People don't typically associate bass fishing with community service, but that's exactly the combination that is taking shape again this year as the countdown begins for the second annual Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way Bass Classic.
Using a pro-am format, the tournament debuted last year and raised thousands of dollars and a lot of goodwill for the local United Way organization. This year's event on June 2 at Evans Lake promises to do the same.
Counts on support: As with all fundraising events, the United Way Bass Classic counts on support from the community for its success. That comes via sponsorships and from the pro and amateur anglers who pay to compete in the tournament.
Additional support comes from the volunteers who work behind the scenes.
"We wish to extend a special thanks to the Union Counselors' Association," said United Way's Debbie Freudenberg. "They have volunteered to build a permanent scoreboard, to help set up the staging area and to help with kids from Big Brothers/Big Sisters around the lake on the day of the event."
The sponsors: Sponsors to date include BFI Carbon Limestone, Astro Shapes Inc., Pepsi Cola Co., Consumers Ohio Water Co. and the local Clear Channel network of radio stations, including CD93.3, Newsradio 570 WKBN, Mix 98.9, Oldies 106.1 and others.
Radio personalities Fast Freddie Woak of CD93.3 and Pete Gabriel of 570 WKBN are challenging each other in the amateur division to see who hooks up with the best catch during the United Way Bass Classic. The fishing venue again this year is bass-filled Evans Lake.
The event operates under a typical bass tournament format. The anglers will blast off in their boats at 7 a.m. and fish until 1:30 p.m. At the conclusion of the fishing period, the pro-am teams will load up and trailer to nearby Pine Lake for the official weigh-in.
Master of ceremonies will be pro angler Jeff Snyder of Massillon.
Defending champion George Prvonozac of Warren is among the confirmed entries for this year's event. He thrilled the weigh-in audience last year with a limit catch of five largemouth bass totaling more than 18 pounds.
Prvonozac, a veteran of the national Bassmaster Tournament Trail, built his winning sack of bass with a topwater plug and a crankbait, concentrating on a flat near deeper water on Evans Lake.
Snyder, a professional fisherman and lecturer, was impressed with Evans Lake last year.
"It was the first time I ever saw the lake, and my partner Dee Crawford and I caught a lot of fish," Snyder said. "We didn't win, but we had a great time."
Fish for free:Larry Wehr, manager of Consumers Water Co's Evans and Pine lakes, said the general public is invited to come out to fish for free at Pine Lake on June2 and attend the weigh-in ceremonies that afternoon.
"We are pleased to support the United Way and host the pro and amateur anglers for the tournament," Wehr said. "With the free fishing day and the load of bass the competitors will be bringing in, I think we'll have a good show again this year and local fishermen will want to check it out."
Freudenberg said limited room remains in the pro and amateur fields and those who wish to compete may contact her for information. Pro entrants pay a $75 entry fee and must bring their bass boats. An amateur can enter with a $300 donation to United Way and he or she will be assigned to a pro's boat.
If last year's event is any indication, the United Way Bass Classic promises to be another great opportunity to support some truly worthy causes and deliver a lot of fishing fun.