Surprises, upsets and intense competition have made this year's neck-and-neck race for the Busch BASS Angler of the Year title a points chase worth watching.
So much excitement surrounds the stretch run of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer that ESPN2 will air the Tour's final two events in prominent time slots in order to touch a larger audience and get ready for this summer's CITGO Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans.
"This year's Tour has been so hotly contested and so closely followed that ESPN rearranged our telecast schedule to allow for special airings in strong time slots," said BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel. "The final two events of the Tour are especially important because they determine, not just the Busch BASS Angler of the Year, but also which of the pros will compete in the Classic."
The next-to-last Tour stop on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Ark., will air on ESPN2 from 6-7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 18. "The CITGO Bassmasters," co-hosted by Jerry McKinnis and Tommy Sanders, usually airs on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. The change in time has not gone unnoticed by the pros, either.
"It's a huge deal," said Busch BASS Angler of the Year points leader Alton Jones of Texas. "I think it shows that there is more mainstream interest in bass fishing than ever before and fishing is getting more noticed. "
ESPN2 will also be home to a special telecast of the season finale on the Alabama River in Montgomery, Ala. The last of two episodes will air on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. (ET) on June 22 in addition to its debut airing, June 7 at 10:30 a.m. on ESPN2. The final event will also mark the crowning of the Busch BASS Angler of the Year, currently in hot contention.
With one event left to go, Jones (1,290 points) leads 2002 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Jay Yelas by a single point. Jones took the lead from fellow Texan Bud Pruitt after Jones won on California's Clear Lake in the Tour's eighth stop. The rest of the top five includes Louisiana's Roger Boler (1,282 points), Mark Davis of Arkansas (1,271), and Florida angler Shaw Grigsby (1,266).