Chesapeake rough on pros
The wind is blowing, the bass aren't showing, and big Chesapeake Bay is so choppy that long runs are out of the question.
That's an assessment by Ish Monroe, Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Hughson, Calif., for this week's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open, the Sept. 16-18 season finale.
"It's windy now, it's going to be windy tomorrow, and fishing isn't great," Monroe said about two-thirds of the way through Monday, the first official practice day. "If you look at recent tournament weights, one guy catches them good, but the whole field doesn't. They've had a lot of rain and that makes the salt come up high (more northerly), and that makes the fish that are here lethargic."
Fellow competitors he's talked with say they aren't finding fish, Monroe said. "I've talked to guys who have been here three or four days and they've caught one fish or two fish," he said.
Monroe said he considered the 150-mile run from the launch site in North East, Md., south to the mouth of the Potomac River, where he has confidence the bass are in the grass.
"That would leave about two hours of fishing time — given flat-calm conditions," he said. "But you'd have to (take time to) stop for gas going and coming … and with the bay as rough as it is, you probably would not make it back in time. I've pretty much eliminated doing it."
Less than 15 pounds a day will probably take the tournament, he said.
Monroe is 7th in points going into it. He could come out of it with a 2011 Bassmaster Classic berth. Only the top two in points will.
"I'm out here practicing as hard as I can. I'm here to win," he said.
Monroe was 4th after the season opener, then slipped to 7th after the second tournament. Still, at 44 points from second place, he's within range. That status is thanks, in part, to a little help from his friend Dave Wolak, who won the Northern's season opener, then bowed out to help Monroe climb higher in the points standings.
"He told me he wasn't going to fish to give me a shot," Monroe said. "He was already in the Classic."
Wolak, an Elite pro from Wake Forest, N.C., qualified for his sixth Classic appearance through the 2010 Elite Series. Monroe, a seven-time Classic qualifier, missed an Elite-awarded berth this past season.
The Northern Open will be covered by Bassmaster.com beginning Thursday and running through Saturday's final round. Daily results and photo galleries will be posted after weigh-ins, which are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. The public's invited to the free weigh-ins at Anchor Boats Marina in North East.
More eyes on the Classic prize
Almost 18 months ago, Ed Riley of Woodbine, Md., set out on the qualifying road for the 2010 BASS Federation Nation Championship.
Last Friday, he arrived. He outfished others from Maryland at the Mid-Atlantic Divisional to be among the latest qualifiers for the Oct. 27-29 Federation Nation Championship on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City in northwestern Louisiana.
Riley also qualified to be Maryland's entry in the 2003 and 2004 championships.
"It's just as exciting the third time," he said.
The championship, in turn, will determine which six Federation Nation anglers will advance to the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta. Riley hasn't made it yet to the Classic, but he is ready for a third try.
"If it happens I catch large enough bags to win the whole thing, then that would be great too, but my eye is on the Classic," Riley said.
Last week's other Mid-Atlantic qualifiers for the Red River final were Cavin Young of Prince George, Va., who was the overall winner at the Mid-Atlantic Divisional; Brian LaClair of Denton, Md. (representing Delaware); Michael Moore of Philippi, W.Va.; Mike McDonald of Zimbabwe, South Africa; Daniel Gray of Butler, Pa.; and Jeff Stetler of Leesburg, N.J.
To win a Classic berth, Federation Nation anglers have to beat the anglers within their division. In Riley's case, that's the Mid-Atlantic, which had seven qualifiers.
"Hey, I've got a one-in-seven chance," Riley laughed. "The winner, Cavin Young, is going to be tough, and all of them have paid their dues and fish well, or they wouldn't be where they are."
The BASS Federation's Southern, Central, Western and Northern divisional events completed their respective qualifying rounds earlier this year. The final divisional of 2010, the Eastern, is set for Sept. 22-24 on Candlewood Lake out of Danbury, Conn. After that tournament, the full championship field will be set.
More information is available on the Federation Nation pages of Bassmaster.com.
Million-dollar tag team
Kevin Wirth has an odd, yet fun, assignment in front of him: hunt and hook a single bass worth $1 million — not to him, but to his fishing partner for the day, Michael Skidmore of Chicago.
Skidmore won the right to claim the prize — if it materializes — through an Early Times sweepstakes. He also won a seat in the boat with Wirth to help catch the million-dollar fish. The tag-team attempt is slated for Sept. 25 on Lake Erie out of Buffalo, N.Y.
Actually, 25 tagged bass were released by Early Times into Erie, but only one carries the top award of $1 million. Another tagged fish is worth a Triton bass boat to Skidmore. The other tags are good for gift cards or fishing gear.
Skidmore is already a winner. He gets to go fishing for a full day with a top Bassmaster Elite Series pro, whose recent accomplishments include qualifying for his 12th Bassmaster Classic, coming up Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans. (That's when Wirth will get his shot at a big prize: a coveted Classic crown.) Skidmore also won a rod, reel and tacklebox, plus his travel to and accommodations in Buffalo.
"Everyone at Early Times is thrilled to have Michael as our sweepstakes winner and hope he and Kevin have a million-dollar day on the water," said Joe Murray, Early Times brand manager.
This is the fourth year for the Reel in a Million contest with Wirth, who is sponsored by Early Times. No one boated a tagged fish in the previous three years.
"We definitely would love to give the million away. Hopefully, this is the year," said Svend Jansen, Early Times spokesman.
After this week's tournament on the Chesapeake Bay (see above), only two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open events remain in the 2010 season.
The Southern Open division will close with the Oct. 7-9 Lake Seminole event out of Bainbridge, Ga. A few weeks later, the Central Open season will end with the Oct. 21-23 Lake Texoma event out of Denison, Texas.
Each of the three Open divisions will qualify two anglers for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.
Going into the final Open events, the top two in each division were:
In the Northern, Ryan Said of Michigan and Travis Manson of Wisconsin
In the Southern, Andy Montgomery of South Carolina and Bobby Lane, Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Florida
In the Central, Texans Craig Schuff and Keith Combs
2004 Bassmaster Classic champ Takahiro "Tak" Omori has a new website, www. Takahiroomori.com.
A Japanese native, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro first came to the United States to compete in a Bassmaster tournament, the 1992 Texas Invitational. That tidbit and others are detailed in his web site's profile. He also offers a blog — with many photos — as well as links and news of his current competitions.