Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Saturday, when Woodbine, Md., resident Justin Riley competed in an Anglers Choice winter bass tournament on the tidal Potomac River with his father, Ed, by his side as a contest partner, he never believed that piscatorial thunder would strike.

“Oh, like all bass fishermen I’ve dreamed about catching a 10-pound bass,” said Riley, 26.

However, who would have believed that Riley, running in slow circles to break up a thin layer of ice on a stretch of quiet water above the Wilson Bridge, would latch on to an 11-pound, 2.88-ounce largemouth with all the racket he made?

“I was using a half-ounce blade bait tied to 12-pound Berkley Big Game line,” said Riley, who dropped the shiny metal lure to the bottom of the water column and almost instantly felt something touch it. He set the hook, and a considerable fight was under way.

“At first, I didn’t know that it was a bass,” Riley said. “We actually thought it was a big carp, but eventually she came to the surface, turned on her side and I saw the markings. That bass ate the lure off the bottom. She engulfed the whole thing. It was unbelievable. She ran with it and put on quite a show.”

Riley thinks the big bass lived her entire life in the general waters where she was caught.

After the official weighing of various contestants’ fish, Riley was declared the winner with a five-bass total well over 26 pounds. The trophy bass was then put into a water-filled boat livewell and, with the help of friend Bob Cherry, transferred to the Bass Pro Shops store in Arundel Mills Shopping Center near Baltimore. There the fish was quickly slipped into a giant aerated display tank.

That was on Saturday. By Monday, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries dispatched biologists to the store to verify the weight of the bass and officially list it as a state record. The old freshwater mark stood at 11 pounds, 2 ounces. Riley’s bass topped that by 0.88 ounces. Of course, it already beat the mark in another category, the tidal water bass division, in which a 9-pound, 1-ouncer held reign for some time. Now Riley’s beauty is the bass to beat any way you look at it.

And where are you fishing the next time you go?

Trout stocking schedule — Maryland’s spring trout stocking promises bigger numbers in the state’s streams and certain impoundments. More than 337,900 new trout will be swimming about soon. To add to the bounty, the Conservation Fund”s Freshwater Institute recently pledged to add 15,000 rainbow trout, each weighing 1½ to 2 pounds, to Maryland’s list.

The DNR said stocking is still being impacted by the closure of several hatchery facilities that are now recovering from the whirling disease outbreak in 2006, but private hatcheries will sell trout to the state to make sure enough of the fish are available. The schedule, with maps and directions to all stocked waters, can be seen at

Virginia striper record? — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball says a potential state record striped bass was caught last Wednesday aboard the Country Girl, captained by Pat Foster. The boat left Rudee Inlet, and its passengers easily found rockfish action. Near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Atlantic waters, a monster fish hit the red/white Stretch 30 lure, and angler Fred Barnes of Chesapeake, Va., was ready to bring it in. The striper was only 5½ pounds shy of the 78½-pound IGFA world record caught off New Jersey in 1982. Barnes’ striper weighed 73 pounds and should be accepted as a Virginia mark.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday in The Washington Times. E-mail: .

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