Bass fever catching at Lake Hopatcong
Delaware team snags 3-day fishing tournament title; N.J. group finishes third
BY KRISTINA FIORE
MOUNT ARLINGTON -- For three days this week, anglers from all over the eastern seaboard competed on Lake Hopatcong to reel in as many bass as possible to win the Bass Federation's Mid-Atlantic Division Tournament.
The anglers' hard work paid off Friday when the tournament ended with the Delaware Bass Federation as its champion, weighing in with 109.8 pounds of fish.
"They had to work very hard because the fish just weren't cooperating," said Tony Going, president of the New Jersey Bass Federation. "Fishing in the lake has fallen off ... in the last five years especially."
The weigh-in was held at Lee's Marina.
Twelve participants from each of six regional federations -- Delaware, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia --competed for the top slot. The West Virginia Bass Federation took second place with 99.1 pounds, while New Jersey ranked third with 94.07 pounds of bass.
For winning, Delaware will take home $7,000 to be used toward the federation, while West Virginia won $6,000 and New Jersey earned $5,000.
"Usually the home team has a big advantage," Going said. "But most guys on the Jersey team really don't fish this lake that much."
The two top fishermen from each state advance to the Red Man All-American Tournament in April 2007. That tourney features a million-dollar prize purse and pits the two top anglers from each state against each other.
Rich Schneidereit of Medford and Dave Frost of North Haledon took New Jersey's two top spots, weighing in with 18.11 pounds and 10.7 pounds of bass, respectively.
"It's always great to make it to the national championship, and be there for our team to win as well," said Schneidereit, an environmental consultant.
"We were unable to (win) because the fishing was far more difficult than normal. I've fished that lake for about 30 years, and can honestly say its worst fishing I've seen."
Anglers could only store five fish in their live well at a time. Going said fish are never killed and are always released back into the water after the competition is over.
Mike Kozub, spokesman for the New Jersey Bass Federation, said some anglers come to the lake weeks in advance to study it and learn about optimal fishing patterns.
One man from West Virginia came to Lake Hopatcong more than a month ago to study lake specifics such as locations of rock piles, Kozub said. He added that putting in this kind of effort takes angling beyond just a "bubba" sport.
"When people hear we're going fishing, they think we have a pole in one hand and a beer in the other," he said. "Far from it. We study maps and read books. You can't imagine what goes into a tournament of this scale."
Going said tournament participants dress up like "Nascar"racers with fancy clothing, and fish out of 20-foot boats that often cost upward of $50,000.
Kozub said that in other parts of the country, fishermen are recognized as professional athletes.
"It's beyond a bobber and a worm," he said. "We are athletes, and this is what we do. This tournament brings exposure to that."