- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2001

When the ESPN cable sports network bought the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society a little more than a month ago, the BASS honchos who then ran the 600,000-member international fishing "club" used much printing ink and e-mail space telling the fishing world that nothing would change. Everything would be lovely. Hugs and kisses and all that.

Oh, yeah?

Within weeks of the ESPN purchase the erstwhile queen of BASS, its untouchable CEO, Helen Sevier, had a new boss. It was Michael Rooney, ESPN's senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Outdoors. In one swift move, Sevier became second banana at BASS, the executive vice president.

Now Rooney has decided to lower Sevier's once lofty standing another notch, as he named ESPN marketing wizard Dean Kessel as the general manager of BASS.

Let's not kid ourselves. Titles sometimes mean nothing, but the rearranging of the BASS hierarchy says tons. BASS will never be the same again and ESPN is quick to put its own brand on an organization that consists of a TV show, magazines, professional fishing tour, seminar series and an international membership willing to fork over money to belong.

Kessel will now be Sevier's boss, and I want to sell you a parcel of swampland if you believe that Sevier will do anything more than sharpen her pencils and watch TV in her office.

The first phase of the ESPN putsch is complete. Watch and see if not more BASS uppity-ups will be moved sideways or out the door. By the time the branding is complete, BASS will no longer resemble its former self.

Changes already include sponsorship packages for the BASS Classic fishing championship that are wide open compared to the once tightly-knit, small "family" of manufacturers that underwrote the prestigious annual fishing event. Stay tuned. More movements are on the way.

Trout thieves at work What's this world coming to? Several years ago a group of commercial netters was nabbed stealing bass from the tidal Potomac River. Now, four Maryland men are charged with stealing freshwater trout from a Western Maryland trophy trout area, to boot.

One of the culprits that was arrested and charged, Raymond Ferstermann of Baltimore, once held a Maryland brown trout record for a 12-pound, 14-ounce beauty that he claims he caught in Deep Creek Lake in the spring of 2000. The record was broken just this month by West Virginian Gary Kuhn, who landed an 18-pound, 3-ounce brown trout in a legal area of the Potomac River's North Branch.

Ferstermann, 27, and three others pleaded guilty to fishing in an off-limits area of the North Branch just below the Jennings Randolph Dam in Mineral County, W.Va. Another Baltimorean, Larry G. Langley, 25, also was charged, as were Edgewood, Md., residents David L. Gentry, 45, and George W. Ashe, 43.

The four were cited with committing 16 fishing violations, including fishing in a restricted area, illegally possessing trout (some of them 26 inches long), conspiring to commit a natural resources crime and fishing without a license. And guess what Ferstermann does for a living? He's a waterman a commercial fisherman.

Our thanks to outdoors writer Michael Sawyers of the Times-News in Cumberland, Md., and professional fishing guide Brent Nelson, who is very familiar with western Maryland waters, for providing details of the trout theft.

Looking for deer hunters Fairfax County's Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge will conduct separate buckshot-only deer hunts Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 10-11. If you are interested, send a 3-by-5-inch card (postmarked no later than Sept. 2) to Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, 14344 Jefferson Davis Highway, Woodbridge, Va. 22191. The card must include your full name, address, phone number, and be accompanied by a $10 check or money order payable to the USF&WS.; If you are selected, you then must fork over another $20, but if the lottery drawing doesn't pick you, the $10 is nonrefundable.

To hunt for the deer that need to be held in check on Mason Neck, you must have a Virginia big-game hunting license, attend an orientation session and prove that you can hit a target on the refuge range. Information: 703/490-4979.

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