WASHINGTON, D.C. – It's great to have a bass fisherman in the

That is the viewpoint of BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel. The BASS boss was one of 20 conservation and outdoors movers and shakers who were invited to the White House recently where they met with President George W. Bush in the Roosevelt Room for about an hour.

"It really is," Kessel said. "Obviously the administration has had a lot on its plate over the past several years with the events of the world. But he's committed to the outdoors and looks forward to seeing some action behind those commitments."

Kessel returned to BASS headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., with a renewed appreciation of the country's First Bass Angler and his commitment to the great outdoors.

"It was an amazing experience," he said. "He addressed a couple of topics, kind of giving thanks to the conservation community on the passing of the Healthy Forests Initiative. And he talked a little bit about the wetlands and some of the issues relative to that as well. And his commitment to stay close to these situations.

"It was an opportunity to get together with the leadership in the conservation arena, and the outdoors was very well represented.

"On the angling community side of things, it was interesting to note that the president mentioned a couple of times that he's a life member of BASS, which is pleasant to know. He also mentioned he loves to hunt, but his favorite thing to do is bass fishing. And he talked a lot about the lake that he has on his ranch down in Texas.

"He's just a very humble man and certainly an outdoorsman. A strong outdoorsman."

The President is an avid angler who built a lake on his Crawford ranch and stocked it with Florida-strain bass imported from Alabama. Both President Bush and his father have fished in Ray Scott's Eagles of Angling charity tournaments in the past.

MEMORABLE TRIP. Reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Mike Iaconelli had just returned to the United States a day after enjoying one of the most memorable fishing trips of his career and the excitement was still evident in his voice.

Iaconelli joined fellow pros Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Gerald Swindle on an exotic South American peacock bass trip as part of a CITGO-sponsored, made-for-television tournament.

"It was great. It was an excellent trip," he said. "I ended up winning it. I caught a 14-8, which was big fish. I can't even tell you what it's like. I've never, ever had a fight like that from a fish."

COOKING CLASS. Ever wonder what Bassmaster pros do in the weeks leading up to a big tournament?

In the case of Kenyon Hill and Gary Giudice, real men don an apron.

The pair, who live in Norman, Okla., took a sushi-making class about a month before competing in the inaugural CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer.

"It was neat," Hill said. "I love sushi and it was neat to learn about making it."

DID YOU KNOW? In the history of BASS, 11 pros have posted back- to-back victories (Bill Dance, Roland Martin, John Powell, Charlie Ingram, Gary Klein, Jim Bitter, Mike McClelland, Denny Brauer, Shaw Grigsby, Dean Rojas and Davy Hite). Of those, only Bill Dance has posted three sets of back-to-back wins (1968, 1969, and 1970), and only Roland Martin has won three in a row (1980-81).

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Alabama's Gerald Swindle becomes 34 on Dec. 17, while Chris Baumgardner of North Carolina turns 43 the next day. Kentucky pro Dan Morehead will be 36 on Dec. 21, while Kim Stricker of Michigan will celebrate his 52nd birthday on Dec. 27. Former Classic champion David Fritts (47) and Arkansas' Mike McClelland share (36) Dec. 29.

IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Connecticut pro Terry Baksay would likely be working in the field of psychology. His college degree is in industrial psychology.

THEY SAID IT. "I've been around. I've fished probably longer than most of the guys, but the West Coast kind of keeps you out there. There's a lot of money to be won out there. I won over a million dollars out there and 30 boats and trucks. But it's not the big leagues. It's like the minor leagues. So coming back here with ESPN and everything, it changes your whole outlook." Arizona pro John Murray, who claimed his first BASS victory in the recent Open Championship.