Colwell, Waterman make Classic cast

February 11, 2007|By CANDUS THOMSON

Until this year, a Maryland Bass Federation member had never made it to the Bassmaster Classic, the sport's signature event.

Japan and Zimbabwe have been represented, but not the 70-club federation. Guys came close, but close only counts in things like shaving and the sleeping arrangements in my tent.

Now the streak is over, times two.

Russ Colwell, a contractor and native of Dundalk, and Kevin Waterman, a plumber from La Plata, qualified for the 37th Classic, a three-day competition that begins Feb. 23 on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala.

"It's a very difficult thing to do," Maryland federation president Roger Trageser said about securing one of the Classic spots. "I was ecstatic when Kevin qualified. I just had goose bumps. But when I got the call that Russ got the last spot, that was the icing on the cake."

The two Marylanders will face 48 other anglers, a combination of pros and fellow amateurs, all hoping for a chunk of the $1.2 million purse. Top prize is $500,000.

For Colwell, who won $100,000 at the Bassmaster Series Championship in addition to securing a Classic berth, it was a dream come true and a great way to celebrate his 48th birthday.

"I haven't had a real good tournament history. I re-qualified by the skin of my teeth this year," he said.

On top of that shaky history, Colwell was 11 pounds of fish behind the leader on the final day of competition on Alabama's Lake Guntersville.

But the self-proclaimed "weekend fisherman" didn't give up. In fact, one could argue, he went a little overboard.

Taking the advice of his partner, Tony Impellizzeri of Michigan, the two fished the shoreline with jerkbait near the launching ramp. In less than a half-hour, Colwell caught all of his fish and was finished by 10:30 a.m.

"You know when they say you're in a zone. Man, that's where I was," he said.

But in the fishing frenzy, Colwell lost count of what was in his live well, and when he looked inside two big fish covered up the rest of his catch.

As he lined up to weigh his final day's catch, BASS officials found he had brought in six fish, one more than the tournament limit. Under the rules, Colwell lost the weight of the heaviest fish, which he estimated at 6 pounds, but was allowed to weigh the remaining five.

"My wife [Kimberly] was going to kill me when she heard I had six fish," he said, able to laugh about it now. "If I had lost because of it, I don't know what I would have done."

But Colwell finished with 48 pounds, 15 ounces in the three-day tournament, more than 1 pound ahead of the runner-up.

Of the prize money, Colwell let out a hearty laugh and said, "Well, now I'm only $200,000 in the hole instead of $300,000."

The aptly named Waterman, 41, was the federation's Angler of the Year in 2004 and 2005 and has shown himself to be the best on all types of H2O, west to east, tidal to freshwater.

"Kevin is such a laid-back guy, but he can fish rings around you," Trageser said.

He made the Classic by winning the Mid-Atlantic Division last month at the BASS Federation Nation National Championship on Alabama's Lake Neely Henry.

Waterman started strong, taking less than two hours to land 19 pounds, 4 ounces of fish. But things went south on the second day, when he weighed just three fish for 5 pounds and dropped to eighth place. That put Virginia's Ivan Morris ahead in the division by a pound.

"He was beating himself up pretty good," Trageser said.

Like Colwell, Waterman recovered on the final day, catching four fish to bring his total to 34 pounds, 11 ounces, good enough for fifth overall and taking the division by just over 4 pounds.

Maryland has planted its flag at the Classic just once before. However, Chris Price, a roofing contractor from Church Hill, represented the Delaware federation, a not uncommon place to find Eastern Shore anglers.

Only once has an amateur beaten the pros at the Classic. In 1994, Bryan Kerchal, a 23-year-old cook from Connecticut, squeaked by veteran angler Tommy Biffle to win on High Rock Lake in North Carolina. Three years later, Dalton Bobo came up 1 ounce short of winning on Lake Logan Martin in his home state of Alabama.

Maryland's good fortune extends beyond the Classic itself. Three Maryland boys will compete in pre-Classic events. Douglas Neary of Crofton will compete in the National Casting Kids competition. His brother, Austin, will fish in the Junior World Championship in the 11-14 age group, while Ben Dziwulski of Woodbine will be in the 15-18 age group.

Tie one on

Shake off the winter blues, swap some lies and brush up on your fly fishing skills at the annual "Tie Fest" on the Eastern Shore.

What started with seven guys infected with cabin fever getting together to tie flies in someone's basement now attracts more than 350 anglers who gather at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge in Queenstown.

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