This Tales starts with some golfing and fishing at the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association’s Golf Fore Fish tournament at Glen Eagle. The CSIA does a lot of work for the fishing industry and for the awareness of fishing in Canada, including hosting National Fishing Week, and this fundraiser was to support their work for this great cause.
After the golf day we hit the road to Montreal for a meeting before heading south to spend some time fishing on Lake Champlain with my buddy, Rick McCrory. One of the cool things about Champlain is that it has a short, catch and release spring bass fishing season. It was great to get out after a long winter to catch a few bass and have a little fun.
As soon as I got back I grabbed a suitcase and went down to Florida to fish with the folks from Columbia Sportswear. They had a week-long media event in Key West but I was only going for one day of fishing because of my tight schedule. I had a great dinner with the Columbia people at the Westin Marina and the next day I went out charter fishing with a number of fishing writers and editors on a boat called Key Limey. Captain Tony Murphy has been chartering down there for over two decades, and he is originally from England, so the boat is appropriately named!
We planned to fish for Mahi-Mahi but a lot of the floating weeds they like had blown away so we ended up fishing a few wrecks instead. We tied into some pretty big sand sharks as well as some snappers during our outing. After we were done fishing I jumped into a cab and went straight to the Key West airport to catch my flight to Orlando and on to Toronto that night.
When you travel as much as I do you expect hiccups and, by the time I got to the counter in Orlando that evening, they were closed and I had missed my flight to Toronto. I had to try to get a hotel room, a cab, and I had to book a flight to Toronto as I was already scheduled to fly from Toronto to Montauk, New York, the next day for a shark tournament.
After I got a hotel room I called the airline and got put on hold. The recording said I could stay on hold or I could leave my number and they would call me back within 47-minutes. I was dog-tired so I left my cell phone number and fell asleep. A while later I got my phone call and was told that, because I had flown with a different airline from Key West, it was their issue so I would have to call them.
So, just before midnight I called the other airline and explained which flight I wanted the next morning. I had already checked availability and about 30% of the seats were open. After being put on hold for about 15-minutes the guy from the airline got back on the line and said that they could get me on a flight routed from Orlando to Atlanta, Atlanta to somewhere and then to Toronto. It would have been about eight or nine-hours of travel time for what was less than a three-hour flight. I asked the guy why I couldn’t get on the flight that I asked for earlier and he said he would check into it. Then he then put me on hold again. About 10-minutes later he came back and said he had gotten me onto that flight. I wonder why he didn’t do that in the first place.
I finally got home with just an hour and a half to pack for my trip to the annual Star Island Shark Tournament in Montauk, New York. We would be fishing with Rick Constantine, who is with the Cuda line of products, and his dad, Ted. The two of them have cut their teeth fishing for sharks on the ocean so I was really excited to join them. Also on the team were John Ward from Acme United, and my brother, Wayne.
Day one started off with a bang. We were catching numbers of blue sharks in the 80 to 100-pound range before hooking into a huge thresher shark that took three-hours to land. When we got back to the dock the fish weighed 314-pounds and was the second biggest fish brought in that day. On day two we caught blue sharks until our arms fell off. They were swimming all around the boat eating the chum we had put out and it made for an extremely exciting day. e ended up with the third biggest shark overall. The first place winner got $269,000; second place got $43,000 and our winnings were $1,000. Unfortunately we were below the break-even point but boy did we have a lot of fun! All of the meat from the sharks was donated to feed homeless people in New York so the tournament was not only good for the competitors, it helped a lot of needy people as well.
The day after the tournament we ordered a limo to take us back to the airport. As it turned out, the limo was booked from a bogus website and there was no such company, so we were stuck without a ride and ended up missing our flight. Luckily there was another flight to Toronto that we were able to get on.
Then it was time to head to the 1000 Islands for two, one-day Shootout Series bass tournaments. My son, Darren, and I were pretty excited and we weren’t disappointed. The fishing was off the charts! On day-one we weighed 27.26-pounds and culled another 25-pound limit but only got sixth place. On day-two we weighed 27.06-pounds and ended up in fifth place overall. The fishing was so phenomenal that I called Wayne and told him to bring down another boat so we could tape a segment for the Real Fishing Show. He did, and we shot a segment the day after the tournament. We caught so many five-pound plus fish it was crazy! The fishing on the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario is absolutely incredible.
I went home for a day and then went back to eastern Ontario for the first Renegade Bass tournament of the year on Newboro Lake. We ended up with a mediocre limit weighing 13.29-pounds and finished in 16th place. Then it was back home to meet up with fishing guide, Frank DiMarcantonio, on Lake Erie. Frank told me that it would be easy to get a topwater show by fishing the shallows. “You’re not going to catch the biggest fish in the lake doing this, but if you want explosive surface action, and something a little different, we should give it a try.” always like trying new things so we headed out with some Sebile Ghost Walker baits and got a great show. We caught dozens of smallmouth by “walking the dog” with this cool, liquid-filled topwater lure.
Then I fished the CSFL Casey Cup tournament on Lake Simcoe, but the smallmouth fishing wasn’t as good as in past years. After spending three-quarters of the day on Simcoe, and only getting one small fish, we moved into Lake Couchiching. We got a limit of mixed smallmouth and largemouth that weighed just over 15-pounds, but it wasn’t enough to do much in the tournament.
After the Casey Cup, Brent McNamee from BoaterExam asked if Wayne and I would come out for a charity golf tournament in Stittsville, hosted by the Gongshow hockey clothing company. The name, Gongshow was very appropriate for this tournament. It was a very young crowd, including a number of NHL players and there was lots of loud music, partying and fun. Somebody said there was even a golf tournament going on!
After the golf tournament, Frank Guida hosted his annual charity bass tournament on Lake Couchiching to raise money for Fishing Forever. Frank gets roughly 25 or 30 boats together each year for this worthwhile fundraiser and he always puts on a first-class event. It’s a pro-am format where two corporate team members fish with a professional fisherman. We fish from noon until five p.m. The food is outstanding, the prize table is incredible and everybody goes away a winner. What a great way of raising money for a great cause.
Then it was back to eastern Ontario for the next Renegade tournament on Mississippi Lake. We caught a lot of fish, but not a lot of big ones and we ended up in 30th place. After the tournament I stopped at the Napanee Rod and Gun Club’s Kids and Cops fishing event. It was so neat to see a lot of smiling kids having fun on a drizzly, but warm, day. Lots of fish were caught and all the kids left with a prize and food in their bellies. What more could you ask for?
We got home and packed our bags for the annual ICAST convention in Orlando, Florida. It was nice to see a lot of the companies I work with and to check out some of the new products they will be coming out with next year.
Then I was off to the Kingston Canadian Open tournament in Kingston, Ontario. The Canadian Open has been going on in various forms since the ‘80s and I’m very fond of fishing it. I had three first-place finishes in a row in the ‘90s and a couple of second place finishes over the years so it’s been a very good tournament for me.
I had a good day-one with 23.2-pounds; a good day-two with 21.2, but on the third day I was eight-minutes late and was penalized eight-pounds. I would have finished in fourth place but dropped all the way to 15th. The bright spot on the weekend was when Wayne caught a giant, 6.25-pound smallmouth that ended up being the biggest fish caught during the tournament.
Then I was off to the Sail store in Lavalle, Quebec, with Chip Jaggard from Pure Fishing, to give away a beautiful Berkley/Lund/Mercury prize package to Julie Comtois for winning the Berkley Boat Sweepstakes contest. It was so much fun to see how excited she got when we pulled the boat from behind the store! After that I was off to Morrisburg, Ontario, for the third and fourth Renegade tournaments of the year on the St. Lawrence River. We decided to roll the dice and run more than 200-miles ‘round-trip on each day. Darren and I were confident that we would have a shot at winning if we did this incredible run. Between gassing up twice and having very little time to fish it was definitely a gamble.
We had over 20-pounds on day-one, got in with 3 ½-minutes to spare and ended up in 15th place. On day-two we had to stop and gas-up on our way back, the he boat traffic on the river was horrendous and we ended up being 6-minutes late for weigh-in. With the penalty, we went from 10th place all the way down to 37th. I guess that’s the risk you take when you’re running that far.
After the long weekend, we flew from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie to do some fishing in the Algoma district with Cam Thomson from Pure Fishing; John Ward from Cuda and his wife, Linda; Frank Guida; and Brian Hughes and his fiance, Anais. We stayed at the White River Motel and in the morning we took the train for about an hour and a half from White River into Lodge 88. I had never been on the Budd Car, which is a train that goes between Sudbury and White River, so this was an experience for me. Taking the train was such a cool thing. There was so much leg room, it was comfortable, you could stand up, you could look out the window, it was just wonderful.
We were only able to fish for a day and a half because of our tight schedule so we got on the water immediately after we had lunch at the lodge. The conditions were flat calm, hot, and there wasn’t a ripple on the water, but the fishing did not disappoint us. We ended up catching a lot of pike and walleyes and our guide, Brent Myles, cooked an incredible shore lunch for our whole group. This guy cleaned and fried all of the fish, cooked all the potatoes, heated the beans and then cleaned everything up. The guy was a machine! I’ve never seen a guide this efficient in my life. One of the high points of the trip was when John Ward and his wife Linda were bringing in an “eater-sized” walleye. They looked down and saw a monster walleye following their fish right to the surface. It hovered 3 to 4-feet under their boat, nipping at the tail of the fish they had hooked. The walleye was easily between 10 and 12-pounds and was the biggest one that John had ever seen. He and his wife were freaking out! Sometimes just seeing the biggest fish of the trip can be more exciting than catching it! Lodge 88 is a first class operation. They have wonderful accommodations, meals, guides and the fishing is as good as you’ll get in the Algoma region. This place is definitely worth checking out.
After I got home I spent a day fishing for largemouth bass on Lake Simcoe with fishing guide, Taro Murata. We ended up catching a lot of fish and I can see why Taro is busy guiding for 240 days a year. The guy is a fishin’ magician when it comes to producing fish.
Then we packed up and went to Lake St. Francis for the last Renegade qualifying tournament of the year. It was a wet, cold and windy day and we got a small limit of 14.32-pounds that put us in 48th place. The good thing is that we snuck into the qualifying top 40 and would be fishing the Classic on the Ottawa River in September.
After the tournament I was getting ready to pre-fish for the Simcoe Showdown when I heard that my long-time friend, Gary O’Neill, had passed away suddenly. Ironically, I had called Gary on Sunday morning and left him a voice mail. That evening he called me back and we talked about family, work and fishing. He was in very good spirits but then, two days later, he passed away. It was very sad news and I’ll definitely miss him.
Pre-fishing for the Lake Simcoe Showdown did not go very well and I didn’t feel very confident going into the tournament. My first fish on day-one was a hefty, 4.2-pound largemouth, but the rest of the day didn’t go so well and we ended up with a small limit weighing 14.9-pounds. Day-two was a little different. I was fishing with 17-year old Cole Chantler, who happens to be a friend of mine. Cole and his father, Steve, have fished with me many times over the years. After fishing on Lake Couchiching until 11 o’clock we only had two small fish, so we decided to go to Lake Simcoe and try for big smallmouth. Our first two stops produced nothing but on our third stop we got a 20-minute flurry of three giant fish that gave us an 18.1-pound limit. Cole moved up to third place on the amateur side and I moved up to 11th place. Unfortunately the tournament only paid to 10th place, but our 18.1-pound weight for three giant fish and two wee ones was a good, positive note to leave on. I can’t wait for the next tournament!