Four local anglers awakened last weekend with little clue of the magnificent fishing days that were dawning.
Dale and Diane Grimm of Lordstown were on the verge of what Dale later described as an "awesome" experience. And Mark Franko of Cortland and Ron Learn of Hubbard fired up their outboards as the sun peaked up in the east with a hunch they'd do well, but fortune smiled more broadly than they had expected.
All four were fishing in tournaments, albeit for different species on lakes 150 miles from each other.
Fishing at Berlin Reservoir, the Grimms shattered the all-time weight record in the Western Reserve Walleye Association Saturday with five walleyes that popped the eyes of bystanders at the scales. Their catch included a 7.66-pounder and totaled 21.14 pounds, beating the former WRWA record of 13.4 pounds.
Franko and Learn, meanwhile, were among the competitors in a Youngstown-based Mohawk Valley Bass Club event at Lake Chautauqua, near Jamestown, N.Y. They came to the scales with identical weights of 17.08 pounds, the first time that's ever occurred in the club's nearly 30-year history.
Dale Grimm said his experience last weekend changed his mind about Berlin Reservoir.
"I used to hate going to Berlin," he said. "I usually prefer Mosquito or Pymatuning. But that catch was awesome. I love the place now."
Besides the 7.66-pounder, the sack he and his wife hauled to the scales included walleyes weighing 6.94 and 4.5 pounds. What's more, he said, they lost two other fish that would have topped four pounds.
"We got the big one first. We were trolling between Route 224 and the railroad bridge 13 feet deep with Shad Raps and I noticed we'd moved into five feet of water. I goosed the motor to get us back to deeper water when the 7.66-pounder hit," he said.
That strike provided the key clue to the Grimms' success.
"It really was the speed that triggered the strike," he said. "We ran 5.2 mph with 10-pound mono and the lures 120 feet back."
The lunker ate a blue and chrome Shad Rap, while other strikes occurred on clown and gold and black Shad Raps. They also caught fish on perch Cotton Cordell CC Shads.
Largest single fish
The Grimms not only broke the record for five fish, but their 7.66-pounder is the largest single fish weighed in WRWA competition. The former record was 7.2 pounds.
Bassmen Franko and Learn were fishing in Mohawk Valley Bass Club's first ever event at Chautauqua. They came away impressed with what the 17,000-acre natural lake can produce.
Chautauqua is a popular resort and consequently has homes and boat docks on virtually every foot of shoreline. Franko, who was declared the winner by a tie-breaking coin toss, focused on one set of docks.
"I went back and forth on them all day," he said. "In fact, my two biggest fish came off the same dock about an hour apart."
He flipped a jig-'n-pig to the shady spots and culled through 13 keepers.
Learn pitched Texas-rigged tubes to wood on the south end of the lake. "I figured I'd get my limit of two-pounders there, but had no idea I'd run into all those big fish," he reported.
His sack included the biggest fish of the tournament, a 4.7-pound largemouth. He started the day with a topwater plug and hooked a huge smallmouth bass that pulled free before he could land it.
It all goes to prove that you never know what you'll run across out on the water.