- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Imagine the nerve of local bass fishermen wishing to cast their lures into their home waters. Talk about having a serious case of chutzpah.

But that’s kind of what Bassmaster magazine editor James Hall thinks about the home boys around 20,600-acre Smith Mountain Lake in southwestern Virginia. In the April issue of the magazine he wrote that locals were being selfish for launching their boats while his moneymaking, out-of-state organization, B.A.S.S., conducted a tournament.

As a B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournament was prepared last week, Hall lambasted a group of mountain fishermen because the natives were going to have their own contest - little as it might be - at the same time. Why not? After all, there’s plenty of fishing water to go around. Hall, however, didn’t see it that way.

“The local anglers don’t have a $5,000 entry fee on the line,” he wrote. “[They] aren’t fishing for a $100,000 first prize and don’t have the pressure that comes along with winning it or not. And perhaps most importantly, the local anglers don’t have as much at stake when trying to fill a limit - family, mortgage, insurance, debt, etc.”

Hall wasn’t done.

“Why [would] someone come up with such a selfish tournament format?” he wanted to know.

Well, Mr. Hall, I have a bit of news for you. If those Blue Ridge Mountain boys want to fish in this lake, it is theirs a whole lot more than it is yours.

The question might be asked, “Whose water is it anyway?”

I cannot fathom that any for-profit fishing tournament organization that comes from Florida, Alabama or anywhere else would come to a 40-mile-long public lake that has 500 miles of shoreline, then insist that the entire lake be theirs, the local residents be damned.

Professional tournament regular Skeet Reese, who lives in California, was so upset about the locals fishing in their own waters while he was there that he said: “These guys are simply disrespecting our sport. Their community is paying for us to be there to bring exposure to that particular fishery. If our catches suffer because locals are hammering on the fish, the general public doesn’t get to see the full potential of Smith Mountain Lake.”

Mr. Reese, I don’t think the public really cares about what you think.

And what about another touring pro, Ish Monroe, who told Hall, “We are trying to provide for our families, and that lake is our office for just a couple of days.”

Mr. Monroe, if you want to use your “office” for a couple of days, have B.A.S.S. build private lakes, stock them and set them aside strictly for tournament use. Don’t depend on public waters to provide you with an income. The public doesn’t owe you an income. Get used to it.

In fact, since bass professionals insist on not being disrespected and being recognized as professional fishermen who earn their incomes from the fish they catch, would it be out of line to classify them as commercial fishermen? Should they not pay for a commercial fishing license, which runs up to a thousand dollars in some places? But wait. If classified as commercial fishermen, they couldn’t go after bass because bass enjoy gamefish status in most waters, including Smith Mountain Lake.

All that would be fine with me because local waters would be less crowded and we wouldn’t hear ridiculous claims, such as us resident anglers “hammering on the fish.”

Someone at B.A.S.S. ought to hammer some sense into their anglers’ and editors’ heads.

• 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. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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