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NICE CATCH: Frank Brown displays a largemouth bass he hooked during a recent tourney on the Kokomo Reservoir. Brown’s fish topped out at 5 pounds, 11 ounces.

The tiny jig had barely hit the water when I felt that familiar “tick, tick, tick.” Setting the hook with a flick of the wrist, the fish dove for deeper water peeling short stretches of line from the small reel. The rod tip danced spasmodically and the drag whined a sweet tune in the warm evening air. The fish again made a valiant dive for freedom, peeling off a few more feet of line.

“Pump and reel,” I thought each time the drag stopped.

It wasn’t long before the fish was shimmying in tight circles near the glistening surface of the small Kosciusko County lake. I raised the rod tip high and after a few seconds, coaxed the fish to the boat. Grinning, I slid my palm under its thick belly and hoisted the 9-inch bluegill into my outstretched hand.

For a moment I did nothing but admire its beautiful colors. The shimmering purple, blue and orange covering my hand captivated me, even though I couldn’t begin to tell you how many I’ve actually caught over the years.

But wait! Did this guy say “bluegill” you might question? Of course I did. These tasty diminutive sunfish possess a special charm, but some think they surely can’t put out the spirited fight described earlier. Guess again. Even smaller fish species feel tremendous if you use tackle that turns lightweights into lunkers.

The scientific principle is simple. “The degree of fight given by any freshwater game fish, regardless of size, is directly proportionate to the weight of the angler’s tackle.” What I’m talking about are ultralights.

What I was using on that spunky bluegill was a 5-foot soft action rod spooled with 4-pound test line and a jig no bigger than a small paper clip. At the end of that short evening of fishing, 19 bluegills, six crappies and three perch found a home in my live well and every one of them fought like fish twice their actual size.

But why use ultralights? Because it’s fun! There are, of course, tactical reasons too. When the water is low or as clear as gin, the thinnest line can be the most effective on skittish fish. They also allow you to cast the tiniest of lures or live bait.

Think about it this way. Realistically, most of the panfish we catch in this part of Indiana are under 14 inches in length. Sure, it would be great if everything we caught was 3 pounds and bigger, but that’s rarely the case.

So what is actually considered an ultralight? They are the midgets of the fishing tackle clan. Rods are typically no longer than 5 feet and are rated to handle lures from1⁄64 to1⁄8 ounce. Reels will fit easily into the palm of your hand and are made to handle line no bigger than 6-pound test. Make no mistake; this type of equipment can and will handle larger fish as long as the reel features a smooth working drag that’s adjusted properly. A drag that “catches” even for a millisecond can lead to disappointment.

So the next time you decide to go for a stringer full of some of our state’s tasty panfish varieties, give an ultralight a try. Then, when that little fish glimmers in your hand, you’ll do more to admire its charm and beauty. You will also appreciate using equipment that turned that lightweight into a lunker!

Sporting Clay Benefit Shoot

The Sagamore Council Boy Scouts of America will host its annual Sporting Clays Benefit Shoot on Saturday. The fun-filled event will take place at the Howard County Izaak Walton League from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Scoring will be based on the Lewis Class Format where everyone will have a chance to win. Last year, more than $2,000 in prizes was awarded to winners in each division. Participants will also be treated to lunch and a silent auction following the benefit shooting contest. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sagamore Council Boy Scouts of America to help continue its rich tradition of outdoor programs for area youth.

Sporting clays has been described as one of the most enjoyable types of shooting sports. It simulates shooting scenarios one might encounter during actual hunting conditions.

If you are interested in donating items for the raffle or would like to register for the shoot, contact Pat McGavic at 765-438-1668 or Sagamore Council at 765-452-8253

Tree Steward Classes

Trees are one of nature’s most valuable resources. They make life more pleasant! Their stature, strength and endurance give them a cathedral like quality. In addition to providing beauty and shade, they serve other important functions. Trees alter our environment by moderating severe climate, improving air quality, conserving water, reducing erosion and harboring many types of wildlife.

Have you ever wondered what’s the best type of tree to plant in your yard? Will tent caterpillars damage your tree irreparably? What are the benefits of an urban forest? These are just a few of the answers that will be provided by upcoming tree steward classes.

The Indiana Community Tree Steward Program will be hosted by Howard County’s Master Gardener Association in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, Urban Forestry Council, Purdue Extension and Ivy Tech. Classes are scheduled for Sept. 18 and 25 with a field work day planned for Oct. 9.

The program entails two days of classroom instruction and a day of hands-on training. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about tree identification, tree dynamics, proper pruning techniques and tree pest diagnosis, just to name a few. Participants taking part in the course are asked to give back to our community by completing 15 hours of community forestry or traditional forestry volunteer service within a one year period.

Cost for the informative course has been set at $30 which includes lunch and notebook filled with tree resource materials. The program will be held at Ivy Tech’s Kokomo campus. Class size is limited so pre-registration is required. More information can be acquired by contacting Howard County Master Gardener Susan Leckrone at 765-453-2197 or Emily Roark at 765-455-2599.

Tournament Results

Ron Weigt left the winner after last Monday morning’s open team bass tourney held on the Kokomo Reservoir. Weigt won the weekly event with four largemouth bass dropping the electronic scales at 6.9 pounds.

Jim Huffer and Mike Harrison swept last Tuesday’s Mississinewa Reservoir Delphi-Delco team bass tourney with three largemouth dropping the scales at 5 pounds, 6 ounces. A 2-pound, 5-ounce fish also gave them the weekly contest’s “big bass” prize. Second place went to Bob Rose and Wayne Nolder with two fish topping out at 3 pounds, 14 ounces.

Phil Reel and Greg Rude took top honors at last Wednesday evening’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney with five largemouth totaling 10 pounds, 5 ounces. They also earned the tourney’s “biggest fish” honor with a 3-pound, 13-ounce bass. Second place was awarded to Dennis McKee and Dan Leedy after they weighed in five fish sporting a combined weight of 8 pounds, 12 ounces.

• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by e-mail at

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