- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Michigan’s Kevin VanDam made history last weekend when he added the first Bassmaster Elite 50 series championship to a growing list of honors that includes three Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and a Bass Masters Classic world championship. VanDam earned $151,000 for the overall series victory.

“What a day,” VanDam said after the competition, which was held simultaneously on the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. Paducah, Ky., served as headquarters for the event.

Texan Alton Jones actually won the tournament, but since this was only one of a series of Elite 50 contests, Jones couldn’t catch VanDam in the combined point standings. Jones’ final Elite 50 bass catch weighed 22 pounds, 7 ounces, allowing him to slide into second in the Elite 50 series points and walk away with the $106,000 second-place prize.

The award for total honesty, however, goes to Paducah native Mark Menendez, who had a tough final day. Menendez, a local favorite, was disqualified for removing his life vest in an area that required personal flotation devices. When he realized his mistake, Menendez called Bass Anglers Sportsman Society tournament director Trip Weldon and reported his own infraction. Weldon immediately informed Menendez that he must release all of his fish and that he was eliminated from competition. Thus, Menendez lost his chance for a big payday.

“I broke a rule, so I turned myself in,” Menendez said. It cost the tournament angler dearly because he had a limit of bass that weighed about 17 pounds, which might have been good enough for a winner’s check.

Fans can watch ESPN2 telecasts of the final event of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series Saturday and July3 at 10:30 a.m. both days.

Maryland hunters score on turkeys — Maryland’s spring turkey hunting season resulted in 2,760 of the wily birds ending up on dinner tables, but the overall success rate was 12 percent below the near-record 2003 harvest of 3,120.

The state’s wild turkey population remains strong, but the weather was unsuitable for good reproduction the past two years. The 2004 take proved as much; there were not nearly as many young birds seen as in years past. However, the state says turkey numbers will rebound quickly when weather conditions return to normal. If it’s too wet or too dry, reproduction suffers.

The highest turkey kills were recorded in Allegany (387), Garrett (325) and Washington counties (305). The lower Eastern Shore counties of Dorchester (289) and Worcester (269) also supported respectable harvests, although most eastern counties dropped substantially from last year. Increases in counties like Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s and Harford suggest populations are continuing to grow and expand in a few areas.

Animal rightists lose sponsor — After massive complaints from hunters and anglers, the pet food company Iams has ended a relationship with an anti-hunting animal rights organization.

In January, hunter advocate U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance alerted outdoorsmen that the Iams Co., maker of Iams and Eukanuba pet foods, joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as grand national sponsor of the Pet Fest America tour. The tour is a series of animal shows developed by HSUS. A flood of sportsmen’s calls, faxes and letters ensued, and in the end, Iams, a division of Proctor and Gamble, discontinued its support of the anti-hunters.

Iams conceded the feedback it received from sportsmen had a great deal to do with its decision to cut ties with the HSUS.

“[We] apologize for the frustration that this sponsorship has caused,” the company wrote in a letter addressed to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.

According to the sportsmen’s group, some of the nation’s major consumer product and service firms, including General Mills, Accor Economy Lodging, Sears and Ace Hardware, ended relationships with HSUS after thousands of sportsmen levied strong protests.

BASSMASTER ELITE 50

The top finishers in Saturday’s final event and total series earnings:

1. Alton Jones, Waco, Texas, $106,000

2. Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., $28,500

3. Rick Clunn, Ava, Mo., $28,000

4. David Wharton, Sam Rayburn, Texas, $26,400

5. Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., $151,000

EVENT

Surf fishing school — Sept.9-12, Oct.21-24, Outer Banks, Nags Head, N.C. Each session is scheduled to coincide with productive fishing periods. Pro guides Joe Malat and Mac Currin are instructors. Cost: $250. Contact Malat, 252/441-4767; joe@joemalat.com. Motel reservations, 800/334-3302.

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

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