- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

When the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s annual BASS Federation Nation Championship ended last week on Lake Neely Henry in Gadsden, Ala., a 30-something science teacher from Barnsdall, Okla., won the three-day event, outfishing 53 fellow amateurs. Royce Dennington caught 43 pounds of bass, beating South Carolina’s amateur representative, Brent Long, by a mere two ounces.

It was enough to earn him one of six prized Federation Nation berths in next month’s Bassmaster Classic — a kind of world championship of bass fishing that allows a small number of amateurs to go up against the world’s best professional bass tournament anglers. Dennington also won a spot in the Bassmaster Elite series of tournaments, $15,000 in cash, a fully rigged Triton bass boat valued at $50,000 and a guaranteed spot in the Bassmaster Open tournament division of his choice. In other words, if Dennington wants to try and choose a professional bass fishing career that might (or might not) result in fame and fortune, he can do so.

But for Maryland amateur BASS Federation Nation chapter members, the best news from the Lake Neely Henry event was that their state representative, Kevin Waterman of La Plata, emerged as the winner in the Mid-Atlantic Division. Waterman, who finished in fifth place, is well known by a throng of weekend tournament fishermen who often congregate on the tidal Potomac River during spring, summer and fall. He had 34-pounds, 11-ounces of Lake Neely Henry bass. With that catch total, he earned an invitation to the Bassmaster Classic, which will be held on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb. 23-25.

Waterman now will practice more on freshwater lakes that present different problems than the rivers he is more used to. In an Alabama lake, there are no tides that can trigger a feeding urge in the bass, not to mention the types of terrain the bass live in can differ greatly from those in tidal water.

Kayak fishing symposium — The Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association (TKAA) will have its first Mid-Atlantic Kayak Fishing Symposium on Feb. 24-25 at Wild River Outfitters (757/431-8566) in Virginia Beach. A number of kayak manufacturer and equipment representatives will be on hand. You will see the newest fishing kayaks and accessories, and there will be fishing seminars by the Mid-Atlantic’s most knowledgeable kayak anglers. Admission costs $5 for the weekend. Every paid admission gets a raffle ticket for a new Ultimate 12 kayak by Native Watercraft. For more information, go to www.tkaa.org.

Deer hunt open in Northern Virginia — If you haven’t filled your freezer with venison, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries reminds hunters the new extended antlerless deer hunting season continues through Feb. 3 but only in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Remember this is only for antlerless deer. In order to hunt deer with a firearm on private lands in Fairfax County, a special landowner permit is required. For that permit, contact the Division of Animal Control in Fairfax.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers? — Ornithologists from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are looking into reports of an ivory-billed woodpecker. Two Arkansas motorists said they saw a female ivory-bill fly out of a tree and swoop down behind a moving truck in mid-December. The Associated Press said one of the motorists, Kip Davis, has attended workshops that taught him how to identify the large bird, which was thought to be extinct. Research teams are now checking out the area in the eastern part of the state.

Cougars confirmed in Missouri — They’re heading east. Mountain lions have definitely been identified in Missouri. Late last year the Missouri Department of Conservation verified photographic and other evidence of at least two mountain lions, the ninth and 10th confirmed in the state. There have also been sightings in West Virginia and one in Maryland, but it’s not believed to have been confirmed by state wildlife experts like the ones in Missouri.

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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