Ed Lepley and Todd Jones have almost every fishing gadget money can buy, including boats.
Now the angling partners are trying to figure out how to share the $16,000 boat they earned by winning the National Striped Bass Association's Boater's World 2005 Big Fish Contest.
"The NSBA has a big fish contest that starts at the first of the year, and at each tournament the winner of the big fish is placed in a pot and at the end of the year a drawing is held," Lepley said.
"We were the lucky team to win."
The award was presented last week at the association's Striped Bass Classic at Lake Cherokee, Tenn., where the duo finished in 12th place.
Lepley, of Martinez, and Jones, of North Augusta, fish many tournaments together each year and have caught some huge fish. But the one that earned them the big prize was relatively modest.
"It was a six-pound hybrid, caught at Lake West Point in February," Lepley said. "I don't know which one of us even caught the fish, but if I had to guess I would say Todd did. He is younger and faster than I am."
They even landed a 27-pound striper that won the big fish contest at a Thurmond Lake tournament in June.
"Oh, I also caught that one," Jones said.
So what will they do with their new boat?
"Ed already has a new boat, and this is much like my current boat, so we plan to sell it and split the money," Jones said.
They plan to put the boat on eBay later this week.
The local anglers are sponsored by Belvedere Marine and Berkley Trilene.
BALD EAGLE DEATH: A mature bald eagle found dying near Mistletoe State Park last week has been sent to the University of Georgia to determine if it succumbed to a disorder responsible for dozens of eagle deaths at Thurmond Lake since 1994.
I.B. Parnell, district wildlife biologist for Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division, said the mature eagle was alive when park employees found it, but died later that evening and was taken to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga.
The bird is being tested for avian vacuolar myelinopathy, or AVM, a fatal condition that first appeared in Arkansas in 1994 and has been linked to algae bloom and the aquatic weed hydrilla.
Scientists believe coots that feed on hydrilla become infected, and in turn are eaten by eagles.
AVM, which causes spongelike brain lesions, also has been found in owls and Canada geese at Thurmond Lake, but the disorder is not believed to be transferable to humans.
Eagles have shown a sign of recovery during 2005, when a January survey included sightings of 14 birds. Only five eagles were seen during a similar survey in January 2004.
Parnell said anyone who finds an impaired or dead eagle should contact the Army Corps of Engineers offices at Thurmond Lake, or the Wildlife Resources Department's office in Thomson.
CHRISTMAS TREE REEFS: Trees can be dropped off at Riverside Middle School in Evans through Jan. 9 for use as fish attractors and artificial reefs at Thurmond Lake.
Corps rangers will be submerging groups of trees around fishing piers at Amity, Lake Springs and Petersburg recreation areas in Georgia and at Clarks Hill Park in South Carolina.
Trees will also be placed at Amity and Long Cane boat ramps.
The trees provide cover for small fish and attract insects and other foods needed by sportfish.
If you'd like to volunteer for the Jan. 9 tree submerging project, call the corps office at (800) 533-3478, ext. 1172.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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