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Local anglers giving back to support community

When the opportunity to give back to the community presents itself, some people step up and some turn away.

It’s human nature. Some are givers. But even the most generous givers appreciate the opportunity to have some fun to go along with their investment.

A dedicated corps of bass anglers has answered the call in Youngstown annually since 2000. Every year on the Saturday after Memorial Day, they gather at Aqua Ohio’s Evans and Pine Lakes to compete for the title of champion of the United Way Bass Classic.

Now known as the Muransky Companies Bass Classic, the tournament started at the turn of the century as a fundraiser to join the schedule that included the annual golf outing and grand dinners that helped raise money that the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley provides to support much-needed community services.

Bass anglers have responded with their checkbook and enthusiasm since that very first Bass Classic when local pro fisherman George Prvonozac of Warren sacked more than 18 pounds of Lake Evans largemouths.

The tournament has been on the bass calendar every year except 2020, when COVID started its rampage. It returned in 2021 as a full field of teams fanned out across Evans and Pine Lakes on the Saturday after Memorial Day.

Austintown’s Tom Rolland and Tony Carr topped the standings at Evans with a five-bass limit topping 22 pounds. Cleveland-area competitors Ray Halter and Al Hustosky won the Pine competition with a sack weighing more than 23 pounds.

The 100 or so anglers who compete every year have many choices the first weekend of June, but they support the Bass Classic because the fishing is typically fantastic and their hearts are generous.

Aqua Ohio’s lakes Evans and Pine are super venues for the tournament because they have excellent populations of bass. Big fish, and lots of them, help differentiate the Bass Classic from the hundreds of other tournaments in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

The Bass Classic originally was contested on just one lake. Evans Lake proved to be a great host for five years, but the field eventually outgrew the reservoir south of Poland. The tournament expanded to two lakes when Pine was added and the competition was divided in two divisions.

Many of the region’s best anglers will compete in the Bass Classic this year, including Bassmaster pros Destin DeMarion, Bill Byers and Scott Cremeans, Fisherman’s Central’s Dave Waikem and Student Fishing League’s Harry Emmerling and Wayne Wells.

Generous anglers and great sponsors this year will ensure the Bass Classic will draw near a total of $600,000 raised for United Way since 2000. Credit goes to the Muransky Companies, Aqua Ohio, Fisherman’s Central, Fin Feather Fur, Birdfish Brewery, Wedgewood Pizza, Lucas Oil, NGK Sparkplugs, the UW’s Union Counselors and the Painters Union.

Yesterday and today, Bass Classic competitors were enjoying official practice time on Evans and Pine to scout for what they hope will be the winning catches next Saturday.

The real winners, of course, will be the people who gain value from the services the anglers’ efforts have helped fund.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” dives into the highs and lows that combine to make fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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