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Competitive anglers hit Mosquito Lake

Beth Kotwis Carmichael is banking on two major fishing events this week to strengthen Trumbull County’s reputation as a destination for families and outdoors enthusiasts.

Beth is executive director of Trumbull County Tourism and is buoyed by the prospect that today’s Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s North American Bass Challenge presented by Garmin will be the icing on the cake. The cake started baking Wednesday when two-person teams from 27 states began competition in the Junior World Championship in bass fishing.

Both events were set for Trumbull County’s crown jewel of fishing: Mosquito Lake.

“We expect to have a great deal of exposure through this week’s Junior World Championship as each team includes two anglers between the ages of 9 and 15, as well as their boat driver and, in most cases, their family members joining them here,” the tourism director said. “With that experience and the North American Bass Challenge experience, we hope to bring in more national fishing tournaments.”

Fishing as a tourism draw has shown to be effective in other regions. Lake Erie communities, for example, reap big benefits thanks to the world-class walleye fishing out on the big lake. Other U.S. communities have gained economic strength through the anglers and fans gathering at big league bass and walleye tournaments.

Mosquito Lake already has been a focal point for big-time bass competition. In 2015, Major League Fishing chose Youngstown as the host city for its Bass Pro Shops Challenge Select, a made-for-TV bass competition that featured two days on Mosquito, two on Milton and two on Aqua Ohio’s Evans and Pine lakes.

The sprawling Trumbull County reservoir is extremely popular with Ohio and Pennsylvania bass tournament anglers. Each weekend typically includes at least two tournaments and sometimes four.

The economic impact is measureable. Kotwis Carmichael cited a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that said in 2019, fishing at Mosquito resulted in $35 million worth of local economic impact.

The winner of today’s North American Bass Challenge will be the angler who catches the largest bass. In addition, prizes will be awarded for the 10 largest bass weighed during each of four two-hour segments. The overall winner will pocket $10,000.

The big fish derby and the Junior World Championship are both directed by Randy Sullivan of TBF (The Bass Federation) based in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He said Mosquito got the nod as the venue due to its growing reputation as a bass fishery.

“Why Mosquito? We saw the opportunity to come north instead of our usual lakes in the south and the Ohio Bass Federation people spoke very highly of Mosquito Lake,” Sullivan said.

The Junior World Championship started Wednesday and continued Thursday. Top finishers after Thursday’s fishing advanced to the final round Friday. COVID-19 safety guidelines were put into effect and no spectators were permitted at the daily weigh-ins of the junior championship and today’s big bass challenge.

During most weekend tournaments at Mosquito, anglers compete for thousands of dollars in prize money. But Beth Kotwis Carmichael is betting the real winners may ultimately be the hotels, restaurants and other businesses where weekend anglers spend their money to boost the local economy.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who has competed in bass tournaments in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York since 1985. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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