Time to play the perfect host. Beginning today, 40 of the world's best bass fishermen begin hunting fish that can win one of them $50,000 in the three-day 21st annual $200,000 BASS Masters Classic in the upper Chesapeake Bay complex.
It's OK to watch them from a distance by boat, but don't get close enough to spook the fish. And if you're working a nook and notice one of them fishing a pattern in your direction, back off as a courtesy. You're not obliged to, but they are our guests -- and the classic puts our local bass'n waters on the map of North America.
Some fishing goodies to watch for at the BASS Masters Classic Outdoor Show that continues through Saturday at Baltimore Convention Center:
The Tequila Sunrise spinnerbaits by Dixie Dancer, a line Potomac guides have found very productive, and for small buzzbaits there's the Dixie Clicker with white lexan triple blade -- a great combo for smallmouths. Jaker Weedless-Plus Jigs make soft plastics literally dance off the bottom.
If bass boating rough waters is a pain in the back, there's the new Valeo Sports Belt for keeping the body in shape under physically stressful conditions -- an accessory many of the pros are turning to. And don't miss SparklScales by Fish Formula. They'll catch a fish's eye, and sniff Berkley's new Power Tails for spinnerbaits. Of split tail design, they have Power Bait scent, and intriguing action. There are more than 100 exhibits in the free show that closes tonight at 9; tomorrow's hours are noon to 9 p.m., through it is again closed during the classic's free public weigh-in at Baltimore Arena. Saturday's hours are 10 to 8, but no close during the 2 o'clock weigh-in. During evening hours some of the pros will appear in the booths of their sponsors -- a chance for fans to get autographs.
* Today: First day of the BASS Masters Classic out of Dundee Creek Marina, winds up Saturday. Marina launching facilities are closed to public through Saturday.
* Saturday/Sunday: Trap shoot, traps open 9 a.m. both days, Metro Gun Club, Malcolm, Md. Call John Stevens, 679-4199.
Planning ahead ...
* Aug. 29: Opening of 33rd annual White Marlin Tournament sponsored by Ocean City Marlin Club. Call 1-301-289-6363.
* For information on hunting for either deer by bow, or waterfowl at Wye Island Natural Resoures Management Area, call 1-301-974-3017. No gun seasons at Wye this year for deer, but the bow season will run Nov. 4 through 22, by permit only. Waterfowl shooting will be by permit only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Names and places ...
* Welcome are those huge bluefish that have moved in off of Point Lookout where David Hawkins got two of 15 pounds while chumming near the Target Ship. Smallest blue taken aboard, said Hawkins, was 6 pounds.
* Here covering the BASS Masters Classic for the Bridgeport Post is outdoorsman Frank W. McKane Jr. with a story of how he handled humane extremists who tried to disrupt public waterfowl hunting at Lake Lillinonal at Paugassett State Forest near Newton, Conn.
Dressed in hunter garb, he figured the demonstrators would follow him through the maze of woodlands and marshes, which they did. Then he sped off in a boat piloted by a friend, leaving them behind with a seven-mile hike back to civilization without a "guide" to make them aware of the shortcuts. Good thinking in a non-belligerent way.
* Helen Seiver, chairman and owner of classic sponsoring BASS, not a figurehead. Since buying the outfit from founder and still president Ray Scott, she takes ownership and management seriously. Also, after three years on the board of Sports Fishing Institute, she has been elected its chairman. At BASS functions, she has a low profile, but she is in Baltimore, and attending all the big events on the schedule.
* But no profile can be lower than that of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, long scheduled to kick off the BASS Masters BP
Casting Kids program at Centennial Park, Columbia, yesterday. He didn't show, didn't send anyone in his place, nor did he dispatch an apology to the more than 1,000 young participants and an overflow crowd of several thousand adults who did show. Thankfully Ray Scott subbed masterfully for the guv.
The visiting press grumbled, the local press was embarrassed. Winners in the Maryland BASS Federation casting competition also at Centennial Park were Jim Cassell Jr. in the 7- to 10-year-old class, and Christian Crew, 10- to 14-year-old class.
* Remember the Johnson Silver Minnow, once so popular for bass, pike and pickerel? It's not gone, nor forgotten, at least not with Roland Martin who is back on his old waters for the classic. When he came back last summer for pre-practice, then for practice Tuesday, he used some of the big old spoons with double twister tails attached -- and caught nice fish with them. In these days of glitter this and glitter that, crankbaits, buzzbaits and fat plastic worms, some big fish still like those old spoons.
* When classic anglers found Gummy Bears in their box lunches for quick energy boosts during Tuesday's practice fishing session, they complained they didn't have time to chew on them, and asked for a return of candy bars. Angler of the Year Guido Hibdon is said to have threaded a hook through one of the bears to promptly hook a bass. He can't do that with a Snickers.
* No blue marlin were taken by the 24 boats in the fifth annual West Ocean City Blue Marlin Tournament, so it was a three-way tie for first place involving boats that took two whites each. Top money was decided by the fish caught first -- and went to Dan Deer, fishing the True Grit skippered by Jim Farlow; about $15,000 from the various pots and pools. Fourteen-year-old Cam Kephart, fishing Top Gun II, and Cliff Cleavens on the Ocean Lady also got two fish.
Question box ...
* In view of Baltimore's midsummer hot weather, reader Ron Panski claims BASS has to be trying to fool the public when it claims that nearly all fish caught, then driven to Baltimore Arena, weighed in, then later released will survive. "That's impossible. Who do they think they're fooling?" he asks.
Our answer: Don't discount the claims of BASS. Documented survival rates for regular BASS tournaments average 98 percent; 99 percent at last year's classic on the James River under torrid weather conditions. How is that possible?
The pros whip their fish very quickly, then handle them with care because of penalties for dead fish. They are promptly put in the boat's aereated live wells, and when boats are put on trailers for the ride from Dundee Creek Marina to the weigh-in at Baltimore Arena ice is added to the wells.
At weigh-ins, fish are placed in cool water and chemicals in plastic bags, quickly weighed, and the process is repeated in reverse -- and after being observed at a DNR facility, they go back to wild waters. Almost all of them will survive.
* NOTE: To have an item or question included in the Outdoor Journal, write Bill Burton, The Evening Sun Sports Dept., 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.