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Fishing quells sports-induced anxiety

I am an anxious football fan. Game day stirs a churn of anxiety in me as the hours and minutes tick down to kickoff.

Perhaps you are like me and were seeking distractions as The Ohio State Buckeyes prepared to square off against Wisconsin on Saturday evening. I was confident of the outcome, but no football game is a sure bet, especially the Big Ten championship.

I had nervous energy to burn Saturday morning and afternoon. To calm my pre-game-jitters, I needed something other than the endless pre-game TV shows featuring talking heads blathering on about who will win and why. Enough already.

So I am thankful I have a headful of memorable moments from the past fishing season that I can rekindle to pass the afternoon before another OSU football showdown.

Nothing calms an angler’s anxiety quite like the first bite of an important day on the water. Call it breaking the ice, that initial fish is the first piece in place on the way to solving the day’s puzzle. It means you won’t be skunked and you’re half way home to the second bite of the day.

My most memorable first bite of 2019 was on the second day of the Mohawk Valley Bass Club Fall Classic tournament. I had lost the race to the place where I hoped to start fishing, so I had to settle for my second choice. From there, I could clearly see the angler who was carefully working over the spot I wanted to occupy.

To say I was pre-occupied with the other fellow is an understatement. I was so riveted on his fishing — to see what I was missing — that I almost missed my first bite. When I stopped spying and returned my attention to where it should be, I realized my line was 10 feet from where I’d cast it.

A 3-pound largemouth was swimming away with my jig in its mouth. I jerked, the hook found a good spot and the fight was on. I can still see the bass at the height of a leap and feel the delight of that catch.

Memorable moments are better when we can share them with friends, a notion that gained reinforcement a variety of times this year with fishing buddies Ted Suffolk, Chris DePaola, Tyler Woak, Tim Brown, Rich Getch, Steve Zarbaugh and Mike McCoy.

Ted and I team up annually to compete in the Muransky Companies Bass Classic benefiting the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. He’s a good angler with years of bass experience and, like all of us, enjoys catching big fish.

But Ted is not the loudest guy on the lake. He’s more prone to quietly reel in a chunky largemouth than to boisterously proclaim, “Fish on!” We can fish for an hour or more without speaking a word to each other and still experience great happiness in our pursuit.

So you can imagine my surprise when in the heat of our tournament quest, I heard a substantial splash behind me. I turned to see a 4-pound largemouth falling back into the lake after a tail dance near Ted’s perch at the stern. I grabbed the net, scooped the fish and congratulated Ted, whose own response was a modest, “Nice one.”

Indeed it was. As were several fish young Tyler Woak caught on the BassCat this summer.

Tyler is the personification of youthful exuberance. You will never forget he’s back there, fishing his heart out and setting the hook like a cowpoke snapping a bullwhip.

We were on Mosquito Lake one day in September when I felt the boat rock. “This thing is HUGE,” he declared as he crouched to keep his rod low to prevent the bass from jumping free.

Tyler deftly boated his bass and made a video of his release. It wasn’t HUGE, but it was, as Ted would say, a “nice one.”

They all are nice, after all, especially in the memories they provide. I’ve had plenty in the bank as I got through Saturday’s OSU game.