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Inside BASS: Weekend Series Championship set for next week

2/12/2007

CELEBRATION, Fla. — Randy Tharp could be the poster boy for weekend anglers who participate in the Bassmaster Weekend Series operated by American Bass Anglers.

The 38-year-old Gardendale, Ala., construction contractor has spent the last few years establishing himself as a force in tournaments in his home state. And the Weekend Series is enabling Tharp to move up in competitive class and chase his ultimate dream- qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.

A major step toward achieving that dream begins next week as he enters the ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series National Championship on Alabama's Lake Guntersville as one of the pre-tournament favorites.

"It's my home lake. I think I should win," Tharp said. "I consider myself the favorite. I've probably spent more time on that lake in January and February than all of those other guys put together."

On Guntersville and other Alabama fisheries, Tharp has fashioned a reputation for consistency. On the wall of his den are 35 plaques — about half of them for first-place tournament finishes.

"I've really enjoyed fishing the BASS weekend tournaments," he said. "Since 2000, I've been fishing tournaments and the last three years I started fishing the BASS weekend tournaments.

"I'm at the point in my fishing now where I'm seriously considering trying to do it professionally. Today, I was at a local boat dealer, taking in my resume [and discussing sponsorship]. I've done well at every level I've tried. I know I can fish with the best in the world and that's what I want to do. I've been obsessed with it over the last two or three years."

The upcoming championship event could propel Tharp - or whoever wins it - into the upper stratosphere of professional fishing. The winner gets $100,000, a guaranteed opportunity to enter the Bassmaster Open division of their choice and a coveted spot in the Bassmaster Classic Feb. 23-25 on Lay Lake near Birmingham, Alabama.

Tharp admits that he has daydreamed about getting to the Classic, where the champion will win $500,000.

"I really try not to think more than one tournament ahead," he said. "My main focus is on Guntersville right now, but I would love the opportunity to go to Lay Lake and fish against those guys - guys that I've looked up to for as long as I've been fishing."

With a Classic victory, Tharp would qualify for the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series- considered the most prestigious and visible level of fishing in tournament fishing.

BIG IMAGE

Steve Daniel has never been bigger. Literally. The Triton Boats pro is pictured holding two bass on a billboard in Oneida, N.Y. The billboard says, "Fish Oneida Lake. The Pros Do!"

Daniel finished in 76th place at the Empire Chase on Oneida Lake in July 2006. Tommy Biffle won the event by nearly three pounds over Florida's Charlie Youngers.

BASS will hold the Bassmaster Memorial in 2007, one of three Bassmaster Majors, July 26-29, on Oneida Lake out of Syracuse, N.Y.

TOYOTA TARGETS ANGLERS

Toyota unveiled the all-new 2007 Tundra CrewMax full-size pickup at the recent North American International Auto Show — and fishermen undoubtedly took notice.

The CrewMax, which will arrive at dealers in March, will join the Tundra Regular Cab and Tundra Double Cab models, which arrive in February. Anglers now have a wide choice of tow vehicles.

Designed, engineered and built in America, the formidable Tundra line-up will set a new standard in the full-size pickup truck segment for performance, capability, standard safety features and styling.

Larger in every dimension than the model it replaces, the 2007 Tundra is available in 31 model configurations, with a choice between 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains. The new Tundra offers three cab styles, three wheelbases, three bed lengths, three engines, and three trim levels. Tundra has been engineered for "true truckers" and can be configured to serve as a work truck, recreational truck or luxury family truck.

Tundra backs up its tough new styling with the performance of an available new 381-horsepower 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine teamed to a new six-speed automatic transmission. The i-Force 5.7 is one of the most powerful engines to be made available in a half-ton full-size pickup.

For more information, go to www.toyota.com.

MORE HORTON

According to the Toronto Star, officials with the Tim Hortons doughnut and coffee shop chain are feeling conciliatory toward the Alabama bass pro by the same name. As reported in an earlier Inside Bass column, the chain of 2,800 coffee and doughnut shops in Canada and the U.S., had a change of heart since threatening legal action against Alabama Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tim Horton over the use of his name on fishing-related products.

The Star reported on Jan. 10: "Just to prove there's no hard feelings, Tim Hortons spokesperson Rachel Douglas said yesterday she's packing up a 'big box of swag' to send to 'our good friend, Tim Horton.' "

The newspaper stated: "Now the angler only has one remaining name-related problem with his friends in Muscle Shoals."

"Nobody will call me Tim anymore," he [Horton] said with a laugh. "Now they'll phone up asking for Tom or Fred or whatever."

WRAP RAP.

Jeff Kriet's Triton boat will have a new wrap for the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series. New BASS sponsor Longhorn Smokeless Tobacco is now the veteran Oklahoma pro's biggest sponsor.

"I feel real fortunate to have Longhorn as a sponsor in the 2007 Elite Series," Kriet said.

DID YOU KNOW?

Michael Iaconelli won the Bassmaster Angler of the Year based on a points system. In addition, he has caught the most poundage (510 pounds, 9 ounces) and averaged the most weight (42-9) per tournament in 12 qualifying events the last two years to sit atop the Bassmaster Elite series Power Index. Skeet Reese is second with 496-2 and an average of 41-6 per tournament.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO

James Charlesworth, who qualified for the upcoming Classic and the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series through the Bassmaster Northern Tour, would likely still be working in medical sales. For eight years, the Florida pro sold pharmaceutical products and then surgical spinal implant devices.

THEY SAID IT

"The [Bassmaster] Tour was great. Just meeting all of the guys and everything was a lot of fun. I got to fish Lake Champlain and Lake Erie, two lakes I had heard about for years, and to fish those lakes was an incredible experience. What I learned from the tour is that there are great bass fisheries across the country." Tennessee's Sam Lashlee, who qualified for the Classic through the Northern Tour.

What's at stake?

$103,000 in cash and prizes and a chance to earn one of six qualifying spots into bass fishing's most major event, the 2007 Bassmaster Classic, and a shot at the $500,000 Classic grand prize. The Classic spots are awarded to the top performer in each of six geographic divisions.

Telecast

Television coverage from the championship will air on ESPN2 Jan. 27 at 9 a.m. ET.

The Pros Said It

"What I'm seeing so far are fish both shallow and deep right now. There are not many bites; instead it's more of a slow finesse bite with not much reaction. I think it will be a tough tournament and about 30 pounds will win the whole thing. With this cold front coming in, it could get tougher than that." – Dave Kromm, 36, Kennewick, Wash.

"Right now, you're fishing for five bites and that's what you're looking for. If you get five fish you're doing pretty well and otherwise you're sitting pretty quiet. This weather is really shutting things down. The water temperature has already dropped six degrees and it's going to keep going down all day." – Jeff Brown, 39, Brandon, S.D.

"The lake has changed a lot since I first practiced, and most of the areas are no good now since we had a lot of rain. The lake is real muddy and a major cold front came through. I'm not sure how I'm going to do, but I'm having a good time trying. If I can get lucky and catch a couple good fish, I'll be ok." – Joseph Matt, 42, Syracuse, N.Y.

The Strategy

Kromm: Slow, methodical fishing is Kromm's strategy for the Federation Nation Championship tournament. His primary pattern is soft plastics, light line and light weights, and primary lure is a finesse Zoom shaky head worm. His plan is to let it sit for 20 seconds and shake it real slowly and gently to get the bite.

Brown: Brown is using a variety of small lures, primarily small plastics and jerkbaits. He's finding that the bass are holding to rocks rather than wood because of water temperature, and he's hoping that dam officials will drop the water level, which will help the bite turn on.

Matt: Matt started practicing with a finesse shaky-rigged worm, but says the water is so dirty he's had to change his strategy and is trying his luck with a crankbait. He's targeting steep banks and rocks and covering a lot of water.

Full field of 54 anglers to compete all three days

Heaviest winning weight: Davy Hite, 55-0, 1996

Lightest winning weight: Wayne Isaac, 13-6, 2006

Weather: Temperature - 40 degrees

Lake level: 507 feet above mean sea level

News exclusives, audio and video clips of bass fishing's biggest stars, loads of discounts and more are all part of BASS Insider, an exclusive membership, now available at www.Bassmaster.com.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, staging more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages and sanctions bass fishing tournaments for every skill level culminating with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208. To join BASS, call 1-877-BASS-USA or visit www.Bassmaster.com.