JACK WOLLITZ The most and the biggest
Ever since the first time two anglers stood side by side in a prehistoric stream and dueled to see who could spear the biggest specimen, fishing has had a competitive side.
Some would argue that modern fishing is an extension of ancient sustenance activities, not a game. Others believe the contemplative aspects are what anglers ought to value.
The fact is, however, that whether we fish for food, peace of mind or for cash and trophies, the big question back at the dock is: Who caught the most and the biggest?.
ESPN's Great Outdoor Games will answer that question in two competitions for trout and bass anglers July 12-17 around Lake Placid, N.Y. The fishing events are among a full slate of outdoor games that include target shooting, timber sports and sporting dogs.
A fly-fishing tournament will be conducted with 12 competitors stationed on individual beats set up on a half-mile section of the Ausable River in upstate New York's Adirondack region.
Eleven bass pro anglers will vie for the bass-fishing championship on Lake Placid in a two-day tournament.
Competitors include nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Roland Martin, his son Scott, and defending BASS Masters Classic champ Woo Daves, four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn, Tim Horton, Gary Klein and Larry Nixon. Last year's Great Outdoors Games bass champ Peter Thliveros also is in the field.
Many of the non-fishing events will be staged at Winter Olympic venues such as the speed skating and Mirror Lake. The games will be aired July 26-Aug. 3 on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. In addition, fans can check on results at www.great outdoor games.com.
The ESPN event is a testimonial to the growth of outdoor sports in general and organized fishing tournaments in particular. Today competitive fishing is the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar industry, that began more than 30 years ago when B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott began promoting bass tournaments.
Now, with its recent acquisition of B.A.S.S. Inc., ESPN is adding a new dimension and a more interesting way of answering the age-old questions: Who caught the most and who caught the biggest?.
Virus study: B.A.S.S. has issued an announcement praising the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for establishing a high priority for studies focusing on a virus disease that kills largemouth bass. Research money is available for studying the mysterious disease that since 1995 has killed thousands of bass - mostly in southern states.
"Largemouth bass are the nation's most popular sportfish and quality fisheries are maintained almost entirely by natural reproduction," said Bruce Shupp, B.A.S.S. National Conservation director. "We're really happy about this."
While the virus has affected southern bass lakes, several outbreaks have been reported north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Researchers hope to pinpoint the cause of such outbreaks and search for ways to slow down or stop the virus' spread.
Bass boats: This year's BASS Masters Classic, scheduled for Aug. 2-4 in New Orleans, is the first ever in which the 45 competitors will not be fishing out of identical boats.
B.A.S.S. Inc., which hosts the world championship Classic, previously provided identical boats for the contenders, all manufactured by sponsor Ranger Boats. This year, however, the organization signed up co-sponsors for boats and outboards.
This year's field of anglers will fish from 21 Tritons, 20 Skeeters and four Bass Cats. Mercury is providing power for 25 of the boats, while Yamaha motors will hang from the other 20 transoms.