CASTING AGAINST CANCER IS WIRTH THE EFFORT
Kissimmee, Fla. - Kentucky BASS pro Kevin Wirth was all set to make a long run to fish the Kissimmee River in Sunday's Angling Against Cancer tournament when he decided to check a spot just south of the lock that connects Lake Toho to Lake Cypress.
Two casts later, he knew he had made the right move.
"I caught about a four-pounder on my second cast," Wirth said. "After 30 minutes we were culling five-and-a-half-pounders."
Wirth and his amateur partner, Bill Lane, fished there all day and ended up with a five-bass limit that weighed 31.38 pounds to win the fifth annual tournament, which benefits The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey and his partner, Chuck Dunnick, were second with five fish weighing 24.1 pounds. Iaconelli, the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, had the biggest bass of the event at 8.62 pounds. Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., and his partner were third at 22.62.
The tournament paired 18 professional bass fishermen with amateur anglers whose donations and charitable efforts earned them a spot in the field.
The money raised by the tournament, which featured a dinner, raffles and live and silent auctions Saturday night, is distributed to cancer researchers by The V Foundation, named for the late ESPN basketball analyst and college coach, Jim Valvano.
Wirth, like the other pros, fished the tournament on his own time and at his own expense. His original plan was to leave Lake Toho - soon to host the season-opening 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour event - and fish the lock at the south end of Lake Kissimmee, where water was flowing into the Kissimmee River.
"These fish really relate to the current," Worth said.
After going through the lock at the south end of Toho, Worth noticed moving water and figured he'd make some casts with a 5/8-ounce Yo-Zuri lipless crankbait. Wirth and Lane worked the lures in the current and soon had an impressive stringer. Their biggest bass weighed 7.18 pounds and the smallest was 5.9.
"This is incredible," tournament director Terry Segraves said as Wirth and Lane brought up their stringer. "Dean Rojas would be impressed."
Rojas set the BASS record at Lake Toho for the heaviest one-day stringer in January 2001 with five bass weighing 45 pounds, 2 ounces. Wirth said he never gave the record a thought as he and Lane compiled their catch.
"The best part," Wirth said, "was watching Bill catch fish. He must've had 10 or 12.
"What a tremendous fishery," he added. "It's unbelievable how many fish are here. The numbers, the size - and you can catch them any way you want.
Besides Yo-Zuris, we caught them on spinnerbaits, Bomber Long As, broken-back Rebels, tubes and a Lucky Craft G-Splash."
Iaconelli, who caught the majority of his fish on a deep-diving crankbait within sight of Wirth, also sang the praises of Toho and the Kissimmee Chain.
"I'm from New Jersey. We don't see fish that big very often," said Iaconelli, who presented a check for $5,000 to The V Foundation Saturday night. It was the proceeds of his Anglers Pounding Out Cures program in which fans and sponsors pledge money for each pound of fish that Iaconelli catches in BASS tournaments.
"I hope we can give even more next year," Iaconelli said.