CELEBRATION, Fla. — Ever wonder what it might be like to ride alongside your favorite NASCAR driver or caddie for Tiger Woods? In the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Majors, fishing fans can experience just that with bass fishing superstars and some of the most powerful anglers in the industry. As a co-angler in the Elite Series or an observer in the Majors, any fishing fan can hop on board their favorite angler's bass boat, creating the ultimate experience for a bass-fishing enthusiast.
"This is a great opportunity to learn from the best in the business and the top professional anglers in the world," said Chris Bowes, BASS tournament manager. "Co-anglers not only get the chance to compete for money and merchandise, but also get a first-hand look at the decision-making process of the pros."
In the Elite Series, each professional angler is paired with a co-angler, both competing within their respective field. Co-anglers pay an entry fee of $750, securing a slot alongside an Elite Series angler. Not only does this opportunity give them an in-depth glimpse into the thought process of the professional angler, but the co-angler field is awarded more than $1.2 million in tournament winnings, or $115,400 per event. First and second place co-anglers take home a Triton boat with Mercury engine boat package and each tournament pays down to the top 25.
"This is a venue to learn from some of the best people in the business," said Scott Darragh, 36, of Dallas, a co-angler on the tournament trail since 2001. Darragh has cashed in on 10 of 18 tournaments, including a win in 2003. Not only has Darragh improved his techniques, but he also developed friendships with a few Elite Series anglers.
"For the price, you can't beat going into a tournament situation to fish with these guys. To learn the skills and techniques that will take you to the next step ... it's been an incredible experience."
Howard Stephens, 62 of Columbia, S.C., has competed as a co-angler on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail since 1996. While he works full-time selling carbide tooling and industrial diamonds for Durable Tools, Inc., he looks forward to opportunities each year to fish as a co-angler on the tournament trail. In the last 10 years, he has built an impressive resume, cashing in on 23 of 39 tournaments, with career winnings totaling nearly $100,000.
"If you like to bass fish, spending a day on the boat with any of these guys is a good experience," said Stephens. "You have the opportunity to fish with the top fishermen in the country as well as fish for major money and prizes."
And, with the expanded CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series schedule featuring 11 tournaments at the best lakes and at the best time of year, co-anglers have more opportunities than ever before to compete, learn from the pros and bring in impressive three-fish limits.
"Lake Amistad just broke the lake record for largemouth bass at nearly 16 pounds and at Lake Champlain and Santee Cooper, you could see 25-pound bags brought in," added Bowes.
Additionally, BASS offers opportunities to ride along as observers in the Bassmaster Memorial, Bassmaster American and Bassmaster Legends. Each Major features the top 50 professional anglers in the sport competing for nearly $2 million, including a $250,000 first-place prize per event. While observers cannot fish, they have the opportunity to spend a day on the water with the best in the business and see how each handles the pressure of such an important tournament. And, cost is minimal, at only $300. Observers also will be entered into a drawing with a 1 in 50 chance to win a Triton boat and Mercury engine package valued at $28,310. Plus, each observer receives a generous BASS merchandise gift package, including BASS apparel, tackle and more.
Space is limited to 110 co-anglers per Elite Series event and 50 observers per Major. To secure your chance to learn from the best, register at www.bassmaster.com or call 1-877-BASS-USA.