- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

In 1975, at a world bass fishing championship held in Currituck Sound, N.C., a stocky, usually smiling professional angler from Tennessee told his press observer for the day, "While I'm fishing, you be sure to do the same. I want you to win the reporters' daily contest."

Such urgings from a contender in the exclusive BASS Masters Classic were unheard of, but it was typical of Billy Westmorland, who at the time was the best smallmouth bass angler in the land and quite an expert on the largemouth bass that inhabited the brackish waters of the Currituck.

Although Westmorland had a mantle filled with tournament victory cups and plaques, he didn't win the BASS Classic that year, but his observer/partner won the press contest with a 3½-pound largemouth on one of the three competition days. I remember. I shared the boat with him that day.

Westmorland was a living legend along the waters of Dale Hollow Lake on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. Back in the 1970s, his famous Horsefly bucktails caught so many smallmouth bass in Dale Hollow that some people would rather stay on dry land than be caught on the water without the famous lure.

Westmorland liked to tell the story of a huge smallmouth bass he hooked and lost at his "home" lake, which prompted Tennessee writer H. Lea Lawrence to say, "Billy really knew smallmouth bass, and when he said that fish weighed around 13 pounds, I completely believed it. After all, why would he lie?" A 13-pound smallmouth easily would have been a world record; a 10-pound, 14-ouncer continues to hold the honor, and it, too, came from where else? Dale Hollow Lake.

Westmorland was highly regarded on the professional Bass Angler Sportsman Society tour. In fact, the founder and owner of the nationwide chain of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris, was saved from certain drowning by Westmorland during a horrible Ozark storm many years ago while the two participated in a bass tournament. There was no fear in the man, and he, of course, expected anyone else to do the same for him if the need arose.

Once when I needed help for a local charity fishing show, I called Westmorland in Celina, Tenn., and asked him if he was busy on a certain upcoming Sunday. His answer: "Pick me up at the airport and make reservations for me at some motel." Westmorland showed up, and the crowds loved having the famed angler, tackle designer and author of "Them Ol' Brown Fish," a book on smallmouth bass fishing, signing autographs and making small talk.

A little more than a week ago, Billy Westmorland, 60, died of a heart attack.

I'll miss him greatly.

Woo shows how Longtime professional bass angler Woo Daves, of Burrowsville, Va., did it again. He visited a bastion of Yankee fishing know-how in Catskill, N.Y., and walked away with a $50,000 winner's check. Daves did the same two years ago when he was on Lake Michigan, competing with the world's finest bass anglers, and he won the 2000 BASS Masters Classic worth more than $200,000.

Last Saturday, Daves reminded the tournament fishermen everywhere that he's a force to be reckoned with as he tallied 32 pounds, 5 ounces of Hudson River bass over three days to claim top honors in the New York Bassmaster Northern Open event.

"All I was looking for this week was to make a check," the burly Virginian said. "Sometimes people kind of give up on you, so to win this is pretty special."

Daves edged Rhode Island's Michael Wolfenden by a mere six ounces. Third place went to Connecticut's Lee Bailey with 29-8, and fourth place was a tie between Florida's Steve Daniel and Vermont angler Thomas LaVictoire with totals of 29-1.

Daves is a tough competitor who at one stage of the tournament was trapped by a high tide behind a low-slung railroad bridge. What to do? He removed his boat's windshield, then flooded the bottom of the craft with river water to lower it just enough to allow it to pass under the span for the ride back to the marina. Of course, first he let the boat's bilge pumps empty out the water.

For his win, Daves used a brown Zoom French Fry worm, a 3/4-ounce Ledgebuster spinnerbait with twin copper blades and a 4-inch Zoom craw in pumpkinseed color with a chartreuse tail.

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

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