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Picking site for event as tricky as finding fish

No sooner does everyone arrive at the Bassmaster Classic than the guessing game begins: where are we going next year?

Some destinations, such as New Orleans, are sure-fire hits because of the quality of the fishing and the quality of the food and nightlife. Others, such as last year's site for the Classic, Birmingham, Ala., are groaners because they have no pizzazz.

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Then there are the oddities, such as 2000 host Chicago-a great city, but a dud in terms of local interest and winter-like weather.

And don't get veteran Classic watchers going on the 1991 host city, Baltimore. Folks vividly recall that the exuberance of then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer was unmatched by the local population.

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Many anglers say that while they love fishing the Louisiana Delta, it's time for a change and a new challenge. New Orleans also was the host in 1999 and 2001.

Which brings us back to the future. Representatives of Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis are known to have made pitches for 2004, and there may be other contenders - Pittsburgh is being mentioned.

With the stainless steel arch on the Mississippi, St. Louis is a true destination, even for the Rand-McNally challenged. As a hotbed of NASCAR action, Charlotte would seem able to draw like-minded fans to a bass tournament and trade show.

The fair-minded might say that Charlotte, which lost its NBA Hornets to New Orleans, is owed a player to be named later.

Short on local angles

Maryland isn't represented at the Classic this year, as it was in 2002 when Church Hill resident Chris Price competed as an amateur.

The next-best thing is Curt Lytle, who lives in Suffolk, Va., but grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Sherwood High School. His mother, Harriet Lytle, lives in Annapolis and sells commercial real estate.

Lytle, 34, also fished the Classic in 2000 and 2001.

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Go figure

Like baseball's seam heads - the folks who live and breathe statistics - bass fishing has numbers gurus, too.

Kept hidden in the live well of a 21-foot Triton bass boat, these nameless gnomes have produced some amazing, and pretty much totally unverifiable, bass data. For example:

The 61 competitors will cast about 549,000 times, more than the population of New Orleans, which is 496,938.

They will carry and use about 13,725 lures, weighing a total of 2,135 pounds.

Over the three-day tournament, contenders will cover 38,430 miles of water, or more than 11 round trips between New Orleans and Los Angeles.

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And finally, each of the anglers will see 15 alligators a day for a tournament total of 2,745. (How many are actually pouting crocodiles not selected for the University of Florida media guide is unknown.)

Sightings are expected to increase as the heat and humidity do.


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