"So how come you write about how great and humble the bass pros are, and one of them won't take a dying boy fishing?" That's the question of Baltimorean Roger Bright, one of three callers yesterday who are taking the Roland Martin turndown incident seriously. Papers across the country, including this one, carried stories yesterday -- one day after an Evening Sun feature on the laid-back lifestyle of bass'n professionals -- concerning Martin's rejection of a plea to take fishing Chris Mathis, a 14-year-old Rock Springs, Ga., lad stricken with an inoperable brain tumor.
Our answer: This writer is as flabbergasted -- and as concerned -- as the callers. It is inconceivable that the first superstar of pro fishing turned down the request of Dream Makers Inc. on behalf of a teen-ager who for 10 years watched Martin, his TV fishing hero, catch fish. A day out of Martin's life -- busy as it is with the pro tour, his TV shooting, personal appearances, running a huge marina complex and such -- is small potatoes compared with the lifetime the young man appears destined to lose.
I'll wager my best bass'n rod the 39 other contenders who will fish the BASS Masters Classic here next month wouldn't have hesitated to even take Mathis along during the big event. Alas, Martin marches to a different drummer, and by many of his colleagues on the tournament trail is considered aloof. You might say he has become impressed with his abilities with a rod and his popularity on the tube.
Martin, 51, now of Clewiston, Fla., learned much of his fishing at Loch Raven and Eastern Shore ponds, so he was considered the hometown favorite for the classic. But his horrendous goof is sure to tarnish his image -- even though he passed off the blame to his marketing group, Outdoor Communications, which must approve such requests. Darlene Mangrum of Dream Makers said it was the first turndown for a request from luminaries of movie, entertainment and sports fields.
Mathis will get to fish with Martin's rival angler Orlando Wilson who also conducts a show (immediately following Martin's) on TBS. Word is Martin and Wilson are friends only on camera -- as the latter gains his own following. And now Wilson has one more important follower.
Image-conscious Ray Scott, founder of BASS and the nation' biggest booster of bass and those who chase after them, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday about his once golden boy, but must be embarrassed by the bad press only five TC weeks before the classic. He organized a tournament in which President Bush and BASS pros -- including Martin this year -- raise $100,000 annually for the Pintlala Baptist Church on the outskirts of Montgomery, Ala.
Yes, Roger Bright, I'm embarrassed, too. Efforts to reach Marti -- with whom I have fished on the tournament trail -- by phone at his home much of yesterday got only busy signals. Was the phone off the hook - or was it a matter of waiting in line to ask why? Martin,the father of two and often referred to as Mr. Cool,becomes Mr. Cold,and all of this takes some of the luster off the classic.Martin is a great fisherman,but if only his heart was as big as the bass he catches.Enough said.
This weekend ...
The tuna run is peaking nicely for Saturday's opener of the fourth annual Tuna Tournament at Ocean City, which offers a $50,000 bonus for any angler topping the IGFA world record Atlantic big-eye tuna of 375 pounds set in 1977 by Eastern Shoreman Cecil Browne.
Much of the offshore tuna action -- and there are yellowfins bluefins and big-eyes -- is in the area of Washington, Poor Man's and Baltimore canyons. Last week, one boat took more than 20, though some were released -- and much of the tournament's direction this year is in releasing fish that stand little chance of winning cash. Blues, blue marlin, white marlin and dolphin also are available offshore.
Shoreside at Ocean City Fishing Center there will be exhibits,and the public can catch the weighins which start around 5 p.m both days and continue until 7:30 Saturday; 7 on Sunday.deadline for registration is tonight.Call 1-800-457-6650,or 1-301-289-8121.
Calender . . .
* Sunday: Race for the Gull, a sailing regatta sponsored by Magothy River Sailing Association, Rock Creek Racing Association and Harbor Hospital Center, starts at 10 a.m. at Baltimore Light and finishes one mile east of the Key Bridge. Boat will arrive at the back lawn of Harbor Hospital where a party will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Trophies awarded at 7:30. Call 347-3441.
Planning ahead ...
July 26-28: Buck Fever, the second edition of an annual all-hunting show at Howard County Fairgrounds. Many seminars,exhibits and demonstrations-also bowhunter and waterfowl-calling contests.Another features will be the Maryland Trophy Deer Contest.All bucks must be scored by an official scorer before the contest.Call 922-5549.
Names and places ...