Young bass caster returns home with $500 scholarship

Jacob Wall went to South Carolina last weekend hoping to return with a $5,000 check and a trophy as America's best bass-casting kid. He returned with plenty of autographs, memories and plans to return to the Bassmaster Classic one day as a professional.

Wall represented the West in the Bassmaster' CastingKids competition held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Classic in Greenville, S.C. Wall finished sixth and last in his age group.

"I don't know what happened," Wall says. "I just didn't do my best. But I did get a $500 scholarship and some sponsors."

The contest format calls for precision casting that imitates the three basic casts used in bass fishing, but contestants cast to bull's-eye targets on dry land instead of toward fish in lakes.

From 10 feet is the flip — a simple swing of the lead jig used for short-distance casts around docks and boat houses.

From 20 feet is the pitch — an extended swing used to pinpoint a jig around trees and other submerged structures frequented by bass. The caster holds the jig and pitches it forward, allowing it to free-spool line as it glides toward the target.

Lastly from 30 feet is the overhead cast — a snapping two-handed shot with the rod in the air.

The best score per cast is 50 points. Wall logged 120 points, which was 20 points less than eventual winner Nick Neidige, 13, of Indiana. Neidige netted the $5,000 top prize.

Wall was content to get a free trip to South Carolina with his parents, Steve and Jocie Wall.

"I felt privileged and Jacob felt on top of the world," Steve Wall says. "It was quite an experience."

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of whoever recently destroyed a gate spanning an access road to the Elk Creek Dam site.

Vandals apparently used a strong vehicle to pull the metal gate off its moorings either late Friday or early Saturday, causing enough damage to warrant a potential felony charge, according to the Oregon State Police.

The gate, which bars vehicle access to the Old Elk Creek Road, is near milepost 2 on Elk Creek Road northeast of Trail. The gate is locked and closed to traffic Nov. 15 through April 30 as part of the Jackson Access and Cooperative Management Area closures each winter.

Vandals apparently "had a party" in front of the gate, then somehow yanked it free of its concrete moorings, said Senior Trooper Pat McNeilly, who patrols U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands and the JACMA area on a contract basis.

The damage was estimated at $1,200, says Jim Buck, the Corps' Rogue Basin project manager.

The value of the loss was high enough to qualify for a potential felony first-degree criminal mischief charge to anyone responsible, McNeilly said.

A new gate was expected to be in place by the end of next week, Buck says.

The Corps has a standing reward of up to $1,000 through a program called Corps Watch.

Anyone with information on the vandalism is urged to call Corps Watch at 866-413-7970 or contact McNeilly at 776-6236, ext. 254 or an OSP dispatcher at 776-6111.

Oregon's so-called "Governor's Tag" to hunt any deer and elk virtually anywhere in Oregon netted a record $40,000 during an auction Friday by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Reno.

Rick Oncken of Missoula, Mont., bought the tag for his son, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Oncken, an RMEF board member, has donated more than $2 million to the foundation, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says.

The younger Oncken will be allowed to hunt Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, 2008 anywhere in Oregon where there is an authorized season for deer and elk.

The governor's package last year sold at an auction for $36,000, while the 2006 tags fetched $28,000, Dennehy says.

The previous record for a governor's tag was $38,000 paid in 2005, Dennehy says.

The tags are part of a dozen tags offered annually for auction to raise funds for the ODFW's Access and Habitat Program, which dispenses grants to improve wildlife habitat and hunter access statewide.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

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