Lima area anglers struggle during Ohio River bass tournament

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Lima area bass anglers found the fishing much tougher on the Ohio River than they did at Grand Lake St.Marys last weekend. No area anglers finished in the top 10 at the tourney out of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, compared to seven who placed in the top 10 at St. Marys on May 11.

Craig Burwell, of North Baltimore, had the best local place finish as he was 22nd in the boater division with four bass that weighed 5 pounds. Dick Shaffer, of Rockford, and Kyle Weisenburger, of Columbus Grove, tied for 27th. They both caught three fish that weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Cody Seeger, of Lewistown, was 40th. He caught 2 bass that weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces. Bob Logan, of Waynesfield, caught 2 bass that weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces, which was good for 48th place, while Mike Manor, of Sidney caught 2 bass that weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces, which was good for 55th place.

Those anglers are all in the top 50 through two tourneys. Manor, Weisenburger and Seeger are 16-18 while Shaffer is 25, Burwell 35 and Logan 48.

Brody Campbell of Oxford won the boater division with 5 bass weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces.

On the co-angler side, Lee Houck of Arlington was the highest Lima area place finisher at 34th with one bass that weighed 1 pounds, 11 ounces. Ron Weisenburger, of Continental, was 44th with one fish that weighed 1 pounds, 4 ounces while John Long, of New Bremen, was 60th with a bass that weighed 15 ounces.

In the points standings through two tourneys, Long is 22nd while Weisenburger is 29, Jon Angstmann, of St. Marys, is 40, Carter Mox, of Minster, is 44 and Houck is 53.

The top 45 boaters and co-anglers, plus qualifying-tournament winners in each division advance to regional championships. Anglers from the Hoosier and Michigan divisions will fish the regional at Kentucky-Barkley Lakes on Oct. 17-19 while anglers from the Buckeye division regional will fish the Potomac River regional on Oct. 17-19.

The next Buckeye Division tourney will be held on Indian Lake on July 27.

Of interesting note last weekend during BFL action was Robert Walser, of Lexington, North Carolina, tying for the all-time wins record at 13 circuit wins when he won the North Carolina division tourney on High Rock Lake in Salisbury, North Carolina. He tied Shaffer for the most wins.

The season opening tourney for area BFL bass anglers will be complete next Saturday (June) when the Michigan Division opens on Lake St. Clair out of Harrison Township. It also likely will mean several bass limits and heavy stringers compared to those seen on the BFL circuit in the Buckeye and Hoosier divisions.

There is a simple reason why a number of Lima area bassers head north on the BFL circuit, according to Lima’s Zach Maisch, who usually ranks among the top 40 in the Michigan Division.

“The guys that fish the Michigan Division simply like to catch fish. The reality is the lakes around here in Ohio and The Ohio River are very poor quality,” he said. “If I catch 20 smallmouth on Erie or St. Clair in a day, I consider that to be a slow day. If you catch 10 bass on Indian, St. Marys, or Ohio River in a day then that’s about as good as it will get. The number and quality of bass is simply so much greater on those fisheries that the Michigan Division competes on.”

How true that is. With the exception of Lake Erie, Ohio is not known as a good bass fishing state.

Michigan division anglers get to go into Lake Erie when they fish the Detroit River. The Buckeye Division rarely fishes on Lake Erie. The lake in northern Ohio is known as one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the country. And in recent years, the largemouth fishery has taken off and is producing some dandy catches.

What really maligned Ohio’s reputation for bass fishing, occurred nearly 40 years ago when the Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society (BASS) decided to hold the 13th annual Bassmaster Classic on the Ohio River out of Cincinnati. It was a disaster for anglers trying to catch “keeper” fish.

Ray Scott, head of BASS at the time, said the river would be a good test for the best bass anglers. It certainly was.

Larry Nixon of Hemphill, Texas, won that Classic in early August, 1983, with a three-day weight of 18 pounds, 1 ounce. Anglers fishing the BFL today in the Michigan Division often catch more than that in one day.

After that 1983 disaster, BASS tried its luck again on the Ohio River 4 years later. The outcome was worse. This time the event was held out of Louisville. Arkansas bass pro George Cochran could accumulate only 14 small bass weighing a total of 15 pounds and 5 ounces to win the 1987 event.

Covey Bean, of The Oklahoman, wrote a lead to a story that read: “Why would the City of Louisville, pay good money to have the best anglers in the country show the world just how lousy bass fishing can be on the Ohio River?”

But BASS did not fully quit on the Ohio River. From Oct. 3-5, 2005, the classic was held on the three rivers in Pittsburgh. It’s in this city that the Allegheny and Monongahela converge to form the Ohio. The keeper catches were awful. For the record, Kevin VanDam finished with 11 bass weighing just 12 pounds, 15 ounces. The biggest bass weighed at the tourney was a meager 2 pounds, 14 ounces.

I have to tip my hat to those anglers who catch fish in the Ohio and other river systems. As one Ohio outdoor writer, who fishes the big river a lot, put it in a column last fall, “Any time you avoid a shutout on the big river, you can count it as a success.”

Over the years, I’ve tried river fishing for bass with basically no success, but a lot of frustration. I’ve used jigs, tubes, spinnerbaits and noise-making crankbaits in the Auglaize and Maumee rivers. I’ve had much better luck when I use to muskie fish in Canada than I did bass fishing on these waters. I covered a lot of unproductive water and made thousands of casts.

The only luck I’ve had bass fishing in a river was fly fishing for smallmouth in riffle areas and weed edges of the Maumee years ago. It was fun and my biggest catch weighed 3 1/2 pounds.

Since then, if I fish a river, it’s for crappies or the occasional time I can fish for trout or steelhead.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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