Disney's bass fishing magic

 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Walt Disney World's captivating "Where Magic Lives" theme strikes meaning with all who visit the popular central Florida destination. The place where kids of all ages come to meet their favorite Disney characters, like Mickey Mouse, also has a touch of hidden magic for bass fishermen. Appropriately, the piscatorial magic is as real as it gets. And the 15 lucky anglers making the cut at the upcoming 2005 BASS Federation Championship will get the chance to sample Disney's bass fishing magic. At the conclusion of the two day preliminary round on nearby Lake Toho, 15 finalists will move to Bay Lake at Walt Disney World for the championship round set for April 29-30. "I'm sure that any avid bass fisherman on a Disney World vacation with his family has wondered just what it would be like to cast a lure into Bay Lake," said BASS Federation Director Don Corkran. "The mystery is over for the anglers who make the cut, because they will be in for a real treat." A man in the know who's qualified to validate Corkran's claim is Greg Waldron, Walt Disney World's manager of fishing operations. "It's not very often that tournament anglers essentially get to fish on an unpressured, private fishery like Bay Lake. The tournament will not come down to who catches fish. It will come down to weight. And there should be plenty caught." Waldron added that Bay Lake will likely be in transition between the spawn and postspawn, setting the stage for an excellent catch rate. During construction of the Magic Kingdom theme park in the late 1960s, more than 70,000 native, purebred Florida largemouth fingerlings were released into Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, the two bodies of water visible from the Disney monorail system as it heads into the popular theme park. With the exception of guided fishing excursions available to guests on Bay Lake, bass fishing's most prized species has, for the most part, roamed free and grown in the wild. Such an environment pales in comparison to the heavy angling pressure seen in most central Florida recreational fisheries. To date, the heaviest largemouth caught weighed 14 pounds, 6 ounces. By all accounts, there is likely more than one of these trophies swimming in the waters of Bay Lake. Organized fishing tours didn't start at Walt Disney World Resort until 1977, nearly a decade after the fish were first stocked. Guests routinely hook and release bass weighing from 2 to 8 pounds, with guides telling of catches in the 12-pound range. On an average outing, most anglers catch five to 10 fish, depending upon time of day and number of people onboard. As in the past, Federation Championship qualifiers can scout Bay Lake, according to BASS Federation Director Don Corkran. "What's different this time is they can't launch their own boats. They can, however, fish Bay Lake until the cut-off." Bay Lake goes off-limits to the qualifiers at midnight Jan. 31, 2005. Until then, anglers can take one of the guided fishing excursions available through Walt Disney World. Excursions cost $215 and include the required guide, rod and reel, artificial and live bait, beverages and a digital souvenir. For more information, contact Walt Disney World at 407-939-BASS (2277).