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WINNING WEIGHT TO DROP IF ANGLERS KEPT OFF THE LAKE

The problem is fishing the "main lake," according to the favorites in the Operation Bass/Red Man All-American tournament going on in Buffalo this week.

Tuesday, the 41 competitors were blown off the water and confined themselves to practicing on the Niagara River, Buffalo Creek, Erie Canal and the rip-rap behind the breakwaters.

"If we can get onto Lake Erie Friday and Saturday, it will take 32 pounds total to win it," Carl Maxfield told a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "Eighteen pounds, if we stay in the river."

Maxfield, of Summerville S.C., is a favorite to win, as is five-time qualifier David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. Fritts is the only man to qualify five consecutive years for this event and one of 10 professional anglers who made the 41-man field vying for the richest prize in fishing: $100,000.

"If we can get onto Lake Erie, anyone with five-fish limits averaging around three pounds a fish will have a real good shot at takCannot distribute vertically ing it," Fritts said Tuesday. "But I went out today and came back pretty sick."

Competitors use identical Ranger bass boats, low-sided, high-powered racers capable of speeds in the 60 mph range in calm water. They could swamp in Lake Erie's steep chop.

"Many tournaments say they will fish regardless of conditions. Red Man is not that tournament," competition director Charlie Evans said Tuesday. "We will keep boats in the river, we will cancel the event if need be."

The forecast is not sparkling, according to the National Weather Service.

The first day of competition, Friday, should be mostly sunny; Saturday may see a thunderstorm.

"We'll forecast wind strengths and wave heights for Friday and Saturday about 36 hours in advance," a Weather Service spokesman said.
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