Kile, Valley Angler Earn Classic Berths

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Mark Kile of Rye Creek is one of only two Arizona tournament anglers to earn a berth in the $700,000 Citgo BASS Masters Classic.

The other Arizona angler, Phoenix resident John Murray, will hook up with Kile to represent the state at the Classic, Aug. 1 to 3 on the Louisiana Delta near New Orleans.

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Mark Kile of Rye Creek is one of only 11 Arizona anglers to have ever qualified for the $700,000 Citgo Bass Masters Classic. Kile will travel to Louisiana Saturday to practice for the event that will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Kile calls the Classic tournament "the Super Bowl and World Series of bass fishing."

Kile and Murray qualified for the Classic during the Bass Anglers Sportman's Society regular tournament season. Kile finished 12th overall in the point standings and was named the circuit's rookie of the year.

His biggest win, which was televised nationally on ESPN, was at a BASS tournament in Clear Lake, Calif.

There, he earned $40,000 for a second-place finish. Had he been able to boat an elusive fish he hooked in the final moments of the tournament, he would have won the first-place prize of $100,000.

Kile estimates his tournament earnings this season at about $90,000.

Kile and Murray's appearance in the Classic will be only the second time in the 33-year history of the event that Arizona has been represented by two anglers.

The first occurred in 1998 when Kile and Greg Hines of Tempe earned BASS berths.

After three days of Classic competition, the pair caught less than 16 pounds of fish and were not included in the final weigh-in. In 2002, Murray was the state's lone representative and finished 14th overall.

Only 11 Arizona anglers have ever qualified for the Classic.

Although the tournament is dominated by Midwest and Southern anglers, the western fishermen add a new dimension to the tournament.

"I think western fishermen are more versatile because we have less (waterways) to fish in and must try different (methods)," he said. "They have a lot of water and lots of fish, we don't in Arizona."

Kile and Murray travel Saturday to Louisiana where they will practice for the tournament.

Tournament rules allow six days of open practice on the shallow tidal waters of the massive Delta.

Each qualifier is allowed to take along one fellow angler for practice.

Kile has asked friend and fellow tournament angler Clifford Pirch to accompany him.

According to Kile, the challenge of the tournament will be the hours of boat travel involved in reaching choice fishing sights.

"We might spend three hours each day trying to find the big fish," Kile said. "We'll even go into the Gulf of Mexico."

Another obstacle Kile and Murray must overcome is southern Louisiana's sweltering summer heat .

For tournament qualifiers, the enticement of battling the heat and the hours of travel time is not always the $200,000 top prize. Rather it is the prestigious endorsements and lucrative speaking contracts that go along with a Classic victory.

"If you win this one, you're pretty well set," Kile said.

Currently, Kile is sponsored by Yamaha, Skeeter Boats and Bill Luke Dodge.

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