Sykesville angler has $6K bass payday

ON THE OUTDOORS

April 29, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

Just last summer, while watching pros fish for a six-figure payday on the Potomac River, Bruce Richardson was musing about what it would take for him to advance on the bass angling circuit.

Sitting in his boat that he joked cost more than his first house, Richardson, then 44, wondered how long he could continue to compete in small tournaments with minimum prizes. The 15 years he had spent chasing fish - nine in competition - was getting harder and harder to justify, he said.

"You suppose it will ever be my time?" he asked.

The answer, Richardson found out on April 7, is yes.

The Sykesville man out-fished 201 other anglers at Lake Gaston in North Carolina to win the season opener in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League's Piedmont Division. He collected $6,000 and 200 points, with four more stops left on the tour. The top 30 anglers in the Piedmont Division will advance to the regional competition in New York on Oct. 9-13.

Lake Gaston straddles the North Carolina-Virginia line, about 65 miles north of Raleigh. The 34-mile-long, mile-wide lake, created when a flood control dam was constructed in 1953, is a terrific fishing hole.

Richardson's five bass, totaling 19 pounds, 2 ounces, weighed almost a full pound more than his nearest rival's catch. He fished a Bomber Model A red crankbait in shallow, stained water.

"I've come a long way," Richardson said during a phone call. "It really takes a lot to win one of these."

Cold temperatures and muddy water made fishing tough, and a hand injury increased Richardson's degree of difficulty. He had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome in March and had the stitches removed just four days before the tournament.

"It made me slow down my fishing, because it hurt so much," he said. "It also made it hard for me to control a fish when I caught it."

What he had working for him that day was a videotape, "Secrets of Lake Gaston," that showed the lake at a lower level during dam repairs. Richardson noticed underwater ditches, and come sunrise on tournament day, he made a beeline for them.

"These fish were just sitting there, waiting to spawn, but the weather wasn't right yet," he said.

Within 15 minutes, he had his first strike, and by 11 a.m., he had his five-fish limit. (Speed can be important in bass competition, because anglers can boost the weight of their catch by swapping small fish caught early on for larger ones.)

"I learn a lot from every tournament, because you fish with a lot of people from different states and learn new techniques," he said. "The tournaments make you fish more aggressively and concentrate more."

Next up on the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League circuit is a one-day tournament Saturday at Virginia's Leesylvania State Park along the Potomac, not too far from where Richardson pondered the future last year.

Young hunters

Three boys and one girl participated in the April 14 spring turkey Youth Hunt, thanks to members of the Free State chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, who acted as guides. And two young hunters bagged birds!

Chris Cochran, 11, of Chesapeake City, aided by NWTF guide Jim Richards, shot a 23 1/2 -pound gobbler on public land in Allegany County. The bird had an 11 1/2 -inch beard and 1 1/4 - and 1 1/8 -inch spurs.

"We didn't put our smiles away until he went home," says chapter member Bill Rowan.

Billy Spredbrow, 13, of Ellicott City, shot a 15-pound Jake with a 5-inch beard in Harford County with the assistance of the senior Bill Spredbrow.

The other two young hunters from Baltimore County also enjoyed a day of hunting: Rachel Olsen, 14, guided by Bill Testerman, and Richard Willinger, 12, guided by Greg Dick.

Spring fling

Looking for a road trip that's a bargain to boot? Scoot across the Bay Bridge on Saturday, and drop down south of Cambridge for a day at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Any day at Blackwater is a good one, but May 5 is free admission. Once there, you can take a bird walk, learn to build a hummingbird feeder, watch an archery demonstration, visit a butterfly garden, check out an owl program by the Salisbury Zoo, or cheer on the terrapins in the turtle race (no Dukies, please).

Take a blanket or chair, because at 3 p.m., the refuge is having a concert.

Blackwater's 20,000 acres have been nicknamed "the Everglades of the north" for good reason. Eagles, osprey, egrets, warblers all call it home. Take a walk on the half-mile Woods Trail loop and maybe see an endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. If you feel like walking some more, try the Marsh Edge Trail that runs along the Little Blackwater River.

But go visit, especially Saturday. Information: 410-228-2677. Did I mention it's free?

Take a bow

Since the mid-1970s, the Maryland Archery Association has conducted a charity shoot on the first Sunday in May. For the third year, the organization benefiting from the shooting competition is Camp Sunrise, a program in Glyndon for children with cancer.

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