Gaining knowledge at Bass Classic

Jim McLaughlin settled into his seat, swigged from a bottle of water and mopped a trickle of sweat working its way across his forehead that sunny day last June on Pine Lake. He squinted under the bright sky as he checked his iPhone.

The weather was perfect, and the fishing was starting to pick up. McLaughlin, an avid angler from Lowellville, was soaking it all in, but without a fishing rod in hand.

“I gotta tell you – I’ve never seen two people fish with such intensity,” he said as he observed the two fishermen on the boat flipping lures into holes in the vegetation and dragging plastic frogs across the lily pad flats.

“You guys haven’t let up in four hours. You don’t even stop to eat or drink!”

McLaughlin and 59 other volunteer marshals served a critical role in the 2017 Muransky Companies Bass Classic, benefiting the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

The Muransky Bass Classic’s unique catch-weigh-release scoring system works because each boat in the pro-am tournament includes official scorekeepers using their smartphones to record each catch.

Adding to the allure of the Bass Classic is the fact Aqua Ohio has been the venue host since the first tournament in 2000. The excellent fishing at tournament lakes Pine and Evans brings the big sticks from Ohio and western Pennsylvania to the competition.

Fin Feather Fur, with a retail store in Boardman, this year is the official sponsor of the online scoreboard. Marshals add the weight of each fish to the Fin Feather Fur Action Tally throughout the fishing day, enabling competitors to know exactly how they are doing compared to the other anglers.

The tournament is open to all who enjoy fishing or community service. People may elect to volunteer as a marshal or sign up to compete.

For McLaughlin and friends Mitch Leigh and Ray Novak, the opportunity to ride along as official marshals helped fulfill their quest for fishing knowledge. An avid angler, McLaughlin said he learned new techniques and saw in real time how bass respond to artificial lures.

He also came to appreciate the focus and stick-to-it perseverance of the pro-am anglers.

“I’ve been fishing my whole life, but I was more of a bait fisherman who puts it out there and waits for a bite,” he said. “I learned a lot watching you guys casting plastic worms and plugs and working the surface around those lily pads. Plus, it’s all action. There’s no sitting around.”

McLaughlin and his buddies have already signed up to serve as marshals in this year’s tournament, June 2.

“It’s a great way to see and learn new things about bass fishing. It’s a front-row seat to the action as the pro-am anglers compete and catch really nice largemouths.”

Marshals participate at no charge and get great perks: goodie bags, official shirt, a pre-tournament dinner party at the Vineyards at Pine Lake and a personal look at tournament bass action.

St. Croix returns as a sponsor this year, providing two high-end fishing rods customized for the amateur champions at both Pine and Evans lakes.

Thanks to the anglers, marshals, sponsors and other volunteers, the 2018 Bass Classic is expected to push the total money raised for the local United Way to more than $400,000.

Information about getting involved with the Bass Classic as a marshal or angler can be obtained by contacting the United Way office, 330-746-8494, or visiting

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