Bob Thompson makes a career out of something most of us would pay to do.
"I'm from an outdoors family," the Columbia County man said. "I started fishing and quail hunting with my dad when I was just 4."
Thompson is producer and photo director for a new fishing show - Bass Edge - that makes its national premier Wednesday.
"We're traveling to eight states and in each area, our host, Aaron Martin, pairs himself with some professional in the field to explore a particular type of fishing," he said. "Our guest is always an expert in that area."
Bass Edge will begin its season on Versus Network (formerly Outdoor Life Network) at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday with an inaugural episode entitled Getting the Most from your Crankbaits. The show, taped near Madison, Miss., features pro angler Pete Ponds.
Other episodes have taken the crew to Texas, New York, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other venues, where Thompson has filmed guests including Edwin Evers, Kurt Dove, Ken Brodeur, James Niggemeyer and others.
One of the more memorable outings, to be featured in a later episode, took place at Missouri's Table Rock Lake with host Martin and guest pro Mike Webb.
"We were drop-shotting - using a vertical suspended jig, or spooning technique," Thompson said. "And we were fishing with 6-pound-test line."
As the cameras rolled, Webb's rod tipped heartily and line began to spin from the reel.
"We're out there fishing, and Mike says he got a hit. Then he says, 'Whoa! This is no bass!' " Thompson said.
After a 34-minute fight, the identity of the creature on the other end of the hook finally became known as Webb landed a stubborn paddlefish that weighed in at 82 pounds.
The fish was 58 inches long, with a 30-inch girth. It was also released because the season for paddlefish wasn't yet open.
"That's what made it so interesting," he said. "Had he caught it 10 days later, when it was legal to possess, it would have been a line class record!"
In addition to guest pros and regional fishing techniques, each Bass Edge segment will include a brief segment called "In the Zone," in which sports psychologist Dr. Jay McNamara offers techniques to help anglers bolster their mental approach to tournament fishing.
In all, Thompson said, the Bass Edge team includes 28 people spread among 12 states and Canada whose collaboration helped create the new series.
Although he has worked in outdoor television and related industries since 1986, Thompson first moved to the Augusta area in 1999 as producer of Turkey Call Television, a project of the National Wild Turkley Federation, based in Edgefield, S.C.
EAGLE CENSUS: Two more bald eagles were found dead at Thurmond Lake during the holidays, but a new census of South Carolina's eagle population shows an encouraging trend toward more nesting birds.
By mid-December, four eagles had been recovered at the reservoir and diagnosed as victims of a condition called avian vacuolar myelinopathy, or AVM, an always fatal condition that causes internal brain lesions that destroy a bird's ability to walk or fly.
Two more dead birds have since been found along the lake's Columbia County shoreline, bringing the year's total to six.
Since it was first diagnosed in Arkansas 12 years ago, AVM has killed more than 120 eagles, with Thurmond Lake - where at least 33 birds have died - being the most severely affected lake in region.
Although the AVM problem is taking a toll at Thurmond Lake, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources reported last week that the 2006 eagle population census shows an increase over 2005 figures.
A total of 581 eagles were sighted in 2006, compared to 536 in 2005, the department reported. The 2006 survey included eagle sightings in 27 counties. South Carolina will launch its 2007 census in January.
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Bass Edge' Series Premier
TITLE: Getting the Most From Your Crankbaits
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday
CHANNEL: Versus Network (Comcast channel 40)