ORLEANS – Johnny Spampinato’s strategy was to chase the same fish in the same spot in Pilgrim Lake where he won the Kettle Pond Fishing Classic about five years ago.
Plus he brought along pizza that he had delivered to the pond.
But it was not to be. Not the cheese pizza, which caught wind and went swimming. Nor was his name etched a second time on the tournament fish trophy, designed and donated by Wellfleet artist Steve Swain.
The trophy, passed year to year from winner to winner, is pretty much the the Stanley Cup of Cape Cod Kettle Pond fishing for this group of friends, and friends of friends, said Spampinato. If you win, your name is engraved on it for all of eternity.
“You have to defend it every year just like the Stanley Cup,” said Spampinato. “If you win, you have to be back next year to defend it.”
This year was the 16th year of the tournament, said Spampinato, a musician in The Spampinato Brothers. “We sort of categorize this as the fastest four hours that could possibly happen,” he said.. The tournament has been held once a year at a pond somewhere between Hyannis and Wellfleet, he said. This was the third time it was held at Pilgrim Lake.
“This is a fun time put together by Johnny,” said Craig Poosikian, of Orleans. Poosikian, who works in construction, was the judge of the contest. His duties included signing people up, sitting in a beach chair for four hours on the shore, and then weighing live fish before they were tossed back into the water.
Poosikian claimed to have one other duty as well: keeping an eye on the contestants. “If they (mess) up, I shoot ’em,” he said with a grin. Poosikian said he does not fish in ponds, and then insulted the overall masculinity of fresh water fishing versus salt water fishing.
Those who actually participated in tournament said it was simply different than salt water fishing and just as fun, if not more fun. Spampinato, who began fishing as a teenager with his grandfather in salt water, loves both.
The day itself was spectacular, and slightly windy. As 25 fishermen and fisherwomen and their boats, most two to a boat, arrived and began setting up near the shore, the talk was of competition.
“I’ve been in the tournament as long as its been going on, and I haven’t won yet,” said Sean O’Connell, 49, a self-employed painting contractor of Dennis. “It’s really the only tournament I’ve ever entered.”
They were going for large mouthed bass and small-mouthed bass. “You can catch a good fish in these ponds. There’s some great fresh water fishing on the Cape,” said O’Connell.
There are more then 300 kettle ponds on the Cape that were formed by what was left behind by glaciers from the ice age. While salt water fishing gets all the glory, this group of friends spending an afternoon together to chase a trophy highlight this hidden-in-plain-view secret of Cape Cod.
“It started because me and my buddy used to fish together and we thought it would be fun to get bunch of people together to have a fun derby,” said Spampinato.
“We are all friends here on the outer Cape,” said Ken Parsons, 59, an artist & bartender from Brewster. Parsons cited the competition as the appeal of the tournament, and noted that fresh water fishing is simply different. “You use lighter gear,” he said.
Liam Hogg, 43, a musician (with Sarah Swain & The Oh Boys!) of Harwich, smiled when asked why he he entered. “You get to hang out with all these guys.”
Not all the guys were specifically guys. Jill Levandoski, 39, a social worker of of Connecticut who spends her summers in Harwich, came in with a fish about 20 minutes before the 8:30 PM end of the tournament. “I got him on my second cast,” she said. “I named him Sammie, for the kind of beer I was drinking (Sam Adams).”
There were 25 contestants, and 17 fish were caught. While several contestants brought in fish, even some with confident looks on their weathered faces, it was a 13-year-old who said he’s just got back into fishing, Cory Sears of Brewster, who won the tournament with a 4.7-pound fish.
He had gone to the opposite end of the pond from Spampinato’s spot and, on his second cast, he proclaimed to his friends, Cormic Parker, 15 of Orleans, and Trevor Dash, 13, of Orleans, “that was the perfect cast.”
Dash recalled the story of Sears proclaiming the perfect cast and then catching the winning fish. “You could tell how big it was,” said Dash. “His rod was bent all the way over.”
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— Brian Tarcy