Stories filled the air around the Pine Lake social hall last Saturday like bees in an apple orchard.
The buzz was among new friends swapping fish tales - from the big ones that got away to the excitement of learning new ways to catch largemouth bass.
Story-telling is as much a part of fishing as catching is, and there were hundreds of tales shared throughout the second annual Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way Bass Classic June 2.
The format: The competition format teams local bass tournament anglers with people from throughout the community in a pro-am fundraiser for the numerous services supported by United Way. They fished at Evans Lake in the morning and trailered to Pine Lake for the afternoon weigh-in, awards and lunch.
Tuned-in ears heard a lot in the pre-dawn gloom as anglers launched their boats. Veteran bassers shared tips with their partners, many less experienced in the tricks of the trade. Teammates discussed strategies in hushed huddles. Tournament neophytes admired the glittery boats, marveling at the notion that catching bass all begins with a mile-a-minute dash across the lake.
Out on the water, the stories started to unfold.
George "Barney" Rumberg, president of Mahoning Paint Corp., hooked and fought a three-pound bass and partner George Prvonozac of Warren, the defending pro champion, expertly netted the prized fish.
Echoing from a far corner of Evans was the laughter of Bob Goricki of Poland and partner Pat Bresnahan, a manager at Hynes Industries. The object of their chuckles was a tiny yellow perch that viciously attacked Bresnahan's Rapala.
Little, however, could rival the amusement enjoyed by Steve Zarbaugh of Poland and DJ "Fast Freddie" Woak of CD93.3. Zarbaugh's 20-foot Procraft was rockin' and rollin' throughout the six-hour tournament.
Shivered: Dee Crawford, Mahoning County Human Services executive director and Metropolitan Savings Bank board member, shivered through the blustery day aboard the boat of Pat Fire of Canfield, but unequivocally declared she'd be back again next year seeking victory.
Her sentiments were seconded by Tom Cavalier, president of Butler Wick, who enjoyed a good day on the water with Dr. Mark McMurray of North Lima.
Matt Johnson of Youngstown and Pepsi's Steve Anzevino caught their limit and threatened to win, while Brett Pomeroy and BFI Landfill's Larry Bable engaged in a post-mortem discussion about "next time."
At the weigh-in, meanwhile, the team of Greg Hromiko of Columbiana and National City Bank veep Greg Yaskulka proudly showed off the 1.25-pound rod and reel they hooked and landed during the tournament.
Fish tales: And punctuating all the fun were the inevitable fish tales. Bob Bowman of Austintown and Altronic vice president Rich Pasani pined that they just couldn't find one more fish to round out their limit.
Jim Guzman of North Jackson and Leo Slecton, sponsored by Astro Shapes, topped the "what-if" stories with an estimated eight-pounder that pulled free.
Dave Williams of Canfield and partner Dan Long of Consumers Ohio Water lifted a six-pounder from their livewell, fortifying the possibility Guzman and Slecton weren't exaggerating. But Williams shook his head over the bigger fish that just couldn't stay buttoned to his Zara Spook.
More buzz: The buzz continued long after the scales were dry. Nobody went home without an earful. But the biggest story was reported by the United Way's Debbie Freudenberg: The tournament had again raised more than $6,000.
United Way clients, it turns out, had hooked the biggest catch of all.