Rob Rosencrans raised a nearly three-pound bass and ignited a vocal reaction from the crowd that had gathered around his tent.
Rosencrans, who is the tournament director of the Suskie Bassmasters, weighed in the heaviest bass caught by each angler who participated in Sunday’s Shickshinny Bass Tournament. The event, now in its second year, actually consisted of two tournaments - one for powerboats and another for anglers fishing from kayaks.
Plenty of fish were caught, but more importantly the tournament highlighted the resource that can be found within the Susquehanna River.
“We want to show people the world-class smallmouth bass fishery that’s right in their backyard,” Rosencrans said.
The tournament weigh-in drew a crowd of onlookers who were spending the day at the Crary Parkfest. The festival and the tournament combined not only conveyed just how good the bass fishing is in the Susquehanna, but that the river is a resource that can be embraced and not feared.
Last year the borough constructed a boat launch in town, opening up a new access to the river and another reason for people to visit the water.
“It’s about utilizing what we have,” said Shickshinny mayor Beverly Moore. “When you have a budget with nothing extra left to spend on anything, our best resource right now is that river. Sure we’ve had floods, but that’s not all we want to be known for.
“We want to become a destination.”
Sunday’s tournament drew more than 40 anglers, in addition to the hundreds more that visited the park. John Oast, president of the PA Kayak Fishing Association, said turnout for their tournament was higher this year and he expects it to continue to rise as kayak fishing grows.
Still, Oast said Sunday’s tournament wasn’t just about catching bass.
“It’s a community event. The tournament is in support of Shickshinny and it’s a good family environment,” he said. “We get to reach a lot of people and teach them about fishing from kayaks and just what the river offers here. Our group loves these types of events.”
Moore said the boat launch, which was funded by the borough and grants from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the key to not only launching the tournament last year but giving people a way to access the river and experience its benefits.
“There was so much enthusiasm when it went in (last July) and since then the utilization of the launch has been amazing,” Moore said. “It’s a big reason why this event is now becoming a tradition for Shickshinny.”
She added possibly adding a youth division to the bass tournament as one change for next year’s event.
At the very least, Moore can count on the bass anglers returning to use the launch, and the river, every year.
“We’re here for the duration,” Rosencrans said. “This is definitely going to grow and it’s an honor that the mayor asked us to come here and run the tournament and just be a part of this.”