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  Go back to the News List! Dams may be key to Classic catches 07/27/2005 Document  
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  Dams may be key to Classic catches
Anglers get lowdown on off-limits areas
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Times Outdoors Editor

PITTSBURGH - A band of rain moving in overnight could help the pros in the 35th Citgo Bassmaster Classic by creating a little current in the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, but most will be looking for more specific spots in today's lone practice session that won't be affected by moving water.

The 47-man field begins competition Friday morning in what may become the toughest championship event in history. George Cochran of Arkansas holds the record for the lowest winning weight, in 1987 on the Ohio out of Louisville, with a three-day catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces. Instead of running around looking for fish, he stayed close to the launch site. Rick Clunn of Missouri was second that year with 12-13 and Guy Eaker of North Carolina was third with 12-2.

Unless the pros are bluffing, as some observers suspect, weights could be similar this week. Two major local tournaments held the last few weeks saw winning weights of about 11 pounds. In the Junior Bassmaster Classic on Monday, only 14 anglers out of 87 caught a keeper fish. In Sunday's practice session, one young angler hooked a 5-pound, 4-ounce largemouth that would be akin to landing a gold brick this weekend.

"You're dang right it would be," said Zell Rowland of Texas, who admitted to having three spinning rods "and little baits" in his arsenal this week. "I'd bet you $1,000 right now it won't take 14 pounds to win it. I'd take 13 and three-quarters, bet you a thousand and sit back. Just watch.

"We love tough fishing, but this isn't going to be something the fans will like seeing, a guy holding up two 8-ounce fish. That's what they are. I'm not kidding. There won't be any use running two livewells in your boat because these fish will all fit in one side. They'll all fit in an aquarium."

During the anglers pre-tournament meeting Tuesday afternoon, they grilled tournament director Trip Weldon and local river officials about specific off-limits areas around the dams. Roped buoys protect the dams from encroachment and the anglers cannot even cast past those buoys. Neither can they fish inside the navigation locks, but only to the edge of them.

Weldon was emphatic in his admonishment about following the rules and off-limits areas, but sympathetic to the pros seeking every advantage they can get. Mere ounces could determine the outcome, which will see the winner earn $200,000 and valuable endorsement opportunities.

"I think anyone in this room will agree this is a Classic that is anyone's to win," Weldon said.

Other highlights:

- Pennsylvania law prohibits anglers from culling a dead or dying fish, which Weldon described as one "that is not upright when you release it." The pros were reminded to use their livewell systems, ice that will be provided and a new oxygen infuser system in the Triton boats to provide more oxygen for fish in the livewells.

- The daily limit is five fish that must be at least 12 inches. Weldon said there will be no "live release" area and fish would be released up and down the river system following weigh-ins. Some pros, in tough conditions, target released fish if they know where they were turned out but will not be able to do so this week. Water temperatures are in the 80s.

- The field will be cut to the top 25 plus ties for Sunday's final round. Given the tough conditions, and it is conceivable, anglers who zero but are tied for 25th will fish Sunday.

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