EAST WINTHROP — The bass fishing wasn’t ideal Sunday on Cobbossee Lake, anglers said.
But the cause was, especially to David Reiss, of Alna, president of Classic Bass Masters, the club that co-hosted a 25th annual bass tournament on the lake. Proceeds — more than $25,000 in all — went, as they always do, to Special Olympics Maine, which provides training and puts on competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
“There’s no better cause, really,” Reiss said. “The Special Olympics is close to my heart. I’ve got an aunt with Down syndrome and my Dad always coached her.”
The tournament has been run all these years by Andy and Sheree Wess, the couple that owns Lakeside Motel, Cabins and Marina, just off U.S. Route 202. They started after their daughter, Carrie, who has developmental disabilities, started participating in the Special Olympics at age eight.
“Special Olympics is just a wonderful thing,” Andy Wess said. “It gives people an opportunity to compete and excel with their peers.”
And in this 25th year, they had a goal for the challenge: 100 boats and $25,000 for the organization, all-time highs. They got 101 boats and hit their money goal before prizes were raffled off to participants — with Carrie, now 34, enthusiastically reading the ticket numbers on a microphone.
Fishermen set out from the marina at 8 a.m., returning at 4 p.m. with their bass catches. Teams of two were allowed to catch a maximum of eight fish, which were weighed alive together and released afterward. There are other prizes for individual fish.
Usually it takes a combined 28 pounds to win, Andy Wess said. But this year, with more than 100 boats in the running, it would probably take more, he said when the boats were still on the lake.
He was right. The winning team, George Cooper, of Buxton, and Dwayne Turnage, of Hollis, hauled in nearly 31 pounds. Not everyone was so lucky, and nobody was close to Cooper and Turnage, who got the $3,000 prize.
Cobbossee is known as one of the best bass lakes in the country with Bassmaster magazine ranking it No. 52 in 2014. That was second-best in Maine behind China Lake at No. 23. But the cold that persisted into this spring lingered. All ice left the lake on April 22 — about a month after the ice-out date in 2012, according to the Cobbosseecontee Yacht Club.
Reiss and his partner took in just over 20 pounds, which he said was about what he expected. But he and others said the fishing was tough. Many other teams took in less than he did. He said since the water is cold in the lake, bass are avoiding shallow water and diving deeper to find warmer temperatures.
That makes for harder, blinder fishing that “separates the men from the boys,” Reiss said.
“I went to my usual spots and they didn’t produce, so we had to kind of fly by the seat of our pants,” he said.
But at the end of the day, the tournament was for the Special Olympics. After Andy Wess announced over the microphone that they were getting close to their goal, attendees came to him and shoved cash in his hand, putting him over the top by the time he handed a check to Michael Baribeau, who is on the Special Olympics Maine board of directors.
“I hope this continues for another 25 years,” Baribeau said.