This week ...
* With only the formality of a lie detector test late this afternoon between Jim Dawson and a $38,500 payoff in the second annual Rod and Reel's Big Bucks II Fishing Tournament, the story behind it all gives fishermen something to think of for the coming weekend.
This 24-year-old Monkton angler has proven once again there are both surprises and challenges in fishing -- not to mention luck. He caught all his winning blues, one of 17.21 pounds, above Love Point last weekend at a time when everyone knew giant blues were rare in all the Chesapeake -- and none were above the Bay Bridge.
Dawson, a serious angler when not working in the family's construction business, isn't among "everybody." He thinks if a fellow learns his fishing, and fishes hard enough he will be rewarded with big fish.
Don't settle for the little ones is his motto. He's not the type to accept trolling -- he considers it dull and unchallenging -- so he insists on chumming for big fish. There's no money on the line this coming weekend, but perhaps we should consider that, too.
He tells us where to go; waters of 15 feet just above Love Point. No loran readings; we have to find them ourselves. That's one of the challenges of fishing.
But a lot of fishermen already know exactly where. In the two days of the tournament frustrated anglers aboard 30 nearby boats watched Dawson catch fish they couldn't attract to their chum lines, or to trolled lures.
One troller desperate to make a catch worked so close to Dawson's anchored 25-foot Drifter that he cut the chum line. He caught a blue of more than 13 pounds; in return he was the target of a menhaden that an irked Dawson threw at him.
Dawson attributes his win to teamwork of his two-man crew -- he and his father Ellis, but concedes luck played a role.
Last year they earned $43,875 by winning both the Big Bucks and MSSA tournaments, and this year decided to return to their lucky fishing grounds at the Middlegrounds off the mouth of the Potomac. But last Wednesday an upper bay fisherman told the younger Dawson of some big blues holed up near Love Point.
He headed there in a 15-foot boat armed with butterfish purchased at a market and set up a chum line. He quickly got a 14 1/2 -pounder, and promptly changed plans.
His father headed to Virginia to purchase menhaden and trailer their Crisfield-docked 25-footer to the upper bay where it could be launched from Great Oaks Landing in Kent County. They were convinced big blues preferred bunker to Norfolk spot -- the traditional bay chum ingredient.
They were right. Saturday and Sunday some boats around them used spot and got no big fish. Once a chum line was set up Saturday, they prepared to fish when a big blue took Ellis' rod and reel overboard after breaking off the rod-holder.
"What a way to start a tournament," said Jim. "But now we can afford another rod and Shimano 7000 reel. A lot of this money will work its way back into fishing. Last year we got a new Yamaha 250 motor."
From then on Lady Luck smiled. They weren't working a big school of big fish, just scattered ones, but what a haul for two days. Their winners: Biggest fish, 17.21-pounder worth $25,000; 15.47-pounder, $5,000; 15.3-pounder, $5,000; 14.17-pounder, $750; 13.95-pounder, $1,500; 13.85-pounder, $500; 13.13-pounder, $750.
As for bluefish among the remainder of the fleet of more than 400 boats: Ramon Cabera, Greenbelt, 4.23-pounder, $500; Bruce Coulson, Frederica, Del., 3.15-pounder, $250; Billy Carson, Owings, 13.54-pounder (at Love Point), $250.
Sea trout winners, with most of the fish taken at Sharps Island Flats: Todd Ireland, Huntingtown, 7-pounder, $2,500; Capt. Buddy Harrison Jr., Tilghman Island, 6.81- and 6.23-pounders worth a total of $1,250; Kenneth Uhl, Baltimore, 5.86- and 5.56-pounders worth a total of $750; Keith Rupp, Chesapeake City, 5.6-pounder, $250; Evelyn Farnsworth, Chesapeake Beach, 7.56-pounder, $2,500; James Batchelor, Bowie, 7.1-pounder, $1,000; Craig Bickford, Chesapeake Beach, 6.86-pounder, $500; and Fern Eckard, Chesapeake Beach, $250.
So there you have it, and maybe this weekend it will pay -- in fillets if nothing else -- to resist the temptation of settling for the smaller blues that seem to be everywhere, and try for the big stuff.
* Today: Opening of second annual Sunfest Boat Show, Shantytown Village, West Ocean City. More than 100 boats in the water and on land, many boats ready for test rides. Associated marine displays including lending firms. Admission is free. Shuttle connections available from Ocean City. Hours, noon to 8 p.m. today through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 1-301-289-8121.
* Saturday: You might see some early flocks of Canada geese if you attend the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. National Hunting and Fishing Day Show at Remington Farms near Chestertown. All kinds of outdoor exhibits and demonstrations. Admission is free. Call 1-301-778-1565.
* Saturday: Sunfest Trap Shoot, Synepuxent Trap Club, Berlin. Call John Stevens, 679-4199.