The bass were not especially cooperative, but there were plenty of smiles last Saturday around the stage of the third annual Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way Bass Classic, presented by Consumers Ohio Water Co.
Bass anglers and civic-minded companies teamed up July 13 at Evans Lake to help raise more than $10,000 for the area's United Way network of services. The bite was tough, but participants in the pro-am bass tournament were pleased to be part of the successful fundraiser.
Broke a record
"We easily broke the record for money generated by this event," said chairwoman Jennifer Johnson, Consumer Ohio Water Co.'s human resources and communications coordinator. "We are proud to be part of this opportunity to help pay for the community services delivered through the United Way. Thanks to everybody who helped make the tournament a success."
Winning the event was the team of Mike Bolevich and Jim Opritza. Representing tournament sponsor Astro Shapes of Struthers, which also happens to be their employer, Bolevich and Opritza sacked the only five-bass limit. Their catch weighed 9.28 pounds.
Bolevich, of Austintown, and Opritza, of Struthers, worked topwater poppers all day in partly sunny, hot and calm conditions. They focused their presentations on the weed lines that ring Evans Lake.
Second place went to the team of optometrist Dr. Mark McMurray of North Lima and United Way President Don Cagigas of Poland. Their four largemouths weighed 8 pounds. They fished plastic worms on an off-shore weed break.
Mike Sekula of Boardman and Jim Crawford of East Palestine, representing his employer Compco Industries, finished third with 7.94 pounds. Sekula's sack included a 5.24-pound largemouth, which just missed big bass honors.
The tournament lunker was hooked by Jim Guzman of North Jackson. He caught the 5.42-pound largemouth on a plastic worm to claim the pro division's big fish award.
Ron Voitus of New Springfield, a teacher in the Struthers school system, won the amateur lunker prize with a 5.06-pound beauty that he caught on a jig-and-pig. Voitus competed with pro partner Gary Patterson of New Springfield.
In addition to merchandise prizes, Opritza, Cagigas and Crawford claimed trophy plates custom-made by Wendall August Forge.
While a number of anglers earned prizes to celebrate their successes on the water, everybody took home great memories.
Young Rick Kreidler, sponsored by Vinyl Profiles owner Randy Vegso, whooped it up on the water when he landed a nice northern pike, expertly netted by pro partner Matt Johnson, director of the Greater Ohio Tournament Trail.
Essroc maintenance manager Pat Thomas of New Middletown fought the biggest bass he had ever hooked and watched as the scales showed it weighed 3.5 pounds.
Phil Dennison, of the Packer-Thomas accounting firm, put the first fish in the boat, which ignited pro partner Ron Learn of Hubbard to kick it into gear and add two more. They earned fifth place.
George and Diane Byers of Austintown fished as pro and amateur, respectively, for Solar Oil and caught enough fish on Sluggos to finish seventh.
CD93.3 disk jockey Fast Freddie Woak and pro partner Steve Zarbaugh of Poland laughed at their own jokes all day and finished in 10th place.
Linda Spehar, a walleye fanatic fishing for Universal Development, learned all about bassin' thanks to pro partner Hank Mattern of North Jackson.
Sponsors this year included Consumers Ohio Water Co., Astro Shapes, Harrington Hoppe Mitchell, Zebco, Clear Channel and BFI.