- Tim Tucker
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Editor's Note: The CITGO Bassmaster Elite 50 event on the Alabama River will be telecast on ESPN2 in two parts. Part one airs this Saturday, June 12, at 10:30 a.m. ET. Part two will air Saturday, June 19 at 10:30 a.m. ET.
The fishing fans who crowded into Prattville's Stanley-Jensen Stadium might not have realized it, but Mark Davis wrapped up his heroics at the Bassmaster Elite 50 event on Saturday on the 37th anniversary of Ray Scott's first national tournament.
The All-American, held June 5-7, 1967, on Arkansas' Beaver Lake, was the launch of Scott's dream of turning bass fishing into a legitimate sport. When Stan Sloan won that tournament with 37 1/2 pounds, neither he nor the other 105 competitors could have had any idea of how the sport would explode. That tournament was the precursor to today's multi-million-dollar CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer.
Scott was on hand last week to present the champion's trophy to Davis.
"It was a day very much like it is today with bright, blue skies," Scott told a crowd that was on hand at Cooters Pond Park to watch the final-round launch. "That was quite a day.
"BASS came shortly after that first tournament and the real sophisticated tournaments that we see today started to evolve. It's a great sport We bring together, by very tedious process, the best fishermen in the whole world. And that's what you've got here today.
"The God-given talent and genius that these men exercise — it's just humbling for me to be here. This is a fine, fine group of people. We are representing the best sport that America has to offer. And that's fishing."
Scott is a big fan of the innovative Elite 50 concept, which marks the first time that an entire tournament trail matches the cream of the crop of today's bass pros in limited-field events. The 50 top pros earned their Elite status through either their combined performance over the past three CITGO Bassmaster Tour seasons or based on careers of excellence that placed them atop of the BASS all-time money list. These are the most fan-friendly tournaments ever, with 10 a.m. launches and 7 p.m. weigh-ins.
"It's a heck of a concept," Scott said. "I especially like the late take-off and the 7'o'clock weigh-in. I never would have thought of it. I thought you had to get up before daylight.
"At that first tournament a lot of the guys were complaining about having to come in at 3 o'clock. At Arkansas where we held that first tournament, it didn't get dark until 9 o'clock. But I had sense enough to hold onto that 3 o'clock (weigh-in time). And everything good happened after that. Finally after 37 years somebody got smart and said, 'Why in the heck do we have to start around daylight?'
"I love it. This is banker's hours. What a deal!"
Observers in the Elite 50s pay for the privilege of riding along with some of America's best bass anglers for three days to get schooled on big-league tournament fishing. So you can imagine Kevin VanDam's surprise when his opening-day observer at the Elite 50 event on the Alabama River brought a book.
"He read a book," the three-time BASS Angler of the Year said. "It was pretty slow. I wasn't catching a lot of fish. He read that book and every now and then I'd give him a reason to look up.
"He was really into it. It was some horror-type book. Reading a book when somebody is bass fishing like that would be pretty tough for me to do. I'd have a hard time just sitting out there reading."
Four-time Classic champion Rick Clunn was the only angler in the Elite 50 that had not competed in the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Tour stop on the Alabama River.
"I have not fished here since (1982) when Paul Elias won the Classic here, so it's been a while," he said. "And those were the fall Classics, so I really have never fished it this time of year."
Clunn finished 15th with 17 pounds, 14 ounces.
Did you know?
With his Elite 50 heroics, Mark Davis became the 11th BASS pro to post back-to-back victories.
Tennessee's Jack Wade becomes 48 on June 8. Reigning Classic champion Michael Iaconelli and Chad Brauer of Missouri turn 32 on June 17 and 19, respectively. Western pro Ish Monroe will be 30 on June 20. Five days later veteran Pennsylvania pro Randall Romig becomes 54. Arkansas angler Ron Shuffield celebrates his 48th birthday on June 27, while California's Skeet Reese will blow out 35 candles on June 30.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Arkansas pro Mark Rose would likely still be working as an employee with the Boy Scouts of America.
They said it
I had a bad day, but a reporter came up and asked me what was the worst job I ever had. I thought back to when I was working in a warehouse and I slaved unloading trucks. And I thought to myself, 'You know what? Today's not such a bad day. I get to fish for a living.' Every day I get to come out here and do something that I absolutely love to do.
Reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli, who hasn't had many bad days in his career.
Tim Tucker's Pro Angling Insider is a new bi-monthly newsletter with an annual subscription rate of $39.95. It can be ordered by calling toll-free 800-252-FISH. A sample issue can by seen on his Bass Sessions 2004 web site, www.timtuckeroutdoors.com.
Inside BASS: An anniversary of sorts