By Lisa Byers
When the United Way of Western Crawford County hosted its first Bass Classic back in 2005, no one knew for sure just how it would all turn out.
But with 13 boats — for a total of 26 participants — and $12,000 raised for the United Way, it looked as though the event would be a continued success. It has become much more. In fact, the Bass Classic, according to United Way of Western Crawford County executive director Amy Murphy Woods, has become the organization’s biggest fundraiser.
“This year we are looking at 30 boats,” said Eric Marsh, the classic’s event chairman. “We’ve got about three times as many (as the first year). It is not anything we envisioned being as successful as it is now.”
To date, the Bass Classic has raised more than $120,000 for the local United Way, a fundraising organization for 18 human service agencies in the county. Murphy Woods said the United Way helps those agencies “bridge the gaps where budgets fall short of the need.”
“That gap gets greater and greater every day because of federal and state budget cuts,” she said.
The ninth annual United Way Bass Classic is Friday on Conneaut Lake. Thirty boats and their pro-am teams hit the water at the Iroquois Boating and Fishing Club dock at 7 a.m. Weigh-in is at 12:30 p.m. at the club.
“Last year we made just under $21,000,” Murphy Woods said. “This year we are probably going to exceed that by a couple hundred dollars.”
But what about the competition? Who will succeed 2012 winner Ben Lipec as the Bass Classic champion? Can Lipec, who will be without his amateur partner, Brock Henderson, from a year ago, repeat?
Will two-time champion Steve Hughes and Lon Wilson finish back on top? What about 2009 champion Scott Welker? Or will Marsh, who has a personal best finish of third, finally tip the scales in his favor?
“We’ll see,” Marsh said. “We’ll find on Friday.”
Marsh does expect to see bigger fish this year, though. Lipec and Henderson hauled in 15.82 pounds of bass a year ago, the second-lowest winning total. The lowest total came in the event’s inaugural year when professional Paul Hirosky, this year’s master of ceremonies, and Jon DeArment, brought in 15.75 pounds.
“It rained real hard for the last two hours of the tournament last year,” Marsh said.
Friday’s forecast is calling for just a 10 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low 80s.
Marsh said there has been success on Conneaut Lake this year.
“I was out the weekend before last,” Marsh said. “We support a kids club and took them out fishing Saturday and caught some nice fish. We caught quite a few (state-regulated) limits. Fishing has been real good. The water temperature has been warm. The lake is clear and in good shape.”
Does that mean there is a chance of breaking the record of 23.89 pounds set by Hirosky and DeArment in 2006?
“I expect to see right around 18 pounds,” Marsh said. “Unless someone catches one real big fish.”
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
Year Team Total Weight
2012 Ben Lipec, Brock Henderson 15.82
2011 Steve Hughes, Lon Wilson 21.43
2010 Hughes, Wilson 20.12
2009 Scott Welker, Ron Henderson 18.36
2008 Paul Hirosky, Jon DeArment 21.84
2007 Hirosky, DeArment 17.98
2006 Hirosky, DeArment 23.89
2005 Hirosky, DeArment 15.75
You can go
The ninth annual United Way of Western Crawford County Bass Classic is Friday at Conneaut Lake. Local bass professional Paul Hirosky will be on hand to answers questions and oversee the weigh-in, which is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Iroquois Club.