- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

What most bass anglers accept as the annual world championship of bass fishing, the BASS Masters Classic, begins tomorrow at daybreak on Lay Lake near Birmingham, Ala. The $350,000 contest ends Saturday with the crowning of the champion in Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

The Classic is the premier event of a Bassmaster Tournament Trail that draws thousands of bass fishing fanatics from throughout the U.S. to try competitive fishing. Classic week is the annual celebration of the sport of bass fishing that attracts members of the sanctioning Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. They will invade the busy Alabama city to meet their fishing heroes, attend public weigh-ins that can attract more than 20,000 onlookers inside the civic center, and attend an outdoor show that accompanies the festivities.

Birmingham has played host to four BASS Masters Classics, with the competitors either fishing in Logan Martin Lake or Lay Lake. The latter was the scene of the 1996 Classic one of the closest in the contest's 32-year history when Arkansas' George Cochran edged South Carolina's Davy Hite by one pound.

Lay Lake is an impoundment of the Coosa River about 40 miles from Birmingham. With more than 250 miles of shoreline and 12,000 acres, Lay Lake is home to a sizeable population of both largemouth and spotted bass. The launch venue for the event is Paradise Point Marina.

The object of the tournament is very simple. With an observer in the stern, each angler is given an identically rigged bass boat. He goes out on the lake and attempts to catch five legal-size bass each of the three competition days using artificial lures. At the end of each day, the catches of the live fish are tallied, the fish released, and the same scenario repeated for two more days. At the end of the contest the man with the heaviest three-day total is the winner.

The anglers competing in the 2002 Classic represent 20 states and Japan. Texas leads the way with nine qualifiers and 11 states have multiple qualifiers.

The Classic will be televised live tomorrow and Friday (5-6 p.m.) on ESPN2, and Saturday (7-8 p.m.) on ESPN.

Deer hunt for the disabled The Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's upper Eastern Shore will have a whitetail deer hunt for hunters with disabilities, Monday, Sept.16. Disabled hunters who have a state-issued "Hunt from a Vehicle" permit are eligible. The hunters will be allowed to use shotguns, muzzleloaders, crossbows or regular bows. If needed, local volunteers may be scheduled to assist non-ambulatory hunters when notified in advance.

Eastern Neck is a 2,286-acre Chesapeake Bay island with bridge access. The refuge's agricultural program and forested areas provide ample food and habitat for a healthy deer herd. Information about the refuge and its hunting opportunities is available on easternneck.fws.gov where hunters can also find a printable application form.

Deer hunts for non-disabled hunters are scheduled Sept.23 and 27 for archers; Oct.4 and 11 for muzzleloaders; Oct.18 and 25 for shotgunners. Hunters may apply for only one type of deer hunt, but can apply in groups of up to five. Two deer can be taken, one of which must be anterless. Deer that are killed on the national wildlife refuge will not count against the state license limit.

There is a non-refundable $10 application fee ($5 for those with Golden Age or Golden Access passports). Hunters will be selected in a random lottery. Aug.28 is the application deadline for the non-ambulatory hunt for hunters with disabilities, as well as the shotgun and muzzleloader hunts that are open to all hunters. The archery deadline is Aug.8.

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

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