At B.A.S.S. tourney, reel life elusive 'Bassmasters' crew hit troubled waters


September 28, 1993|By PETER BAKER

MARBURY -- For four days last week, during the Bassmaster BP Top 100 Pro-Am fishing tournament, perhaps $4 million worth of boats and gear and 200 fishermen roared up and down the Potomac River, with each angler harboring great expectations.

Somewhere within that madding crowd each day, Bob Cobb and the two film crews of the "Bassmasters" television series worked to document the best of the action and keep up with the tournament leaders.

"This is journalism, really," Cobb said Friday afternoon after the Day 3 weigh-in. "But I have to tell you that so far we are having absolutely the worst tournament of anyone out there.

"We have been near the right people, but it seems we have been there at the worst of times."

On the first day of any tournament his crew covers, Cobb said, they have to work on an educated guess, picking what should be the best fishing areas and then trying to find the best fishermen.

Day 1 on Wednesday led Cobb and Co. north on the Potomac from Smallwood State Park in Charles County above the Wilson Bridge and into Washington waters.

"It was foggy that morning," Cobb said, "and I have to tell you, that if you are not real familiar with the no-wake and slow-speed zones up there it can get you into trouble."

Sure enough, as Cobb and his film crew were running toward the prime fishing areas near Wilson Bridge, a police boat, blue light flashing, came out of the fog and pulled them over.

"While the police officer was explaining about speed zones and no-wake areas," Cobb said, "the fog lifted just a bit and we could see Randy Dearman a short distance away.

"Well, while the officer talked on, Dearman got a fish. The fish broke his rod and he wrestled it around the boat and finally got it aboard. But we didn't get any of it."

Dearman of Onlaska, Texas, turned out to be the co-leader after Day 1, tied with Tom Biffle of Wagoner, Okla.

L On Day 2, Cobb and Co. set out to follow Dearman and Biffle.

They found Dearman early in the day with three fish already in his livewell.

"So we pulled up and asked if we could wire him for sound and hang around and shoot for awhile," Cobb said. "He said, fine. But then he didn't catch another fish until after we left to try our luck with Tommy."

Biffle, too, had been having good luck. But when the film crew arrived, his fish stopped biting, too.

"There are days when nothing will go right," Cobb said, shaking his head. "We stayed with Tommy for quite a while [Thursday], and he didn't catch a fish.

"But just after we pulled away -- we were not 200 yards off -- he caught one about 8 pounds. We missed that one, too."

Biffle's 7-pound, 15-ounce largemouth turned out to be the largest fish caught in the tournament and put him in first place entering Day 3.

Friday morning, the wind was northerly about 20 knots and waves on the main river were close to 3 feet. It was almost too rough to shoot.

"We don't fake anything," said Cobb when asked whether he considered holing up in a tidal creek and waiting for the wind to drop away, which it did a short while before noon.

"This is a documentary. You have to tell the story and a big part of that story is the weather and the fishing conditions. If you didn't tell that part of the story, too, you might as well be filming on a private pond somewhere."

By the end of Day 3, Cobb and Co. certainly had that part of the story, and the leader board had changed. Biffle and Dearman were no longer a major part of the story.

Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Mo., Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., and David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., were bunched at the top of the standings, and Cobb and Co. replotted their locations and hoped for good weather on Day 4, the final day of the tournament.

"If I had to make a choice right now of who we are going to follow most tomorrow [Saturday]," Cobb said Friday afternoon, "it would be Brauer and Fritts -- they both have been red hot -- and, of course, King, who is the leader."

Day 4 turned out to be perfect for fishing. Light winds. Heavy overcast and intermittent showers. Cobb and Co. should have had no trouble finding and filming the leaders.

If Cobb and Co. seemed puzzled and frantic at the final weigh-in Saturday afternoon, it might have been because the film crews were still scrambling to get their man and tell his story.

King, Brauer and Fritts had fallen from the lead and Jay Yelas of Jasper, Texas, who had never won a B.A.S.S. tournament, had climbed through the Top 10 to win.

But by the time the film of this tournament airs in late January or early February, you can be certain that Cobb and Co. have made a silk purse out of what at one time seemed to be a sow's ear.

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