<
>

Reporter's Notebook

6/23/2006

The $2 million man

In the old days of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour, anglers dreamed of one day surpassing the $1 million mark in career earnings. So when Larry Nixon became the first angler to surpass seven figures in BASS career earnings in 1992, it was a big event for the sport.

Things have certainly changed over the past 14 years.

For the first time in BASS history, an angler has surpassed the $2 million mark in career BASS winnings.

Kevin VanDam, considered by many to be the Tiger Woods of professional bass fishing, passed the $2 million mark at last week's Bluegrass Brawl, part of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.

In addition to being the only angler to accumulate $2 million in career BASS winnings, VanDam also holds the distinction of winning more money than any other angler in BASS history. "I can remember when Larry hit $1 million and what a big deal it was then," said VanDam. "It's pretty awesome to be that guy to hit $2 million. I really never dreamed it."

There's one angler who should start "dreaming" about the $2 million mark now. Denny Brauer of Missouri is less than $25,000 away from crossing the threshold. Depending on his performance, he may do just that at the upcoming Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors on Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y. on July 6-9.

A jump start

It likely will take years for the central Gulf Coast to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but in many areas, the rebuilding and restoration work already has begun.

And it isn't limited to the brick and mortar of the urban landscape.

In Louisiana, state wildlife and fisheries officials - with the help of bass anglers - have initiated Operation Jump Start, an effort to restore bass populations in areas where the fish were decimated as a result of Katrina.

The Louisiana BASS Federation Nation got in on the act earlier this spring by providing more than 400 adult bass from a Federation Nation qualifying tournament. Those bass were stocked by Louisiana Division of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel in three of the southeast Louisiana parishes that were most affected by Katrina.

At the time of that stocking, the famed Caernarvon area south of New Orleans wasn't suitable for stocking bass because it hadn't recovered from the storm's onslaught. But recently, anglers and state fisheries officials were finally able to begin replenishing the area's bass stocks with adult bass from one of Louisiana's state fish hatcheries.

"There was some brood stock at the hatchery that needed to be turned over," said Will Courtney, Louisiana BASS Federation Nation Conservation Director. "The volunteers got together to put these fish out, and some of these guys quit rebuilding their homes in order to help us."

Operation Jump Start is Louisiana's effort to stock adult bass in hurricane-ravaged areas, according to Courtney. Because of limited hatchery space, the Division of Wildlife and Fisheries can only raise fingerling bass. The stocking of adult bass under Operation Jump Start is an effort to bring the affected fisheries back sooner than would be possible by stocking only fingerling bass.

Raising bass

A unique method to replenish the bass population in the Arkansas River — where BASS anglers will compete in August during a Bassmaster Major — is continuing and finding success in the state.

Through a cooperative agreement between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas Department of Correction and the Arkansas Bass Association, bass are being reared in a nursery pond at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Each year, brood stock bass are collected by tournament anglers and placed into the ponds on the prison property, which is adjacent to the Arkansas River. Fingerling bass are harvested in the summer and then distributed to various parts of the river along its roughly 300-mile length through Arkansas.

Since 2001, the program has accounted for more than 500,000 bass being introduced into the Arkansas River, which will play host to the Bassmaster Legends on Aug.24-27.

This year's crop was harvested Thursday. They are the offspring of bass donated to the program earlier this year by the Arkansas BASS Federation Nation, with assistance from three bass clubs in the state.