Jones parlays fishing and cards to lure bass fans

COLLECTORS NOTEBOOK

December 08, 1991|By Ruth Sadler

The once-disparate worlds of sports card collecting and bass fishing are moving together, thanks to Mike Jones.

An outdoor writer and football-card collector, Jones is the man behind Pro League Bass cards.

The cards are in their second year and are taking most of Jones' time. "I haven't written much in the past year," he says.

L Bass fishing's popularity gave Jones the idea for the cards.

"It was pretty obvious that these [anglers] had gotten hero status in the bass community," he says.

He knew that there were about 30 million bass fishermen in the United States, and "it's an industry I know."

"I know most of the pros and approached them," he says. "Most of them were very positive [about the idea of trading cards]. . . . Now it's become important to the guys coming up. [Being on a card] is becoming a benchmark."

For design, he uses what he likes in other trading cards and uses the highest-quality paper he can get. He signs each angler to an individual contract for the cards. He consults with people in the bass industry to choose the anglers for each set.

The first set of cards made its debut at the BassMasters Classic in Richmond, Va., in 1990. "The biggest thing was overcoming a non-collector audience," he says. The cards were an immediate success, but Jones had to educate the buyers. They were longtime bass fans, but many were novice card collectors.

Jones said that by last summer's Classic in Baltimore, their card sophistication was apparent. They were buying two sets -- one to keep and one to get autographed -- and were offering their heroes Sharpie pens (favored by autograph seekers) to use on the cards rather than ballpoints.

"These guys are approachable," he says. "You can get most of these cards signed."

There are 92 cards in the set, including two checklist cards, and this year's edition includes six female pro bass fishermen (last year's set was all-male). The cards are standard size and gold-bordered. Pictures are in color, and there is a small Pro League Bass insignia at the top of each card. Backs are largely textual with biographical information and career highlights. There are special cards, including legendary anglers George Perry and Bill Dance, Rick Clunn with a recycling message, Larry Nixon's back-to-back MegaBucks titles and four Hall of Famers.

The cards are sold only by the set, but, like other sports trading cards, there are additional collectible cards. These are produced by Pro League Bass and underwritten by an angler's sponsor -- such as last year's special card of Hank Parker, who had just retired.

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The Maryland Stadium Authority got the first one, but there are other Oriole Park at Camden Yards commemorative coins. The 1-troy ounce silver coins, produced by Chicagoland Processing Corp., show an artist's drawing of the new park on one side. The other side has an aerial view of Memorial Stadium taken during the last baseball game there by sports photographer Michael Gustafson. The coins, which cost $29.95 plus $5 postage and handling, can be ordered at (800) 933-2669.

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Upcoming events:

Today-Saturday, Silent auction of uniforms worn on Memorial Stadium final weekend to benefit Santa Claus Anonymous and Orioles Children's Charities, Hit and Run Club, Memorial Stadium, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., (410) 547-6140.

Today, baseball card show, Comfort Inn-Airport (I-695, Exit 6A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.

Saturday, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn (I-695, Exit 17), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 922-8366.

Dec. 29, baseball card show to benefit Loch Raven Recreation Council Baseball League, Loch Raven Optimist Bingo Hall (Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue), (410) 931-4881.

Jan 5, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.

Jan. 18-19, Bird Expo '92, baseball card and memorabilia show, Pikesville Armory, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Feb. 2, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.

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