Eddie Stockert is a young man from western Pennsylvania. His educational and fishing journey took him to Mansfield University where he pursued fisheries biology and joined the bass fishing team. Eddie talks to us about his fishing while at Mansfield University as well as his favorite places to fish now like the Allegheny River.
What made you choose Mansfield University?
I grew up just north of Pittsburgh, outside a town called Butler, Pennsylvania. With my interests in fisheries biology, Mansfield University is the only college in Pennsylvania that offers a specialized bachelor’s degree in that field. I graduated in 2017, and currently work for US Fish and Wildlife Service at Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pennsylvania.
Did you go to school expecting to join the bass fishing team?
I never expected that I would be on a bass fishing team in college. Quite honestly, I wasn’t really aware that Mansfield had a team when I was looking at going there. It wasn’t until after I started meeting other fisheries majors and talking with older students that I realized there was a team.
With not having a boat, or a partner that had a boat, I didn’t begin fishing tournaments until my junior year when I was asked by another team member to be his partner. It was a great club in school that, looking back now, has made me a much better fisherman and competitor in my local club tournaments.
What was your experience like on the team?
Probably the best highlight of being on a team like Mansfield’s was the camaraderie. We all were really good friends and partners, and to this day I can say that I have made lifelong friendships with members of the bass team.
My partner and I never qualified for any major championships, but finished in the middle of the pack in all but our first tournament, which was a disaster due to first-time jitters. We always had fun and fished our best when we calmed down.
One highlight I can remember well was when my teammates, who were also my roommates at the time, qualified for the FLW College National Championship. There was lots of celebrating, and they ended up finishing in 11th out of almost 200 boats on Wheeler Lake in Alabama.
What was the best tournament of your collegiate career?
The best tournament that I fished in college was my last of the FLW College series that I fished. It was on the Potomac River below Washington DC in the tidal waters. We pre-fished for three days and couldn’t come up with a set pattern that the fish were in, and tried to decipher the tidal schedule since we both had never fished in water like that before.
Tournament day came and we made the decision to stay in one cove that we had found a couple decent fish. We fished six of the eight hour tournament in a 150 yard section of weeds. I was throwing a LiveTarget sunfish that looked like a small shad and my partner was flipping a Senko on the outer edge of the weeds.
We had our limit by 9AM, which gave us the motivation to keep grinding that weed edge, and caught a few more to cull up a couple pounds. Ended up weighing just over 12 pounds of fish and still ended up 23 out of 60 boats. Just shows what kind of fishery the Potomac can be when it is on.
This one sticks out in my memory so well because I felt that my partner and I really were communicating well and made the right decisions at the right times. I wish I could do it all over again!
I used to do some teaching up at Mansfield but never got fishing. What are some of your closest and most productive bass waters to Mansfield?
The area around Mansfield has some of the best bass fishing lakes in the state, by my personal opinion. Being college kids, we never wanted to travel really far due to gas prices. Luckily, there are three larger lakes that are within a half-hour of the campus.
Tioga Lake was the closest lake at about a 5 minute drive to the ramp. This was really our springtime lake that produced big prespawn smallmouth and largemouth.
Hammond Lake was the next closest at about 15 to 20 minutes to the ramp. This lake fished differently than the other lakes in the area due to its extensive rip-rap banks and grass flats. We really enjoyed fishing this lake in the fall when the bass were foraging to fatten up for winter.
The last big lake that we fished was Cowanesque Lake, aka. Cow Pond. The Cow Pond was a much tougher lake to fish. It was choked with submerged wood, and my second year at Mansfield, the Army Corps. of Engineers funded a large structure project of dumping huge rock piles in the reservoir. Of course, we found these to be smallmouth heaven! There were days, though, that it seemed like it didn’t matter what you were trying to throw, the fish weren’t gonna bite. Other days, you could catch a ton of little ones. Mainly, if you knew where you were fishing and what exactly you were looking for on that particular day, it was not uncommon to catch a 5 to 6 pound largemouth or 4 to 5 pound smallmouth. We fished a few tournaments on that lake when I was in college and it was always a local angler that won just because he knew right where and what those fish were doing on that day.
We also fished a smaller state park lake close to campus that we could drop the boats in but only use the trolling motor. We had a lot of fun throwing frogs for some decent sized fish, we just had to weed out the pickerel now and then.
One place that you fish that I need to get to is the Allegheny River. How do you describe the bass fishing on this river for someone like me who has never been?
The Allegheny River is a different breed of fishery. I used to, prior to this year, fish the river out of a kayak. This is very effective at getting to some shallow spots that a boat can’t get to, plus it’s probably way cheaper!
I was fortunate enough this year to be able to afford a jet boat of my own, a 1996 Bass Tracker inboard jet boat. I can run this boat in about 4-6 inches of water which helps when navigating up through the rapids and riffles.
The areas of the river that I fish most of the time are known as the Upper and Middle Allegheny River sections. The Upper section runs from where the river is released out of Allegheny Reservoir through the Kinzua Dam downstream to about the town of Tidioute. This section has a few more riffle sections than pool areas, but due to the more consistent water temperature from the dam holds some large fish.
The Middle Allegheny runs from Tidioute downstream to the first lock and dam by East Brady, Pennsylvania. This stretch has a bit slower moving water that still holds some large fish but the numbers of fish, I feel, are much higher.
The smallmouth fishing is productive in waves on the river. Early in the season, prespawn fish are really productive in the slower sections. Once the spawn hits and through postspawn, fishing is very difficult. I usually struggle to get bit during this time. Once the water starts cooling in late August and early September, the bite picks up again, and its nothing to catch some 4 to 5 pound smallmouth’s in these sections.
What are your favorite baits on the Allegheny River?
The one bait that has been a staple for any smallmouth fisherman, whether in a lake or river, is the famous tube. A lot of people throw the tube with a jig inserted inside the body and the hook out and up through the tentacles. I throw mine on a shaky head jig, usually 1/4 to 3/16 ounce. This puts the tube, which imitates a crawfish, in the “defensive” position, or claws up. This is a bait that I will throw year round and will just change the size and color depending on what color crawfish I see swimming around in the riffles and pools.
In the late winter and early spring, I use a black hair jig that I tie myself. This bait is much more subtle and has a lot of life with natural hair for the fish that still are slightly comatose in the colder water.
In the summer months, I turn to a Zoom Super Salty Fluke. Most of the time, fish prefer the smaller Fluke Junior size on a nose hook rig, but occasionally the larger Fluke will induce a follow. I use white primarily in clear water and bubblegum in murky even muddy water. These baits really shine at the tail ends of deep pools where the water begins to speed up towards a riffle. These fish wait for an easy meal that is twitching its way downstream.
When the water starts cooling off and fish are more actively feeding, I begin fishing with a Rapala Shadow Rap Deep jerkbait and a 1/2 ounce football jig. The jerkbait is used mainly in faster water with quick jerks that allow the deep bill to tick off the rocks in the substrate. I use the jig mainly in the deeper pool sections where I look for points where fish stage up on the downstream side or downed trees that provide ambush points.
There is one rod that never leaves my deck besides my tube rod, which is my dropshot rod. It is overlooked on a flowing water system like the Allegheny too often. I can pitch a dropshot into any tree in a pool to provide a more finesse approach if fish are being finicky and picky.
All these baits are super effective. I’m sure that if you spoke to every smallmouth fisherman on the Allegheny, there’d be other baits that are just as effective.
You are not simply a bass angler. What are some of your other species to fish for?
I grew up a trout fisherman, actually. It began with bait and dunking worms in the local trout stream by my house as far back as I can remember. I got my first fly rod when I was 7 years old and began tying my own flies.
When I was in college, my internship was at a private hatchery south of Pittsburgh that stocked the stream adjacent to the hatchery and we would guide members of this club and their guests on catching fish on the fly. By far these were the best two summers of my life.
I really have been all over the state of Pennsylvania fly fishing, but my two favorites are Kinzua Creek in McKean County, Pennsylvania and any central PA stream. Kinzua is where my camp is located and in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest, and is really a hidden gem in itself. The central PA streams hold some of the biggest wild brown and rainbow trout in the state.
Even now that I have my boat and seem to be fishing on it all the time, I always make sure to pick up my fly rods occasionally just to relax and hear the water flowing over the rocks.
I also really enjoy steelhead fishing. Being so close to the Erie tributaries right now, it’s hard not to go catch these fish. When you hook into one, it’s like hooking onto the back of a race car that can tail-dance on the water. The steelheading is best October through November, but there are much less crowds from December through the early spring with fish numbers still about the same running up the creeks. I fly fish for these fish, but know several people that either spin fish or use a centerpin to catch them.
Who are your pro staff companies?
My main pro staff company right now is Anchored Anglers. This was a little clothing company started by Mark Franks of Pittsburgh that I met at a steelhead festival at the Steelhead Inn in Erie. I have been working with him some to try and help get his name out there and hopefully see a breakthrough in the company soon. If you are interested in any awesome hats or shirts, visit anchoredanglers.com to check out the selection and join the Anchored Army!
When I was in college, we had several different sponsors that gave us discounts on tackle or equipment if we put their logo on our jerseys. A few of those included Buckeye Lures, Quantum, Big Bite Baits, Deka Batteries, and Gamma Fishing Line which is actually based out of Oil City, Pennsylvania right on the Allegheny River. Dale Black, the owner, is a huge smallmouth fisherman with a nice jet boat that my dad actually has had the opportunity to fish off of.
Lowrance was also a major sponsor in college. They provided free units to clubs that logged a certain number of hours of scanning to the company. At the end of your college career, you were able to purchase the units for a discounted price.
And I can’t forget my biggest sponsor of all, my grandma! She’s been the biggest help and support with helping me fish these tournaments due to her passion for fishing, as well. I just can’t thank her enough!
It looks like I may need to get back up to Mansfield to do some fishing. Maybe also a trip to the Allegheny as well. Thanks Eddie for such great information. I will be following you on Instagram @estockert_fishing.