Bass fishing: Back to basics

I had an experience last weekend that reminded me of why I love the sport of fishing so much. My friend Don Fry called and asked me if I wanted to go fishing Friday on Hoover Reservoir here in central Ohio. I said sure.

Hoover Reservoir is probably the best bass lake in Ohio, save Lake Erie. It’s a real treat to fish it. One of the things that makes it so great is the fact that it has a 10-horsepower limit. It’s a great lake in other respects, too, but the low horsepower thing is what really sets it apart. As a practical matter, that keeps most bass anglers away from her.

We were fishing on Friday when we found out that there was going to be an open tournament on the lake on Saturday. We talked it over for a few minutes and decided to enter. I paid the entry fee. Don provided the boat.

What we didn’t know was that it was Free Fishing Weekend in Ohio. That’s a weekend when you can go fishing without a license. It’s also a weekend when tons of recreational anglers take disabled and people with challenges fishing. The lake was covered over with pontoon boats and their angler-passengers.

Watching them fish was a real experience. They were having fun. It wasn’t about competition, or money, or much of anything else. It was about laughing, giggling and feeling the pull of a “big one” on their line.

The same sort of thing could be said about our local tournament. I was struck at the difference in atmosphere at the ramp before we launched between it and an Elite Series tournament. Everyone was there to have a good time. The tension and the pressure that’s typical at the professional level was nowhere to be found.

In fairness, the Elite Series is professional bass fishing at the highest level. I understand that. Still, it was refreshing to see people fishing a tournament for the sole purpose of having fun. They were trying to get away from their jobs, not working at them. That attitude carried through to the weigh-in. Sure, there was disappointment. But it wasn’t the same. The stakes were nowhere near as high.

I left the event feeling better than I have in a long time. I will admit, however, that some of what I was feeling was personal. Members of my old fishing club, one I helped form back in the day, helped us out by carrying the fish from the scales to the lake for release.

The club is called the Walnut Springs Middle School Fishing Club. The high school division is called Hartley’s Hogs. After it was over I talked with several of the members. They asked dozens of questions about how to catch fish and what bass fishing is like at the professional level. I told them what I could. What I didn’t tell them was how much I envied them.

And no, I didn’t forget — happy 29th birthday, Tracey. I love you!

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