When Neil Marcen moved to the area from New Jersey 12 years ago, he wasn’t big into bass tournaments.
Now he runs them.
“When I came to this area the bass fishing bug got me,” said Marcen, who is president of the local bass fishing club Bass Bandits.
“I love the competition and the rush when everyone starts up their boats and idles on the lake waiting for a tournament to start.”
With bass season set to start Saturday, many area clubs will kick off their tournament seasons not long after. Anglers will have plenty to choose from, including tournaments on area lakes and the Susquehanna River.
Many of the area’s bass tournaments have become a tradition in the angling community. The Wednesday night tournament at Harveys Lake has been running strong for more than 15 years, while the Suskie Bassmasters weekly tourney on the Susquehanna River is now entering it’s 10th season.
There’s a reason why the tournaments catch on and evolve into traditions: the area simply offers some of the best bass fishing found in the state.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from anglers all over the area who are anxious for the tournament to start,” said Duke Dalley, who has run the Harveys Lake event for the last three years. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys and we’re getting new anglers — younger people and women who are getting into fishing. A lot of anglers are bringing their wives and girlfriends, which makes it a family event.”
Dalley said the tournament averaged 25 boats each week for a total of 50 anglers. He’d like to see the average increase to 30 boats for the 12-week tournament, which culminates with a championship offering a $1,200 payout.
The Suskie Bassmasters, which hold their tournaments each Wednesday out of Nesbitt Park, has increased the number of its events this summer from 13 to 14. The club recently formed a branch with the Pennsylvania Kayak Fishing Association and has seen it’s membership increase. Lynda Rosencrans, secretary/treasurer of the Suskie Bassmasters, said last summer the tournaments averaged 60 anglers each week plus several dozen onlookers who came to the park each Wednesday to watch the weigh-in.
Rosencrans said new members are always welcome and they don’t need to be expert bass anglers to compete. There are some safety precautions to consider when it comes to fishing on the river, however, and her husband, Rob, who serves as vice president of the club, mentors new members on how to fish the river safely.
“Fishing the river is different than a lake because of the current,” Lynda said. “You also have rapids, such as the ones near Tilbury, and shoals to avoid.
“If somebody’s new we’ll take the time to go over all the safety issues to make sure they know exactly what they’re doing. We want them to do it safely and enjoy the fishing.”
The PA Bass Bandits club is unique in that it’s Internet-based. Members communicate via a website and new members can join with the click of a button. Marcen said the club has 25 members and can accept a few more, but he doesn’t want to go over 30 to avoid having to buy an insurance policy for the tournaments.
Walk-ons for the clubs tournaments are welcome, he said.
The club holds tournaments on lakes throughout the region in addition to one out-of-state event each summer, such as Lake Oneida in New York. Marcen said the tournament schedule is chosen in November and then he applies for permits from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
“We generally schedule the shallower lakes early because they heat up faster and we avoid places like Harveys Lake and Wallenpaupack in mid-August because of all the jet skis and boat traffic. We stick to the smaller, electric motor only lakes in mid-summer,” Marcen said.
As far as what bass anglers can expect in area waterways this summer, Marcen said things are looking good.
“I was fishing Lake Carey for crappie earlier and I caught and released several smallmouth over 3 pounds and 4-and-a-half pound largemouth,” he said. “There’s big fish out there, and that’s what makes the tournaments exciting. Anybody is just one bite away from catching that big one and winning a tournament.”