||Burton on The Bay
By Bill Burton
Next Year, Lets Fish for the Whole Million
Do your best, whether winning or losing, if you choose to play.
The closest I came to winning anything in Marylands recent, much-publicized $Million Fishing Challenge can be measured in distance. One of the tagged fish was caught off the mouth of Stoney Creek up here in North County in a nook on the Patapsco I can see from my east lawn.
Its also a spot I fished a few times, doing my best to catch a fish bearing a bright green tag that could have made me a millionaire. But my only winnings were the pleasure of catching a few untagged rockfish. I chose to play, I did my best, but someone else caught the prize.
That rockfish of 22 inches caught in my back yard sent 44-year-old Baltimore County firefighter Ed Dailey into the Final Four of the six-week fish-off. Like the other three finalists, he wound up with $2,500 in merchandise from Boaters World, a small Maryland-based chain that deals in boating and fishing merchandise.
Two and a half grand in fish and boating gear isnt to be sneezed at; a fisherman can go on a spending spree without having to justify what hes plunking into a shopping cart as his wife looks on with no dent in the family budget.
Oh, yes, Dailey also won a T-shirt and $25 merchandise certificate from Boaters World, as did 101 others who caught one of the 2,000 specially tagged fish released in Chesapeake Bay by Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Joe Hayden of Fishing Creek caught two tagged fish. He didnt make it to the finals, but he was rewarded with two T-shirts and $50 in merchandise certificates from Boaters World.
The Luck of the Draw
The bottom line is that all the fishers who caught a tagged fish rockfish, hardhead, largemouth bass or white perch ended up with more than they started out with.
Still, Boaters World was the big winner in the contest. This is not to knock the marine merchandiser, which is closely associated with fishing tournaments in Maryland. Without hesitation, Boaters World signed up immediately when DNR went shopping for a co-sponsor to promote fishing in the Bay. You might say Boaters World put up the moola.
In return, Boaters World earned a place in the minds of fishermen, many who had previously thought it was more or less a boating merchandiser with fishing as a sideline. More than a few Izaak Waltons told me they were unaware of the chains depth in fishing tackle until they went there to redeem their $25 gift certificates or stopped in just to look over its merchandise after seeing its name splashed prominently in the press.
Boaters World also went beyond its original contract to add more spice to the promotion. When the four finalists gathered before a few hundred onlookers at Annapolis City Dock, Juan Mendez of Boaters World not only donated several hundred dollars in fishing tackle door prizes but also announced that each of the top four would be awarded $1,250 in merchandise certificates beyond the prizes they drew. Thats called sweetening the pot.
An insurance policy covered the payoffs, so even Boaters World would like to have seen at least one million-dollar winner. The odds were 500-to-one against a finalist scoring big time. Ed Dailey, Brian Nurmi of Annapolis, Larry Taylor of Seaford, Deleware, and Robert Porohnavi of Selbyville, Deleware, all drew $1,250 merchandise certificates.
They might have won $50,000 or $10,000. To set the record straight, after the drawing, the remaining certificates were checked. Sure enough, the big money ducats appeared in each contestants packet. All four just picked the wrong ones.
Sweetening the Pot
Second guessing is easy. I must admit I was a bit dubious of the benefits of this big promotion; the process seemed confusing and tilted. But looking back, I give the folks at DNR credit for a commendable job in the time frame they set. They wanted a contest this year to boost angling in the Bay.
In addition to establishing the rules, setting up the promotion and obtaining other sponsors, 2,000 fish had to be caught, tagged and released. DNRs Frances McFaden and Marty Gary did an exemplary job in lining up individual sponsors of 94 of the tagged fish. Catch one and you won a prize of $100 or more.
The Fishing and Hunting Journal sponsored one prize of $500 if its bonus fish was caught. It wasnt, but FHJ still offers $100 if its fish is caught at any time. Others dropped the prize at the end of the contest.
Much credit is due the individual sponsors, who werent in the big money payoff scheme but who, like Capt. Jim Brincefield of the Jil Carrie out of Deale, offered prizes that didnt get much publicity.
Jim put up 10 chartered fishing trips, as did some other skippers. Maryland Charterboat Association offered 10 trips, while Anglers Sporting Goods, Fishbones of Pasadena and many other tackle shops offered $100 merchandise certificates.
Bring Back Diamond Jim
But one thing was missing, which I hope can spice up the next edition of the $Million Fishing Challenge.
Lets go back to the Diamond Jim concept of the 1950s, when a big tagged fish worth a stack of money was released in the bay. Simple: Just catch it and win $10,000. Admittedly, that isnt a whole lot these days of big-money tournaments, but back then it was a small fortune and had fishermen talking. One Diamond Jim was caught.
Somewhere out there must be a business willing to sponsor such a fish for a million bucks via insurance. Think of the publicity for Bay fishing but also for the sponsor. A big instant prize would not necessarily rule out the current big-money drawings for tagged-fish catchers, just add to a multi-million dollar Chesapeake promotion. Now that would get attention.
Perhaps some consideration should also be given to a season-long promotion, and why restrict the scope to just the Bay? Maryland has much to offer in fishing beyond the Bay. We have some of the best freshwater bass fishing anywhere as well as prized native trout streams, among the best in the East.
Also, lower the bars to sponsorship. Currently, a sponsor is obliged to pay $100 to sponsor 10 fish, any of which can offer a prize. Why not allow anyone any business, individual or sporting group to put up a $100 or more award for a fish? Thered be hundreds more sponsors to sweeten the pot big time.
The groundwork has been laid, the potential is now obvious, and we have much planning time before we go to $Million Fishing Challenge 2006. We have the chance to bait anglers from everywhere to fish in Maryland. Lets cast for the ball of wax. Enough said.