JACK WOLLITZ Anglers find that biting cold won't keep bass from biting
Snow and cold wind don't exactly spawn images of a great fishing trip even to the most ardent anglers.
So who could blame a fisherman for deciding to pass last weekend with the TV remote control close at hand? With snow and sleet pelting the windows and temps that failed to top 40 degrees, last Saturday and Sunday were days to write off the fishing calendar.
But a few souls did venture out and some of them have tales to share. Turns out the weather was tougher on the fisherman than on the fish.
The forecast for foul weather canceled several tournaments scheduled for Sunday. But the Western Reserve Walleye Association did squeeze in its tournament last Saturday at Pymatuning Reservoir.
WRWA official Jim Breedlove of Girard said the nasty day produced some enviable walleye. The top teams all tallied limits and some big fish were brought to the scales.
No doubt wearing all the clothes they brought and fortified with plenty of hot coffee, Mike Kalafut of Uniontown, Pa., and Tom Davis of Wampum, Pa., sacked a five-walleye limit of 18 pounds. They earned $865 for their frostbite fishing exploits.
Second place went to Dale Grimm of Lordstown and Sam Cappelli of Poland, with five walleyes at 13.76 pounds.
Dave Barwick Jr. of Canton and Gordon Schmucker of Leetonia were lunker winners with a 5.52-pound walleye.
Kalafut and Davis's method used vertical jigging with metal Vib'E lures in 15 feet of water. The big fish produced by Barwick and Schmucker also whacked a Vib'E.
So what's a little rain, sleet and snow? The overcast skies and brisk wind made life miserable above the water, for sure, but where the fish live conditions were more hospitable.
After learning that Sunday's X Series bass tournament -- the one we'd planned to compete in -- was canceled thanks to the forecasted snow, Steve Zarbaugh and I decided to get our weekend fishing fix last Saturday at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
We arrived at the south end ramp just before 1 p.m. and found the parking lot nearly empty, an unusual sight on an April weekend. The northwest wind whistled through the budding trees, but the rain stopped, creating an air of optimism as we launched and motored past the breakwalls.
We zoomed up the lake for a few minutes, then turned toward the shallows where we hoped to find a few willing largemouth bass. The water temperature was 55 degrees.
Twenty minutes later, the first bass rolled up out of a bush and missed the Texas-rigged tube I'd pitched there. The fish got a better look at Zarbaugh's follow-up flip and became our first catch of the day.
In the next four hours, the temperature fell into the mid-30s and snow squalls blew over the lake. More importantly, the largemouths that had moved up to Mosquito's shallow brushy cover were energized and eager to eat our tubes and jigs.
We finished the day with thumbs so numb we couldn't tie a decent Palomar knot, but also with 16 bass.
Throughout the afternoon, we marveled about how cooperative the bass were despite the awful conditions. It was extreme fishing, an afternoon that separated the diehards from the couch potatoes. Or perhaps the nuts from the sensibles.
By the time we loaded the boat on the trailer for the drive home, we weren't exactly chilled to the bone, thanks to cold-weather clothing, but the truck's heater felt mighty fine as we headed south on Ohio 11.
We were buoyed by our success, pleased that we'd figured out a productive game plan on a day more fit for penguins than pelicans.
Of course, those 16 bass had a lot to do with our high spirits.
When it comes down to going fishing or wasting a weekend without wetting a line, you can't let a little cold rain or a blizzard interfere with your plans. But be ready for a few odd stares when the neighbors notice you hitching up the boat.