Reeling In The Big Fishing Champs At The White House

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Rarely does the White House press secretary find the president's schedule for the day so amusing that she nearly erupts in a giggle.

"I hope I can get through this without laughing," said Dana Perino, as she announced Mr. Bush's events for the day.

At 10:40 this morning, she said, he was meeting in the Oval Office with the 2008 Bassmaster fishing champs.

"There's a lot of puns that can be made out of that," said Perino.

"Just angling for a good line," chimed in her deputy, Tony Fratto.

"We could do this all day," Perino replied – as she struggled to move on to the rest of the president's schedule which included a meeting with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain. His official biography reveals he has an interest in fishing, though his visit to the White House had nothing to do with Bassmaster.

So he was not in the Oval Office an hour later as President Bush welcomed Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones and Women's Bassmaster Tour Champion Judy Wong.

"There's nothing better than fishing," said Mr. Bush, who occasionally drops a hook, line and sinker into the pond at his ranch or along the coast of Maine on his dad's speedboat.

He called fishing "a good clean sport" and one "that requires good conservation."

President Bush once went fishing with Jones, who hails from Waco, Texas - the city nearest to Crawford, home of the president's ranch.

It's certainly good politics to invite the champs from Bassmaster - which boasts a membership of half a million.

Mr. Bush's dad is also an avid fisherman and once called Bassmaster Magazine his favorite periodical.

As for the president's own prowess with a rod and reel, we didn't hear any big fish stories – though he alluded to the ones that got away.

"I'm a good fisherman," he said. "Sometimes, I'm a good catcherman."

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.