- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

We'll see if the latest brainstorm from a fishing entrepreneur creates a big stir among America's angling fanatics as the first-ever professional fishing skills competition is held in late May. It's all part of a contest touted as a world championship bass fishing tournament hosted by the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in Hot Springs, Ark. The tournament waters include Lake Ouachita and Lake Hamilton.
The BassFan.com Fishing Skills Competition promises to pit the nation's top bass pros against one another in various events, such as flipping, pitching, spinnerbait casting, light-line crankbait casting, and the deadly "Carolina rig retie" whatever that means.
"For the first time, fishing fans will get to see their favorite pros flip, pitch and cast up-close," said BassFan.com president, Jay Kumar. "Not only will that enable fans to learn things they might otherwise never learn, they will see just how good the pros really are."
Some of the touring bass anglers don't mind displaying their skills as long as there's a reward at the end of the day. "I think the skills competition is a great idea," says Arkansas pro Mike Wurm, currently ranked seventh in the world by BassFan.com, which rates the dozens of professionals by money-winning finishes and the number of events they participate in.
Wurm says, "It will get the pros interacting more with the public and among themselves. We're highly competitive people. I'm really looking forward to it." Wurm wants to see how the competitors stack up against each other and how accurately they cast.
The bass anglers' Hall of Fame, along with several pros, is going to design the fishing skills course so that fans will be able to get an eyeful.
Meanwhile, the Hall of Fame World Championship for the first time will bring together the top anglers from all of the major bass tournaments in America. The 100-boat field will consist of the top 40 FLW Tour finishers, the top 40 BASS Master Tour finishers, the top 10 WBFA (women) finishers, BASS Masters Classic winners, WON Bass (western) winners and the BFL All-American winner (all 2001 standings).
For more information on the fishing championship, including how to participate as an amateur, call 888/690-2277.
As concerns the casting skills among the people who sometimes earn lucrative incomes by fishing professionally, if a superstar like Missouri's Denny Brauer is in it, watch out. I was with Brauer during a Bass Masters Classic event on High Rock Lake, N.C., when he happened upon a rickety boat dock that was surrounded by criss-crossed lattice strips. "I'll bet there are some bass back inside in the shade," he said and promptly fired a plastic worm from a baitcasting outfit through a broken opening in the lattice strips that might have been 10 inches wide and eight inches high.
The worm sailed through the opening from 20 or 30 feet away, sank into the water, and nothing happened. The burly Brauer retrieved it gently, executed a second cast and it went through the same opening without touching any of the wood. Again, nothing happened. He did this a third and fourth time, never missing, and on a fifth try slammed the hook to a bass with such speed that the bass was in the boat and judged a keeper before the fish even knew what happened.
Yes, during the hook-setting and high-speed landing of the bass, the lattice-work hole grew a few inches. But the fact remains that this millionaire bass angler never missed that narrow opening. He did say later that he practiced casting in his backyard whenever possible, no differently than tennis players and golfers practice hitting balls. Imagine, and here we have weekend amateurs who believe they are so good, they don't need to do that.
It's about time! The Virginia Marine Resources Commission, for many years the best friend of the commercial fish netters in the state, finally got fed up with one scofflaw. The VMRC recently gave Arnold Ray Evans of Saxis Island a one-year license suspension under its repeat offender regulation. Evans previously pleaded guilty in federal court on charges of transporting untagged striped bass (rockfish) across state lines. He was arrested on these and other charges after taking federal and state undercover agents hunting even though the migratory waterfowl season was closed. During the undercover operation, Evans illegally used bait to attract birds and fired illegal lead-shot ammunition. A previous felony conviction made it illegal for Evans to even posses a firearm.
The Virginia Coastal Conservation Association says Evans has a 40-year record of resource convictions. Despite that, VMRC commissioner Laura Belle Gordy voted to put Evans on probation. What's with her?

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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