Cougar legends kick off annual derby in style

STEVE ANTUSH, a long-time WSU season-ticketholder, couldn't help but note the irony. For years, he's been thrilled, chilled and entertained by some of the greatest players ever to wear crimson. But now the tables were turned. He was at center stage, landing a trophy-sized king salmon off the coast of British Columbia as Jack Thompson, Ryan Leaf, Jason Gesser, Matt Kegel and Bill Moos looked on.

Antush, a rookie fisherman, did himself proud. He pulled in four other kings plus five cohos by the time the first annual Cougar Legends Fishing Adventure was done last week. In all, the 30 participants in the four-day excursion reeled home some 100 kings, 60 coho, 29 halibut and a heap of ling cod.


STEVE ANTUSH aka Sir Tushalot

"Talk about a memorable weekend," said Antush, a 1984 graduate of WSU. "The fishing was amazing, the scenery was stunning, the accommodations were top flight, and the food was fabulous. But for all of us Cougar sports fans, the highlight was the chance to talk with the guys whose work on the field has made all of us so proud over the years."

The event was put together by Leaf, the 1997 All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist. He works for West Coast Resorts, which operates a series of high-end fishing lodges throughout B.C.

Justin Felker of the WSU Athletic Foundation said the event is going to be annual. "The chance for so many WSU fans and friends to come together in such a fun and memorable way with some of our biggest stars was truly something special. We're planning on doing it every year."

The cost of the adventure was upwards of $4,000 per person.

"Worthy every penny," said Doug Thomas, another WSU graduate from the 1980s who was part of the fun. "We got a chance to visit with some of the Cougar legends. Jack, Matt, Jason, Ryan -- they're all just genuine guys. It's always that star-struck feeling at first, 'Gosh should I go say hello to Jack Thompson?' But you learn very quickly... we're all Cougs. The camaraderie was fantastic."

Given the results of this year's trip, Felker said he expects space for next year's derby -- tentatively set for late June -- to go fast. To reserve your spot, contact Felker at jfelker@wsu.edu or 509-368-6729.

"The venue was spectacular," noted Thompson, the fabled Throwin' Samoan. "Barriers just came tumbling down. We got really close as a group. The common denominator was that we were all Cougs. West Coast Resorts just did a phenomenal job of taking care of the guests -- absolutely first class all the way. And the fireside chat we had with Bill Moos was tremendous -- he just knocked it out of the park, like he always does."

There was another great aspect to the trip: networking. "I didn't know probably 75 percent of the people there. But I could call any of them today and be able to talk with them about anything. You don't get that at other events, that much quality time with each other, to establish relationships on such a high level," said Glenn Osterhout, a devoted Cougar loyalist.

He said another big highlight of the trip was the nightly awards ceremony, which included the presentation of the coveted crimson jacket. "It was just like the Master's. Whoever caught the biggest fish of the day got to wear the crimson jacket -- and also earned a $250 prize that was donated to WSU in his name. Each day's winner was presented the coat by the previous day's champion. It was quite a hoot."

Felker, who landed the biggest fish of the derby (a 35-pound king), gets to retain the jacket until next year's gathering.

Technically, he didn't hook the biggest fish of the trip. That honors belong to Doug Thomas and Bryan Sakuma, who caught a 219-pound halibut. But the coveted crimson jacket only went to salmon catchers. And besides -- it took both Thomas and Sakuma most of an afternoon to haul in their halibut in what was described by one observer as "The Keystone Cops Go Fishing."

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