Bass'n is good for those who know the tidal waters of the upper Chesapeake Bay complex, though not for those unfamiliar with the creeks, rivers and flats near Baltimore. So, the 21st BASS Masters Classic slated for Aug. 22-24 promises to be a most interesting affair.
Though some of the 40 contenders for the $50,000 first-place prize in the World Series of Bass Fishing practice-fished here earlier this summer, few really know the upper bay region. Those who tried to get a handle on it during brief practice forays earlier this year had varying success.
The cut-off date for practice was late June, and things will be much different in late August. The waters will be much warmer, and bass patterns will be considerably different. But, the 40 classic contenders are a unique lot.
They are expert fishermen, and crash courses on new waters is part of the tournament trail. They adapt; they learn quickly from charts of strange waters -- and these guys can find a big bass behind a blade of grass.
Upper bay bass fishermen can learn much from the pros, who, starting from scratch, will probably fish waters long overlooked by the regulars hereabouts. Upper bay bass'n may never be the same again.
Everyone will be rooting for the pros to catch lots of fish, especially Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who had to come up with nearly $300,000 to attract Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society (BASS) to Baltimore. The governor -- primarily a casual flounder fisherman who more recently has dabbled in bay angling -- personally got involved in negotiations.
But, the payoff can be big for Maryland. BASS itself will write checks for $1 million here during the Classic to pay for various expenses. They include, but are not confined to, the staging of public weigh-ins, an outdoor show, hosting the contenders and their wives in elegant style, paying out $130,000 in winnings, entertaining nearly 150 members of the press from as far away as Japan, and hosting various other side attractions that are free to the public.
In addition, the Classic will spotlight Baltimore area bass fishing for the entire world, not to mention the 530,000 members of BASS. Good catches could bring countless new anglers here in the future. Bass chasers go anywhere to try promising new waters.
Also, hefty weigh-ins could promise serious consideration for Baltimore in future Classics. Richmond hosted the affair for three consecutive years, a run that stopped in 1991 when Schaefer outfoxed Virginia's Gov. Douglas Wilder and brought the biggest fishing event in the world to Baltimore.
Bass anglers from across the country will come to rub elbows with their favorites, to witness the excitement of the weigh-ins and to see the latest in bass tackle that will be exhibited for the first time ever at a show in the Baltimore Convention Center.
Places like the Susquehanna Flats and river, Sassafras, Northeast, Gunpowder, Bohemia, Upper Patapsco, Saltpeter Creek, and Elk and Chester rivers will become datelines.
If familiarity with these waters promises a favorite, it has to be Randy Romig of Spring City, Pa., a crankbait and plastic worm specialist who once won three consecutive upper bay regional one-day tournaments with incredible catches of 18 1/2 , 17 and 17 pounds.
If he duplicated that, Romig practically would be assured the $50,000 jackpot. Romig predicts between 30 and 32 pounds for three days of angling will win.
Romig made his catches after Tropical Storm Agnes, which in 1972 wiped out much of the upper bay grasses so important to bass habitat. Former Marylander Roland Martin knew the upper bay region well when he was a Loch Raven guide, but that was before Agnes changed the face of things.
The remainder of the field consists of newcomers with a reputation for being able to find fish in your bathtub, which promises an exceptionally interesting late August fish-off.
Hook into these freebies
In these days when everything demands a price, it's refreshing to find something that doesn't. And, for the public, there are many freebies available when the 21st annual BASS Masters Classic comes to Baltimore during the week of Aug. 19.
* Wednesday, Aug. 21: Autograph session with Classic contenders, public invited to bring cameras, 8 to 10 a.m. Official launch of the national BASS Master BP Kids casting program featuring an appearance by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, 10 a.m., followed by the Kids Klassic, a casting competition for youngsters 7 to 14, with an estimated 1,000 participants.
* Thursday and Friday, Aug. 22-23: First two competition days Witness contenders launch, 6:15-7 a.m., Dundee Creek Marina, Gunpowder State Park. Also, free those days from noon to 9 p.m., the BASS Masters Classic Outdoor Show at Baltimore Convention Center, though the show is closed during the weigh-in at Baltimore Arena (starting at 2:45 p.m. both days). See the latest in tackle. The public can witness the weigh-ins at no admission fee.
* Saturday, Aug. 24: Classic's finale, and the contenders launc again from 6:15-7 a.m.; outdoor show continues, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Convention Center; pre weigh-in bonanza including laser light show and much more fanfare, 2 p.m., Baltimore Arena, immediately followed by the weigh-in and crowning of the champ. Outdoor show will continue during the weigh-in. Classic sweepstakes winner announced from among those who attend weigh-ins -- and the prize is a fully rigged classic bassboat. Again, admission is free.