When weather gets weird fishermen get worried

Checking weather forecasts in the days leading up to a fishing trip can be exercises in frustration.
If TV meteorologists Stan, Dave or Don are bubbly about the prospects for a great weekend, we worry the situation will deteriorate. If they are fretting about a storm front, we hope against hope that they will be wrong.
So it was last week as I gathered as much weather information as I could find -- from the local stations to The Weather Channel to the Internet. I was fishing Sunday, come rain or shine, and I wanted to be prepared.
The venue was West Branch Reservoir, the Corps of Engineers impoundment sandwiched between Ohio 14 and 225 in Portage County. Our target was bass. The objective was to win the annual challenge pitting the top anglers from the area's bass clubs -- Berlin Bass Casters, Mohawk Valley, Girard Lakes and Ohio Valley Anglers. The weather, of course, would be a factor.
Glorious Indian Summer weather withered by midweek. Frigid weather whipped severely by northerly gales fulfilled the doom-and-gloom forecasts and frosted the optimism of even the most diehard anglers.
Water temperatures, which before the front had been falling ever so slowly through the 60s, plummeted into the mid-50s. Anglers fear radical temperature changes like quarterbacks fear giant defensive ends.
Sunday dawned -- I use the term loosely, considering the sky was filled with swirling gray clouds -- and the bass clubbers fanned out across West Branch's 3,000 acres. Our wetter-than-normal autumn had kept the reservoir relatively full for October and the anglers had plentiful cover to poke and probe with jigs, worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
The competitors' challenge was to figure out just where among all that cover -- weed beds, fallen trees and stumps -- lived the quality largemouths they would need if they stood a chance of winning the club fish-off. Factor in the cold water, the bumpy barometer and the unusually high water level, and the equation gets even more complicated.
By the 4 p.m. weigh-in, the answer was clear, the evidence swimming in the livewell of Bob Bowman's Skeeter bass boat. The Austintown angler, along with partner Jack Pavelko of Youngstown, hooked up with a limit catch of largemouths by working small shad- and chrome-colored crankbaits around the laydown logs and submerged treetops.
Many other teams in the tournament figured out tactics similar to those employed by Bowman and Pavelko, but none could duplicate the numbers.
Most put at least part of the blame on the frustration of weather worries. It isn't easy being a weatherman. And it isn't easy being an angler when the weather gets weird.
New walleye trail forming
Jim Breedlove of Girard has announced walleye tournament anglers will have a new circuit in 2007. The Buckeye Walleye Trail is planning an informational and sign-up meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 26) at the Gander Mountain store on Ohio 46 in Niles.
The circuit features two divisions -- advanced and novice -- both for two-person teams. The schedule has six tournaments on four lakes: Mosquito, Milton, Pymatuning and Berlin.
For additional information, anglers may call (330) 637-8087.

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