parks system.
It should be easy to spot Darrin Schwenkbeck's boat on the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Not only will his boat be wrapped, but the cowling of his outboard will also sport the colors and logos on his newest sponsor the Amsoil brand of oil. Amsoil, a Superior, Wis.- based company, has been a recognized leader in synthetic lubrication and filtration since 1972.
Recent WBT winner Juanita Robinson once hooked into an object of disappointment for another angler while fishing on Toledo Bend Reservoir.
"It was a brand new crappie pole with a brand new reel," the Texas pro said. "It still had the price tag on it. We were jigging spoons and I hooked it and brought it up."
DID YOU KNOW?
Recent Classic winner Boyd Duckett was not the first Classic rookie to win the world championship. Eight other Classic rookies have won in their first appearance including the late Don Butler and Rayo Breckenridge.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO...
WBT pro Kimberlee Striker would spend more time in her Cullman, Ala., salon Curl Harbor.
THEY SAID IT.
"I had never gone to a Bassmaster Classic. Crazy as it sounds, many years ago I told everyone that knows me well that I wasn't going to a Classic until I got to fish in it. So this is the first time I've ever been to one." Boyd Duckett on the first Classic he ever attended - an event he won.