Thursday, April 16, 2009
Bill Cochran's Field Reports: BASS bashes Beat the Elites tournament
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
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- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
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Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
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In the beginning, it sounded like a fun idea. When the bass pros show up for the April 23-26 Bassmaster Elite Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain, why not have a companion tournament for the good old boys, one that operates the same hours as the featured event? You know, see how the locals stack up against some of the top pros in the country.
After all, BASS has eliminated the co-angler competition, which in the past allowed an amateur to climb into a boat with a pro and fish out of the back end -- even win some money.
This season, it is all pro and the guy in the back seat is just observing, not fishing, and paying good money to do that.
While this elevates the status of the pros, some weekend anglers think it takes away from them. The co-angler concept often was the doorway for amateurs to become pros. Now that is gone.
All this played a role in the idea of having a local tournament, called Beat the Elites, that would run in conjunction with the Brawl. But as soon as it was announced, opposition became intense. In fact, there has been so much heat that the sponsor has appeared to go into hiding.
The Beat the Elites Web site offers little information on what is going on. It appears to say that registrations no longer are being accepted, but there will be a big fish contest.
Some of the harshest criticism has come from Elite qualifiers. BASS officials don’t like it either. The April issue of Bassmaster Magazine carries a column by Editor James Hall who calls Beat the Elites “a selfish tournament format” and “in poor taste.”
Hall quoted Elite pro Ish Monroe who said, “We are trying to provide for our families, and that lake is our office for just a couple of days.”
You might think that the good old boys would be supporting the Beat the Elites concept, but you’d be wrong. The chat lines I have checked weigh heavily in opposition.
There certainly is no law against having a competing tournament. Smith Mountain Lake is public water and the bass belong to anyone who has a fishing license.
A Beat tournament probably wouldn’t hurt the Elite tournament, other than bruise the egos of pros who get out-fished by amateurs. It might even create more excitement.
To say the tournament is “selfish” and “in poor taste” appears to be a stretch for an organization that will be utilizing this public resource for financial gain on one of the best family fishing weekends of the entire year.
The idea that the pros make their living fishing and everyone else should scram sounds like what commercial fishermen say.
I guess it comes down to a matter of respect and Southern hospitality. The locals should back off and let the big boys cast for cash in peace. After all, they are our guests and they will bring publicity to our lake, which is good for our economy. Franklin and Bedford counties have spent a huge amount of money to get them here and so has the major sponsor, Advance Auto Parts. The nice thing is to make them feel welcome and not intimidated, just as we’ve always done, not because we have to but because we want to.
But they shouldn’t think they own the place, because that would be in poor taste.
BASS EXPECTS SHALLOW BITE AT SMITH MOUNTAIN
The bass in Smith Mountain Lake are expected to be shallow, either in a pre-spawn or spawning mode, during the Advanced Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl April 23-26. That is the word from BASS officials who are the force behind this prestigious Elite Series event headquartered at Parkway Marina.
Two years ago, the last time the Elite series visited the 20,000 acre lake, the June tournament was won by rookie Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., who was 23 at the time and was fishing a post-spawn pattern.
With less than an hour remaining in final day competition, Ashley boated two keepers on back-to-back casts. That gave him a winning four-day total of 57 pounds, 3 ounces. Second was veteran Elite pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., who was 2 pounds off the wining pace.
The contestants are casting for a $100,000 top prize and valuable points in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Leading the point’s race is Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, who won the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion.
Scroggins is predicting that with the bass shallow “there’ll be more sight fishing.” He thinks it will take 17 to 20 pounds a day to win. “I’m sure there’ll be some who try going deep, but the guys who fish shallow I think will have more success.”
The tournament is scheduled to be aired on ESPN2 9 a.m. May 9, but you don’t have to wait that long to see the action. Fans are invited to attend the daily launches at 7:15 a.m. and weigh-ins at 4 p.m. at Parkway Marina (old Saunders Marina).
There will be a number of free dog and pony activities at contest headquarters Saturday and Sunday afternoons -- well, dog anyway. Check bassmaster.com
FLY FISHING FESTIVAL A MAJOR ATTRACTION
The South River, which flows through Waynesboro, will be an attraction for hundreds of anglers April 18-19. It is not that they are coming to fish for trout, although many will. The stream bank will be the setting for the ninth annual Virginia Fly Fishing Festival.
The celebration has become the largest fly fishing event in Virginia, attracting anglers from across the Mid-Atlantic states. Daily admission is $15. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vendors will be demonstrating fishing gear; in fact, you can select a rod and walk over to the river and try it out.
The festival isn’t just about trout fishing. Even the Coastal Conservation Association will have a booth with an eye toward recruiting new members for saltwater angling fun and conservation.
Several well-known anglers will be featured, including Bob Clouser who will be offering fly fishing classes for an additional fee. There will be fly casting and fly tying demonstrations.
Cory Routh, author of Kayak Fishing, The Complete Guide will offer demo rides.
Additional information can be found at vaflyfishingfestival.org.
- Sport fishermen and watermen are clashing over a bill in North Carolina that would designate red drum and speckled trout as coastal game fish, which would make them off limits to certain commercial fishing efforts. The bill, H918, would permit the taking of these two popular sport fish species by hook and line only and would mitigate payments to commercial fishermen who can demonstrate a financial loss created by the regulation. The bill was introduced at the request of the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group.
- Frank Skillman, who ran the recent Smith Mountain Striper Club tournament, took a postman’s holiday and fished the Smith Mountain Lake Striper Fest the following week, his team winning it in competition with 30 teams. Much of the shouting that was heard came from StriperGirls, an all-woman team that finished eighth.
- On June 13, Jeff Turner and his son Taylor, 17, are scheduled to embark from their Warrenton home on a mission to fish 50 trophy waters in 50 states in 50 days. The journey calls for 15,000 miles in a motor home and 6,000 miles by air. Support is coming from Wrangler Rugged Wear, the National Fatherhood Initiative and others. The Turners say their objective is to inspire others to follow their dream. fish5050.com.
- Efforts to restore oysters in the Chesapeake Bay won’t include the use of Asian oysters, according to representatives from Virginia, Maryland and the federal government. Instead, native bivalves, known as Eastern oysters, will be used in an effort to avoid problems that could be the result of seeding an exotic species.
VIRGINIA SALTWATER FISHING TOURNAMENT
The 2009 edition of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is off to a fast start with 1,097 citations registered through the first week of April.
Striped bass lead the way with 268 catch citations and 129 catch-and-release citations. Most were January and February catches made along the oceanfront from north of Virginia Beach to the North Carolina line. The leading entry is a 66-pound, 8-ounce trophy landed at Smith Island by Pete Johnson of Hampton.
Speckled Trout anglers also have been busy, posting 365 citations, many of them from the Elizabeth River which is where Michael Whittaker of Chesapeake landed the largest of the bunch, a 13-pound, 14-ounce trophy.
There also has been a run on blueline tilefish which have accounted for 242 citations. These catches were made offshore at the Norfolk Canyon.
Here are the standings:
BLUELINE TILEFISH: 19 pounds, Michael Carmody, Norfolk, caught at Norfolk Canyon, 242 citations for the species.
FLOUNDER: 7 pounds, 1 ounce, Shey Mahoney, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, three citations.
GRAY TRIGGERFISH: 4 pounds, 4 ounces, Julie Ball, Virginia Beach, wreck off Virginia Beach, two citations.
SEA BASS: 8 pounds, 4 ounces, Rob Collins, Norfolk, wreck off Virginia Beach, 59 citations.
SPECKLED TROUT: 13 pounds, 14 ounces, Michael Whittaker, Chesapeake, Elizabeth River, 365 citations.
SPOT: 1 pound, 2 ounces, Chris Brooks, Virginia Beach, Elizabeth River, one citation.
STRIPED BASS: 66 pounds, 8 ounces, Pete Johnson, Hampton, Smith Island, 397 citations.
TAUTOG: 21 pounds, 13 ounces, Skip Feller, Virginia Beach, wreck off Virginia Beach, 25 citations.
TUNA (BLUEFIN): 101 pounds, Chris Boyce, Hampton, off Virginia Beach, one citation.
Ninth Virginia Fly Fishing Festival, April 18 and 19, on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, $15.
Bassmaster Blue Ridge Brawl, Smith Mountain Lake, April 23-26, Parkway Marina, Huddleston.
Smith Mountain Striper Club annual lake report meeting, May 1, 7 p.m., Moneta Community Center, program by Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Dan Wilson.
Cave Spring Optimist Club fishing tournament on Smith Mountain Lake, May 1-3, $15,000 offered in categories for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, crappie, muskie and catfish, Tickets -- $40 plus 50-cents shipping -- from the Optimist Club of Cave Spring, P.O. Box 1276, Salem, Va. 24153. Outlets in lake area are contest headquarters Foxport Marina, Crazy Horse Marina, Virginia Outdoorsman, Captain’s Quarters and Franklin Outdoors. In Roanoke, they can be purchased at Metro Heavy Duty Distributors, 913 McDowell Ave. (next to the Regional Trash Transfer Station).
Fifth annual Bill Cochran Youth Fishing Tournament, May 2, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in conjunction with the Cave Spring Optimist Club tournament (see item above). Open to youngsters 12 and under, no entry fee as long as contestants are accompanied by an adult entered in the Optimist tournament. Competition for the largest carp and sunfish. Prizes will include saving bonds.
Joe Malat’s Outer Banks Surf Fishing School, May 7-10, Comfort Inn South in Nags Head N.C.,
North Carolina State University Sport Fishing School, May 31-June 4, Hatteras, N.C., $1,445, limited to 45 participants.
Smith Mountain Striper Club meeting, June 1, Moneta Community Center, program on wildlife artistry by taxidermist Dale Carson.
Board meeting of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to finalize hunting/trapping regulations, 9 a.m., June 2, DGIF headquarters, 4000 West Broad St., Richmond.
Hunters for the Hungry banquet, Sept. 12, 5:30 p.m., Roanoke Moose Lodge #284, 3233 Catawba Valley Drive, Roanoke County, $20 single, $35 couple, children under 12 free, tickets from Dave Sarmadi Mitsubishi, Jeff Fletcher, 540-985-6523 or Fred and Phyllis Wells, 540-992-3874.
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