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BASS Reporter's Notebook

9/3/2008

Bassmaster Open competitor Kyle Fox wants to be Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kyle Fox.

"That's exactly what I'd like to do," said Fox, 20, of Lakeland, Fla. "That's what I'm working toward."
In 2007, Fox, then 19, made an unsuccessful bid to join the Elite Series alongside Corey Waldrop of Fort Worth, Texas. About one month older than Fox, Waldrop became the youngest Elite angler when he qualified for the 2008 Elite season through the Bassmaster Wild Card. Fox fell short of gaining Elite status when he finished in 24th place.

But it could happen for Fox this year. Now, with one event done and two to go, Fox is fourth in the Bassmaster Central Open standings. The top 10 at season's end will receive invitations to join the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series — but there's no last-chance Wild Card event this year for those who fall below 10th place.

The top three in the Central Open division also will qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

"I'd like to make the Classic in 2009 and, at 21, be one of the youngest ever to be in a Classic," Fox said. "But if I don't, I'll still be happy. I'd be going to the Elite Series."

Next up for him is the Sept. 25-27 Kentucky Lake Central Open out of Paris, Tenn. He wants to finish high to shore up his points going into the tour's final event, Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Lake Texoma out of Denison, Texas.

"I've never been to any of the Open lakes," he said, "but I've talked to people who have, and I've read about them. I feel pretty comfortable about Kentucky Lake. It looks like it'll be good fall fishing. I'm ready to go, I'm excited about it. I'll go up about four days before the tournament to practice."
Fox has evaluated his competition for those 10 Elite slots.

"Just about everybody's got experience on me," he said. "I try not to let that get to me. And if I have a bad tournament, I don't feel disappointed, I just keep on going. I learned something."

Fox works a full-time job cutting grass for Progress Energy in Florida. He has a small stable of sponsors, including Triton Boats and Mercury Marine, and he just added Strike King and Power Pole.
"That's mostly all I do, just go to work to save money for this year and next year. Any money I win I put into my savings for when I do go pro. I don't have enough saved yet, but I'm working on it. I know it will take a lot of money. I'll need more sponsor help."

And if he doesn't have enough saved to finance a season on the road?

"I'm going to do it, no matter what," he said.

KEVIN WIRTH, THE GOLFER.

After a 2008 Bassmaster Elite season in which he won an event and qualified for his 10th Bassmaster Classic, Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., is working hard on his game — golf game, that is.
Last week Wirth entered an amateur golf tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the PGA Tour Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship. He did well: third overall in a five-way tie in an event that began with more than 3,600 entrants.

The golfers came from 50 states and 30 foreign countries. Billed as "the world's largest single-site golf tournament," the Aug. 25-29 competition was open to any amateur with a verified USGA handicap.
Wirth began with a 9 handicap. He did so well that he was down to a 7 after the event.

As in an Elite Series tournament, World Amateur contenders had to qualify for the final championship round. Up against 41 other golfers at The Dunes Golf Club, Wirth finished with a 3-under-par 69, just two strokes behind the winner.

He said he has been playing golf since he was 7 or 8 years old, about the same age at which he learned how to fish.

"But since I've been on tour, it's taken away from my golf time, so it's pretty astonishing that I finished third," he said. "I've competed before in golf, but nothing of this magnitude."

Wirth takes his games seriously, whether it's golf or fishing or riding thoroughbred horses – being a jockey was one of his first careers. He arrived at the World Amateur site three days early to get in a practice round on each of the five courses. He spent hours each day on his swing.

He said the driving-range sessions were necessary to "educate" his hands to the golf club. The golf swing is nothing like casting a rod.

"One thing is you have to keep your wrists from rolling like you do when casting," he said. "You're dead in golf when you let your wrist roll."

SKEETER-UP:

Owners of Skeeter boats can test their fall fishing skills Sept. 19-21 at South Carolina's Lake Murray during a Skeeter Owner's Tournament, the second of three this year.

According to Skeeter, its July tournament on Texas' Lake Fork drew 800 Skeeter owners and more than 1,600 anglers. The third owners' tournament of 2008 is set for Oct. 11-12 on Patoka Reservoir in Indiana.

The Lake Murray event's weekend schedule is crammed with activities, including a concert, meet-the-pro night, southern barbecue and a Bassmaster CastingKids contest. A long list of prizes will be offered, including a Skeeter ZX200 bass boat powered by a Yamaha engine. The rig is valued at more than $43,000.

Anglers can register online at www.SkeeterBoats.com.

ELITE PROS HELP LEUKEMIA-STRICKEN BOY.

More than a dozen Bassmaster Elite Series pros donated tackle, jerseys and autographed caps to an online auction to benefit Ron Phillips, a 13-year-old with Burkitt's Leukemia.

Phillips was diagnosed this year with the rare blood disorder after being admitted to the hospital with a liver injury from a backyard football game. Now he's fighting to recover from a liver transplant as well as combating the leukemia.

The auction on eBay is scheduled to continue for several more days. Fishing fans can view the Elite-donated items by searching the eBay site for "rpbfund."

An avid bass angler, Phillips is getting support from the fishing industry as well as from individual pros. Several donated their services for the "fish with a pro" program during the Aug. 16 Ron Phillips Benefit Bass Tournament in the Upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Among them were Elite and Bassmaster Open anglers as well as pros from the Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors.

KVD ON 'WHO WE ARE':

"Any one of us will bring in another guy's fish at the end of the day if he needs help. That might mean he'll get the check we would have gotten. Still, we do it. It's what we're about. It's who we are." — Kevin VanDam, the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, in an Aug. 28 Bassmaster.com blog titled "We Do the Right Thing"

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive web properties in www.Bassmaster.com and www.ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women's Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers a wide array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.