The date of a children's fishing tournament was listed incorrectly in yesterday's Weekend section. The tournament will be held Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Burke Lake Park.

ON A SATURDAY morning that lends itself to sleeping late and the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, seven-year- old Robbin Nunn of Reston is up and gone -- she's got other fish to fry.

With her mother and sister, Robbin has just arrived at the bank of Arlington's Columbia Island Marina in the shadow of the Pentagon for a children's fishing tournament sponsored by the Potomac Bassmasters of Virginia. While most of the 17 other contestants have already staked their claims along the Potomac shoreline, Robbin seems to be experiencing a few technical difficulties.

"Let Uncle Bob help," says Bob Weishier as he and a fellow bassmaster reassemble her Mickey Mouse brand reel, which has come apart. "We're going to help you catch a fish," says Weishier, explaining the best strategy is to use a live worm rather than the chopped chicken livers Robbin has packed for bait inside her "Annie" lunchbox. She's squeamish about baiting the hook and, wide-eyed, she watches from a distance the dance between barb and nightcrawler.

But finally she's ready to tackle the tournament -- the second of three, free summer outings sponsored by the bassmasters to teach and promote the sport they love. (The next tournament is this Saturday at Burke Lake Park.) And, contrary to popular wisdom, the earlybirds haven't gotten the jump on her.

The fish aren't biting, and some of the participants are getting mighty restless. Rory Smith, a three-year-old Arlingtonian has tipped over a lawn chair and is squabbling with his older brother as a more exciting alternative to the fishing doldrums.

It's been a long day, though his mother Regina still feels the tournament is worthwhile. "You don't need a license, it's close to home and the bassmasters are very helpful," she says, explaining how club members have just rescued an entangled bobber. Almost always, there is someone around to help, be it on land or on sea, in an impressive state-of- the-art 171/2-foot Ranger bass boat with all the trimmings.

Contestant Spencer Hausfeld, a 10-year-old from Fairfax, sounds like a budding expert: "I caught a shark once in Florida," he says, reeling in his line. It's still on his bedroom wall. So how does the big-game fisherman feel about today's action?

"All I want is a bite," he answers patiently.

Equally patient is Sasha Bohun-Chudyniv of Silver Spring, who despite catching his limit of branches and trees, seems unflappable. "I want to catch a fish," he says, concentrating on his line in the water. "But this is still fun."

Is everyone having such rotten luck?

No way.

Robbin is running like a bullet to the registration table, bluegill dangling from her pole. It's difficult to tell which is larger: her fish or smile. An official drops the fish into a basket hanging from a Toledo scale balanced on a tripod. The needle barely moves -- call it an ounce -- but it's a record for Robbin; she's just caught the first fish of her life, and it shows in the way she bounces back to her fishing spot to try again.

Eventually she racks up two more bluegill and even a small yellow perch that she delivers to the judges just minutes before the tournament closes at noon.

The contestants swarm around the picnic table like fish to chum while bassmaster president Arnold Aspelin tallies the results and announces the winners of the eight trophies and several small tackle boxes. Robbin's effort is good enough for second place and a "marble" trophy with a three-inch gold bass perched on top.

"Wait till daddy sees this!" she beams.

Of course, not everyone can go home a winner, and that rough lesson has reddened the eyes of the youngest boy entered. His father and one of the bassmasters are patting him on the back, gently explaining that's all part of fishing.

And for some of the more seasoned youngsters, getting skunked isn't so bad. Paying little attention to the winners assembling for a group photo, Sasha seems to know there are still fish in the water as good as any caught today. He just continues to practice his casting.


The Potomac Bassmasters of Virginia sponsors its final summer tournament for children this Saturday at Burke Lake Park. The tournament is free and open to all kids 17 and under (a $3.50 park entrance fee for non-county residents must be paid). Participants must supply their own rods, reels and bait; you can buy bait at the marina, though it'll go quickly. Registration and instruction take place between 9 and 10 at the marina; the fishing lasts from 10 to 1. The first 100 to register will receive a free bass worm. Trophies, tackle, merchandise and certificates will be awarded to the winners in different categories. A professionally equipped bass boat will also be docked for inspection.

Burke Lake Park is at 7315 Ox Road in Fairfax Station. To get there from Washington, take I-66 west to Route 123 south which becomes Ox Road; the park entrance is approximately five miles on the left. For more information, call 323-6601.