CHARLOTTE — CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series angler Mike Reynolds has the Hottest Rig Running, as determined by BASS members and fishing fans who participated in the Hottest Rig Running Contest on www.Bassmaster.com. Reynolds, of Modesto, Calif., bested 105 other angler boat designs to win the prestigious award.
His boat — featuring the four U.S. military seals and the phrase "These Colors Don't Run" — garnered more than 20 percent of all votes cast in the final round, earning him the grand prize, $10,000 cash.
"The Elite Series boat-design program was created to help build an angler's individual brand," said Don Rucks, BASS vice president and general manager. "Mike hit the nail on the head with his design because he truly bleeds red, white and blue for his country."
Reynolds, 40, is a five-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier and one-time BASS winner. He's had 45 top-50 finishes in his 17-year career and has earned more than $310,000. But that all pales in comparison to winning this award, Reynolds said.
"I did it from my heart," Reynolds said. "I watch TV and see the moms and dads and see their losses and it really hurts. This was something to show I appreciate everyone who has served."
Fishing fans have taken note of Reynolds' boat all season. He said while he's traveling, he often is stopped and thanked by perfect strangers for his support of the military. During the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors in July, Reynolds was presented with an American flag flown in his name over the Multi-National Corps in Iraq. It was sent by 1st Sgt. Stan Harvey, who said in a letter that he flew the flag after seeing Reynolds' personally financed boat design online. While the majority of anglers displayed their sponsors logos or own businesses on their boats, Reynolds was the only one with the military seals.
"I feel like they are my sponsor," he added. "They let me live my dream and I just wanted to say 'thanks.'"
The runner-up receiving $6,000 was Rick Clunn's Nitro/Bass Pro Shops design. Clunn, who received 10 percent of all votes in the final round, also was voted by fans as the Greatest Angler of All Time in ESPN's Greatest Angler Debate in 2005.
The second-place runner-up position and $4,000 went to South Carolina angler Ray Sedgwick for his KeelShield design. Earning $3,000 in the third runner-up position was Ohio's Charlie Hartley for his Venom snake design and the fourth runner-up, winning $2,000, was Michael Iaconelli for his Toyota wrap.
The announcement was made during the Day 2 weigh-in of the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts, a four-day, stand-alone tournament that will award the winner $250,000 cash and also feature same-day coverage on ESPN2 on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
The Hottest Rig Running Contest featured, in alphabetical order, a different group of Elite Series pro boats each week for 12 weeks on www.Bassmaster.com. The boat design receiving the highest vote in each group advanced to the final round, and the boats with the second-highest number of votes went into a second-chance round. One last final fan vote determined Reynolds as the winner.
Nearly 26,000 votes were cast in the entire contest, which began April 10 and ended July 16. The other finalists included:
Ish Monroe — Lowrance
Stephen Browning — Mercury
Todd Faircloth — Skeeter Mosquito
Timmy Horton — Bass Pro Shops
Russ Lane — Airport Maine
Skeet Reese — Lucky Craft
Gerald Swindle — CITGO
Kevin Wirth — Early Times
Additionally, a BASSSTUFF sweepstakes awarded 65 weekly winners and one grand prize winner from those fishing fans who cast their votes. Weekly winners received a BASS T-shirt and the grand prize winner, Derick Brack of Holland, Mich., won a $250 gift certificate to BASSSTUFF.com. A complete list of winners is available by clicking here.