I felt sorry for the guy on the banks of Liberty Reservoir yesterday. His happiest hour was ruined by a bass'n do-gooder in a vest adorned with pins and patches advertising trophy catches.
"What did you keep that for?" grumbled the latter. "Don't you know you're supposed to put bass back?"
The young angler with two bass on a stringer was shocked. He had expected a compliment for a largemouth of about a pound, a smallmouth that surely topped 2 1/2 pounds, and he also had a few nice bluegills and perch.
Both bass took a Strike Thunderstick swimming plug not far from Oakland Mill Road. The smallmouth was the biggest he ever caught, he later told me.
Gloomily, he added that he expected his wife would have been thrilled, and it would have made a nice supper. "Would have?" I countered. "Go ahead and thrill her, then enjoy the meal. Don't let that guy's griping bother you -- you're entitled to those fish."
In the past 20 years, bass fishing has gone wild in popularity, but there is still room for more anglers, and room also for those who want to take some bass home. In tournaments, the emphasis is on catch-and-release, which is commendable, but some anglers fish for fun and eating -- and to take a few fish home needs no apologies.
This is not to suggest that all legal bass should be kept, but there's nothing wrong with keeping a few -- especially the biggest bass a fellow has ever caught. Bass are prolific creatures certainly capable of replenishing their numbers if fishermen play it conservative.
The favorite food fish of my wife is bass, so not infrequently I keep one or two for her, though I don't share her enthusiasm for their bland taste. This growing insistence on putting every bass back is ridiculous.
Enough said on that. I visited Liberty to check it out before the upcoming biggest tournament ever to come to that, or any other Maryland reservoir. There will be $10,000 guaranteed in prize money in the Sept. 20-22 Liberty Lake Invitational Bass Classic.
The heaviest bass will be worth $5,000; the runner-up, $2,000; and it goes down to $500 for the fifth best -- either largemouth or smallmouth. The field will be limited to 180 boats and 200 shore fishermen, all of whom will be restricted to fishing two of the three days.
Both artificial and live baits will be allowed, which should prove interesting. Can a live crawdad outfish a Pig 'n Jig? There also will be trophies for walleyes, crappie, catfish and carp.
Boat entries are $100 for two anglers; shore siders will pay $45. Call Chuck Motsko at 653-2765, or Jim Franzoni at 561-3762.
Coming up Sunday at another reservoir is the Cockeysville BASS Masters Loch Raven Megabucks Tournament, with $2,000 in prizes. The entry fee is $50 a boat, and prize winners will be decided by the total weight of fish to the boat. Live bait will be allowed.
Fishing hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., just show up at the fishing center launching ramp and register.
If you want a hint, guide Duke Nohe says his reservoir fishing at Prettyboy has been best in 18 to 35 feet of water, and he uses mostly jig-type baits. Nohe can be reached at 1-717-235-7951.
* Anne Arundel Archers will be holding the first in a planned annual series of Bowhunter Fairs Sunday at its facility near Crofton. It will be a great opportunity to prepare for deer season, which opens Sept. 14.
There will be many booths, exhibits and demonstrations; admission is free, but broadhead tuning will be $3, so will entry in the McKenzie 3-D Shoot. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The range is located on Route 301 across from McDonalds, just north of Davidsonville Road (Route 424). Call 1-301-551-7683.