10 Feb, 2021
A fish story of magnanimous proportions
By Jack Wollitz
Muransky Companies Bass Classic
Twenty-one years, hundreds of anglers, 32,000 hours of fishing and 1.2 million casts add up quickly when bass fishing rises to the challenge of helping our neighbors.
Back in January 2000, volunteers teamed with the leaders of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley to plan a pro-am bass tournament. Their goal was to elevate awareness and raise money for the community organizations that depend on United Way support.
The idea came from board member Rich Pisani. Considering the plethora of charity golf tournaments, Rich urged the United Way to offer something to interest people who enjoy fishing. The 2000 campaign chair, Aqua Ohio’s Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, immediately promised Aqua’s bass-filled Evans Lake as the venue and 50 anglers quickly signed up and opened their checkbooks.
Today known as the Muransky Companies Bass Classic, the tournament has grown in stature. It has surpassed a half-million dollars in money raised by the bass fishing community and the generous sponsors of the annual tournament. We want to thank Ed Muransky for taking over the Title sponsorship and believing in all the United Way does for our community.
Along the way, an amazing cross section of people have come together annually to give back to their community, celebrate bass fishing and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Big fish, big bucks and big grins have been generated by the Bass Classic, which has been held annually on the first Saturday after Memorial Day – save for 2020 when the COVID pandemic resulted in cancelation.
This year’s Bass Classic was planned with COVID safety protocol as a high priority. The traditional dinner the night prior to tournament day was eliminated in deference to the health and safety of the 250 anglers, sponsors and guests who typically gather. Instead of the dinner, all contestants received gift cards from the Vineyards at Pine Lake and Birdfish Brewing.
Also, after four years of weighing all of each team’s bass, we changed back to a five-bass limit to simplify the scoring.
The changes in scoring and hospitality were well accepted and the tournament went off with nary a hitch June 5 on Aqua Ohio’s Pine and Evans lakes.
Beautiful sunrise weather greeted the full field of pro-am anglers. The chatter of eager anglers broke the dawn hush as teammates boarded their boats and rigged up for their pursuit of the title of 2021 Bass Classic champions. So began another day when competitive drama and heart-warming human interest played out across the waters.
Sometimes overlooked in the rush to plan the event and count the proceeds is the fact that great friendships have been forged over the 21 years of the Bass Classic.
For instance, this year’s Evans Lake victors Tom Rolland and Tony Carr, both Austintown residents, met eight years ago after Tony signed up as a late entry in the Bass Classic. Now they are good friends who spend a lot of time fishing and socializing.
Pro Terry Watson also made a lifelong friend of Wedgewood Pizza principal Anthony Pellegrini. They look forward to their annual reunion at the Bass Classic, but this year Anthony was a late scratch due for health reasons. We know Anthony will be back better than ever at our ’22 Bass Classic.
The spirit of the Bass Classic perhaps is best exemplified by father-daughter team John and Madison White of Alabama. Months before the Bass Classic, they formulated plans for a cross-country trip that would culminate in Youngstown for the 2021 Muransky tournament. That was no small feat, however, as Madison is a collegiate softball player whose schedule of games and school work can get in the way of a fishing “vacation.”
They made it happen and even more significant is that they almost won the tournament. Madison caught key fish as the Whites built a heavy catch of Evans Lake largemouth bass and in a true never-give-up moment, they netted their biggest fish with just minutes remaining in the competition. They returned to Alabama with a pair of beautiful second-place plaques and enough memories to overflow their favorite lakes.
Interestingly, John and Madison weren’t the long-distance champs this year. That title went to Bob Marcoux of St. Paul, Minn., who drove 1,250 miles from his winter residence in Naples, Fla., to compete with Bass Classic veteran John Breedlove of Girard.
Long-time buddies Ray Halter and Al Hustosky notched their second consecutive Pine Lake championship this year with five big bass that pulled the scales to more than 22 pounds. Ray’s 6.25-pound largemouth bass was the biggest fish of this year’s tournament.
Second place at Pine this year went to Dave Williams and Jack Scott, as they reeled in five bass weighing 22.10 pounds. Dave and Jack were big winners several years ago under the no-limit scoring, hauling in more than 80 pounds.
The Bass Classic has become popular with hundreds of talented people, particularly our technical director Ricky White of Canton. He has volunteered hundreds of hours of work on many details of the event, especially the online scoring system and digital scoreboard.
We also have been honored to have the participation of the United Way’s volunteer Union Counselors, led by Billy Keel. They handle many important game day jobs with smiles on their faces.
Sponsor support is critical to the Classic’s success. The Muransky Companies and Aqua Ohio have been with us for many years. We also are grateful for the support of fishing retailers Fisherman’s Central and Fin Feather Fur.
For eons, people have fished for food. For centuries, we have fished for sport. And today, we celebrate the Muransky Companies Bass Classic as our opportunity to fish for the good of our friends and neighbors here in the Mahoning Valley.
Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released May 11. To order a signed copy, visit www.fayettevillemafiapress.com
SAVE THE DATE!
MURANSKY COMPANIES BASS CLASSIC RALLY
SEPTEMBER 11 AND 12, 2021
Enjoy time to fish on Aqua Ohio’s beautiful Evan’s Lake. Donate to the United Way and you can get these Bass filled waters for 2 days in September.
Details to come in August!
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