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Give back to community through fishing

For 21 years, a hundred or more anglers have gathered at the boat ramps of two Aqua Ohio lakes the first Saturday after Memorial Day to compete for big bass and bragging rights.

They will go to Evans and Pine lakes again June 5 to continue the two-decade tradition of anglers raising money that helps fund family services and other programs supported by the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

Today known as the Muransky Companies Bass Classic, the annual fundraising bass tournament has returned to the calendar after 2020’s edition was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.

This year’s Bass Classic will push the total money raised past more than a half million dollars. The competitors pay substantial donations to the United Way and sponsors provide generous support, led by the suite of companies owned and operated by Ed Muransky.

Aqua Ohio grants access for the Bass Classic anglers to its great bass lakes, Evans and Pine, which differentiates the United Way tournament from the competitions on public waters.

New to the sponsor roster this year are the Fisherman’s Central superstores in New Franklin near Akron and Catawba near Port Clinton.

Fin Feather Fur’s Boardman store also has been a long-time sponsor, along with St. Croix, which annually donates two premium fishing rods for the top performing amateurs in the pro-am tournament.

Headlining the field of pro contenders this year are two of the top U.S. professional anglers: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Destin DeMarion of Grove City, Pa., and national champion walleye angler Sammy Cappelli of Poland.

Several anglers in this year’s Bass Classic have competed in every tournament since the inaugural event in 2000. They include Rob Palowitz, Tony Holzer, Brad Shultz, Dave Williams, Ron Voitus and rockin’ radio DJ Fast Freddie Woak.

Assistance in scoring will again be provided by the teen members of the Student Fishing League, directed by Harry Emmerling of East Liverpool. SFL volunteers will earn community service credit for their work at this year’s Bass Classic.

The Bass Classic also has enjoyed great support from longtime volunteers like “Moon” Barrett and Billy Kiel of the United Way Union Counselors and a host of others who roll up their sleeves to assist with paperwork and hospitality. And Wedgewood Pizza again will make sure the anglers and volunteers enjoy a slice or two of Youngstown’s finest.

As always, the fishing during the June 5 tournament is expected to be excellent. Both lakes have large populations of fat and healthy largemouth bass.

The competition is for pro-am teams divided in two divisions: Pine and Evans. Each team can weigh its five largest bass. The winning team on each lake and other top performers will be awarded cash and prizes based on the total weight of their catches.

It has been my privilege to have served as the chairman for all 21 of the United Way Bass Classics. And it has been gratifying to witness the heartwarming show of support by anglers, sponsors and volunteers who answer the call to serve our neighbors throughout the Mahoning Valley.

Fishing, it turns out, can be a wonderful way to give back to a community that is so important to all of us.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released May 11. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com

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