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June 13, 2011
By ART HOLDEN
Daily Record Outdoor Editor
MILLERSBURG -- You may laugh at the notion of a bluegill tournament.
After all, how hard is it to catch a bluegill?
But, to be in the money, to have a chance at winning, you have to be willing to pay the price.
A long hike in (and out), belly boats or float tubes, and the right pond add up to the winning formula for diehard gill fishermen.
A total of 14 two-person teams fished Dwayne Coblentz's sixth annual bluegill tournament this past Saturday, and Al Weaver and Leroy Bowman walked away with all the money after not only weighing in the heaviest 15-fish, but also bringing the longest bluegill to the scale.
Rules for the tournament are different than most fishing tournaments, which are held on a particular lake. This one, anglers can fish any public water in Ohio (no farm ponds). You can fish anywhere starting at 6 a.m., as long as you're back at Coblentz's house in Millersburg by 5 p.m. for the weigh-in.
Weaver and Bowman, as most of the teams did, fished the strip mine ponds at Woodbury Wildlife Area in Coshocton, finding their honey hole that produced a 9-pound winning haul.
"We hiked a half-hour to the pond," said Bowman, whose 10 1/2-inch bluegill was the largest of the tournament. "It's the way out that's tough, but it was worth it."
Weaver said he and his partner used 4-pound test line, panfish ants and waxworms.
"Every once in awhile we'd switch to fishing worms to tease them," said Weaver.
Two-time defending champs Matt Miller and Michael Wengerd finished second with an 8.2-pound total, and came up a quarter-inch short in the longest fish category. Their winning weight last year was 10.4 pounds.
"The fish just weren't there this year," said Wengerd. "We didn't find any fish on nests."
"We never made it down to pre-fish this year," said Miller. "We got into way too many 8-inchers."
Of course, most bluegill fishermen would love a cooler full of 8-inchers as it's hard to beat a dinner of fried bluegill. But for this tournament, 8-inch bluegill taste good, but don't put you in the money.
"I've been fishing this tournament every since Dwayne started it, and I just enjoy being out there," said Bowman, who has another win and second-place finish to his credit. "The first three years I fished with my father-in-law, and ever since with Al."
Coblentz uses the tournament as an excuse to go fishing, and this year was happy to see a record 14 teams take on the challenge.
One team to fish the tournament was Richard Taylor of Nashville, and his 11-year-old granddaughter April King, of Perrysville.
"My granddaughter likes to fish, so I thought it'd be a lot of fun," said Taylor.
Taylor and King put some miles in to get their bluegill, starting out fishing from the bank at Knox Lake, then trying off the dam at Pleasant Hill, and also off the bank at Shreve. They headed back to Pleasant Hill to try to find some bigger fish before heading to the weigh-in.
"We might have had the lowest weight, but that doesn't matter. It was fun catching them," said Taylor, who won two sleeves of Kegara jigs for his 4.8-pound total.
"Next year I think we're going to change the rules some," said Coblentz. "We're getting more teams entering, so I think we'll pay out to third place, and maybe the winning team can't also win the biggest bluegill. Maybe that way, we'll get even more teams entering."
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