- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2004

Because of a glitch in the way the catches were tallied Monday, La Plata, Md., teenager Mike Roselle was pushed from second to third place in the first Junior Bassmaster World Championship, held on North Carolina’s bass-stingy Lake Norman.

But that’s not the story. Nor is it that Californian Sean Alarid won the event in the 15-to-18 age bracket of 36 contestants or that Jeremy Lins of Wisconsin was second, followed by Roselle, who will be a senior at La Plata High School this fall. It’s the way the Marylander made it to the national championship that makes it seem like he might be the stuff professional bass tournament stars are made of.

He appears to have all the necessary qualifications: accurate casting skills, endless energy, concentration and an unnerving habit of instantly feeling a bass touch a soft plastic bait on the end of his line, something some good anglers three times his age can’t. Roselle started fishing with his dad, Rick, when he was 5.

“We went after bluegills in farm ponds or yellow perch down at Allen’s Fresh in Charles County,” recalled his father, a fine bass angler in his own right. But the fishing didn’t get serious until Rick hired La Plata tidal Potomac River bass guide Dale Knupp. At the time, Mike was 8.

“We caught a bunch of bass that day,” Mike recalled. “Eventually, I learned how to use baitcasting reels, and I got real serious about bass fishing when dad started the Southern Junior Bassmasters [a youth club that is attached to the Maryland State Bass Federation]. My brother Danny and I have really enjoyed the junior club.”

Mike also belongs to an adult fishing group, the Freestate Bass Hounds, which conducts small, local fishing tournaments.

“In his first year, among the 30 members, Mike ranked fifth in the club standings,” Rick said. By 14, Mike already had won a couple of the club’s contests, and he came out on top in a Susquehanna River tournament in which he hooked 40 bass in one day. But he modestly admits only five of them met the required 12-inch minimum.

“That kid has a ton of fishing ability,” Knupp said. “You tell him something one time, that’s it. He remembers it. And when you’re fishing against him, don’t even think about giving him a break. He’ll eat you alive — and smile doing it. He’s a natural, I tell you.”

After qualifying for the Junior Bassmaster World Championship in a series of elimination tournaments (he also competed in the Eastern Division of the national Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Federation in an event held on Vermont’s Lake Champlain in which the Maryland Bass Federation paid all his expenses), he met one of his heroes. At Lake Norman, young Roselle got to shake the hand of Mark Davis, a former bass fishing world champion and Bass Angler of the Year.

Along with other big-name pros, Davis volunteered to chauffeur the young contestants around the lake. Roselle hit the jackpot. He and a competitor from an 11-to-14 age group drew Davis to be their captain. They were elated. Although, the Arkansas pro wasn’t able to help either one of the boys with the fishing, he encouraged them and would steer his boat to whatever spot Roselle pointed to.

Davis was truly impressed with Roselle. During a practice day in which catches counted, the La Plata teenager placed second, then followed it with a third-place finish in the youth championship a day later. Davis clearly was proud of the way Mike slung his favorite artificial worm, a scented Strike King Zero, under tight spots around various boat docks, sticking the hook to fish here and there. Roselle lost a big fish in one instance, and Davis consoled him by saying, “If you break off a bass or miss one, don’t get frustrated. Put it behind you, and then act as if the tournament is just starting.”

Roselle said it was great advice.

At the end of the contest, Davis put his arm around Roselle’s shoulders and told him, “You’re on your way.” It meant Roselle had “it,” that special something that sets a good fisherman apart from a potentially great one.

We’ll see.

Incidentally, Roselle won $2,000, which will be used for his education.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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