WASHINGTON — Sacking prolific amounts of bass earned Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones and Women's Bassmaster Tour champ Judy Wong a reception today with the biggest fish in the country.
After a 40-minute tour of the White House with their families, Jones and Wong stood in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush as the press corps streamed in as a pack and bombarded them with camera flashes for almost two minutes.
"I've got the fishing champs of this year," Bush said.
"I thought it was important to welcome these champs here to the White House so that — you know, to encourage people to fish. There's nothing better than fishing."
He said he received an invitation some years back to go fishing with "a fellow named Jones." That was in 1992, when Bush was governor of Texas and Jones was a newly minted pro.
"Turns out the man I was fishing with," the President said, "wins the Bassmaster Classic."
It's a good, clean sport. It's a sport that requires good conservation in order to make sure our fisheries are good, and I love to welcome the champs here.
on bass fishing
"It's a good, clean sport. It's a sport that requires good conservation in order to make sure our fisheries are good, and I love to welcome the champs here," Bush said.
In February Jones won his first Bassmaster Classic, the apex tournament in fishing, on his 11th attempt. He bested a field of 50 on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell to land a $500,000 check and a real looker of a trophy.
It's often said the massive first-place Classic check is merely the tip of the real winnings. Jones' visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue gave that conventional wisdom further heft.
"It's an honor to be here," Jones told the President. "And to go fishing with you. I've got to say, President Bush is actually a very good fisherman and a great conservationist. I'm really not sure who's working who here. I'm hoping to get an invite to fish on his lake in Crawford, and he's looking for a free fishing guide."
The press chuckled. Jones' wife, Jimmye Sue, and their three kids stood against the far wall, beaming.
"I would be glad to take you any day on Toledo Bend," Wong told the President.
"I'm a good fisherman," Bush said in closing. "Sometimes I'm a good catcher-man."
The photo-op concluded followed a quick private visit with Wong, Jones, their families and BASS general manager Tom Ricks.
"He gave us kind of a voiceover tour of the Oval Office, talked about his values," Ricks said afterwards.
Chatting about fish was apparently a brief respite for the most powerful man in the world. The next guest Bush was to receive moments later was King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain.