By Kyle LoJacono
LAND O’ LAKES (No dateline for WC/ZH) — They are called the South Pasco Bassmasters, but the Land O’ Lakes based fishing club has members from across three counties.
“To me this club is a good excuse to get out and fish at least once a month,” said John Medvid, club president. “There is a lot of preparation getting ready before for the tournaments, but when you are out on the lake and you see that sun coming up first thing in the morning you can really appreciate nature and its beauty.”
The club has 12 fishing tournaments each year at different freshwater lakes across central Florida. Its members come mainly from Land O’ Lakes, but there are some from Wesley Chapel, Spring Hill and across Hillsborough and Hernando counties.
“The first 11 tournaments are like our regular season and then we have an end of the year classic that is like our championship,” said Michael Blanchard, club tournament director. “To get to the championship tournament people need to earn points by winning other tournaments, catching the biggest fish at a tournament and for their attendance in tournaments.”
The club meets from 7:30 to about 8:30 on the third Tuesday of each month at Rapscallions restaurant, 4422 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. in Land O’ Lakes.
The thrill of fighting a big fish gets Medvid going.
“If you are lucky enough to hook into a big bass it’s like a stress test, especially if you see it jump,” Medvid said. “The excitement gets your heart racing and you start breathing like you’re running a race. When you get them to the boat that adrenaline rush even has your hands shaking.”
Not everyone in the club has a boat, so club members draw names out of a hat to pair members who own their own watercraft with those who do not.
“We have to have at least one more member with a boat than one who doesn’t have one,” Blanchard said.
Dave Panno, club secretary and treasure, moved to Land O’ Lakes four years ago from Lutz, where he had lived for six years. He has been in the club for more than two years.
“We mainly catch bass and that’s really all I’m interested in catching,” Panno said. “They are a good fight. I really like the sport and the more people we can get in the club the better.”
Panno won the club’s February tournament, which was at Lake Istokpoga in Sebring.
“It’s the second time I’ve won a tournament since joining the club,” Panno said. “It actually wasn’t great fishing because there were few bites and the fish were small. I did catch the biggest fish of the year so far at 6.51 pounds during that tournament. I also had the largest fish last year, which was 12.3 pounds.”
Panno was glad to win the latest tournament, but the club is for more than just competitive fishing.
“We are a community club sponsored by community businesses and we like that friendly feel,” Blanchard said. “It’s more about the camaraderie than the competition. We want to win, but we aren’t trying to win no matter what.”
The club is a member of FLW Outdoors, which stands for Forrest L. Wood who is a famous bass fisher from Arkansas. In the past members had to join the FLW to be a club member, but the cost has caused the organization to rethink things.
“We may start to allow people to decide if they want to join FLW or not,” Panno said. “It costs $25 a year to join our club for the year, but it’s an extra $65 to be an FLW member. We don’t want people to stay away because of the costs.
“At one point we had a lot more members, but with the economy the way it is we are down to 16 right now,” Panno continued. “We’d like to get our numbers back up because the more people we have the more fun it is.”
Members must be at least 16-years-old. The only other cost is $30 for each tournament. The money from the entry fees is given to the first, second and third place fisher at each tournament, and another cash prize is given to whoever catches the biggest fish.
“If you win you are considered lucky if you break even that month,” Medvid said. “You have to love it or it would be like a job that you have to pay to work. We have a great group of guys that understand this and look out for each other like family.”
For more information on the club, call Panno at (813) 748-2991 or visit www.southpascobassmasters.com.