The summer started with a quick trip to Lake Champlain in Vermont to stay at my buddy, Rick McCrory’s place. It’s always fun to go down there for the early season bass fishing that Vermont offers. We had a quick couple of days of fishing down there and, as always, had a lot of fun with Rick. After getting back I had a fairly busy schedule as Tim Hortons Camp Day and the Canadian Sport Fishing Industry Association’s annual golf tournament were both held on the same day. I visited Tim Hortons stores in the Barrie area and ended up in the Caledon area so I could be close to where the golf tournament was. Without a doubt Tim Hortons Camp Day has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. This year it raised $11.8 million for the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. Having visited all but one of their camps I can honestly say that these are the most incredible resorts you’ll ever find for kids. It gives them a life changing experience and is a win-win for everybody involved. Me and my son, Darren, along with my brother, Wayne, and his son, Justin, all competed in the golf tournament. We ended up having a pretty good round but not good enough to win this year. After the golf tournament I spent some time in sponsor meetings before heading out to another charity golf tournament held by Boating Business. In this tournament we won the event and I also won the closest to the pin competition. It was pretty funny because I had hit right at the pin and my ball actually bounced off it and almost landed in the hole. It was definitely my shot of the year! At my handicap, one shot like that every year is enough to keep me coming back! Then Darren and I fished our first tournament of the year, The Renegade Bass event on the St. Lawrence River, out of Morrisburg. We normally would make a long, 100-mile-plus one-way trip to Lake Ontario but this year, with the water being high on the river, we couldn’t get through the dam because the chutes at the dam west of Morrisburg were closed. We had to fish a 35-mile stretch of the river that I’m really not familiar with but we got in some practice and found a lot of fish in the area. We ended up catching just over 22-pounds in the tournament and finished in 10th place. I thought for sure we would have been higher in the standings so I was really surprised to see 19 bags of fish that weighed over 20-pounds get weighed in. It just shows you how incredibly good the fishing is on the St. Lawrence River. It is absolutely off the charts for smallmouth bass. After talking to Bruce Tufts (and this is something you’ll read about in a future issue of Real Fishing Magazine) between the zebra mussels, the gobies and warmer water, the smallmouth on average are 25% larger than they were 12-years ago. It blows my mind when I see how big they are getting. After the Renegade event we made the long trek home, got about three-hours of sleep, and headed to the CSFL’s Casey Cup on Lake Simcoe. One of the things I have to admit is, because I still fish so many tournaments and I don’t practice for a lot of them, a lot of the time I just try to save face. You’re probably wondering why. Well, over the years, when I’ve done well I’ve heard people say that I should do well because I fish for a living. When I don’t do well they ask, “What happened, the big-time fishing show host can’t catch fish?” Because I’m fishing so many different bodies of water and I’m not physically, mentally or fish-wise prepared for many of them, a lot of times I’m just going out there and completely rolling the dice. I should have listened to Darren in this tournament. He wanted to start in one area and I wanted to start in another spot to play it safe. I wanted to save face and get a respectable limit first – which took longer than I thought it would. When I finally went to where Darren wanted to go we caught our two biggest fish. If we would have went there first we probably would have fared better than the 18th place we ended up in. Then I was off to Ottawa for the next Renegade tournament on the Ottawa River. As Darren and I were idling into the area we were fishing, we were following another team, Robert Jackson and Jamie Walker. As they shut their motor off I shut mine off and I yelled to them, “Do you want to go left or right?” They said left, so Darren and I went to the right. As it turns out, they weighed in a monster bag of fish weighing 21.77-pounds and we weighed in a 16.54-pound limit. They ended up winning the tournament while Darren and I finished in ninth place. The moral of this story is, nice guys do finish ninth! Then it was back home to grab another suitcase and head to Las Vegas for the annual ICAST show. If you’ve read this column before you’ve heard me talk about ICAST – it’s where the latest and greatest fishing tackle is unveiled every year. When you travel as much as I do there’s going to be a few bumps on the road, that’s a fact of life, but I don’t get too excited about them. Traffic, problems with aircraft, storms, whatever it is, you can’t control it so you might as well just suck it up. There were torrential rains in Toronto that day and many areas of the city got flooded. As a result, our flight to Las Vegas that evening got cancelled. You couldn’t get through to the airlines on the phone to re-book so I logged onto the internet and re-booked with another airline. The only regret I have about the delay is that we missed a great round of golf at the TPC Las Vegas with our friends from Columbia Sportswear. We finally made it to the ICAST show for one day and we had a great time. We got to see Columbia win the Best Fly Fishing Accessory for their Henry’s Fork V Vest and we met a lot of old friends and acquaintances. Overall the show was a huge success and I’m glad we made it down there – even though we missed our golf game! After getting home, Darren and I were off to fish the CSFL Wild Card tournament on the Tri-Lakes, outside of Peterborough. Darren and I have not spent any time on the Tri-Lakes and I’ve probably only fished there once or twice in the past 12-years so we were going into this one cold turkey. We fished by the seat of our pants and caught fish here and there around the lake by “junk fishing”. Junk fishing is where you just pick little spots that look good. It could be a boat dock, it could be offshore weeds, it could be a floating weed mat, it could be a small rock shoal. We caught bass on all of these and ended the day in 11th place with 16.95-pounds. The funniest part of the day was when Darren saw a turtle in the slop, sitting on a mat of weeds. He was flipping a Berkley Chigger Craw around the turtle when his line jumped. He set the hook and ended up catching a bass around 4 ½-pounds that turned out to be our biggest fish of the day. We both got a chuckle out of how that bass was using both the weeds and the turtle as shade. After the tournament I was invited to do the Humble and Fred Show on Sirius satellite radio. These guys have been around radio for a long time – since way back when I had hair! As I was going into the studio I ran into BodyBreak stars, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod. After a brief introduction I was whisked off to the studio to do a piece with Humble and Fred. If you haven’t checked out their talk show on SiriusXM Canada’s comedy channel, Canada Laughs (channel 168), or on their website at www.humbleandfredradio.com, it’s certainly worth a listen. These guys are a lot of fun. The next day I went up to Glen Haffy Conservation Area to attend one of our Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire fishing days. With all of the rain we had the week prior, the pond was very muddy and the fish catching was off but the kids were still catching a few and having lots of fun. Then I was off to fish two, one-day Renegade Bass tournaments on Big Rideau Lake before heading to Kingston for the Canadian Open Bass Tournament. My friend, Robert Greenburg, who also fishes the Renegade series, invited us to stay at his place on Big Rideau, which made it very convenient. We spent a day checking out the lake and felt pretty comfortable that we could catch some good fish. As it turned out, we had limits weighing 11.76-pounds on the first day and 11.88-pounds on the second and did not fare nearly as well as I thought we would. On a positive note, it gave us much needed points to keep us in the hunt to qualify for the Renegade Classic at the end of the year. Then I was off to the Hampton Inn in Napanee – where I stay quite frequently during the summer when I’m fishing tournaments around Kingston, Belleville or Trenton – to spend some time scouting Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River for the Canadian Open. The Canadian Open is one of the tournaments that I look forward to every year. In the mid-‘90s I won it three years in a row, I’ve been second a couple of other times and have had a lot of top-10 finishes. This tournament is a three-day event that’s held on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I really enjoy three-day tournaments because even if you have a mediocre day you can bounce back and still do well overall. On day one everything lined up perfectly for my non-boater partner, Cal Climpson, and I. Cal is the son of Paul Climpson, who I’ve known since the ‘80s when he started tournament fishing. Cal eats, sleeps and drinks fishing. He’s in his early 20s and he is a great angler. We started off getting a 20-pound plus limit fairly early in the morning by fishing deep. Then we went shallow and caught them as well. To tell you how good a day it was, at one point I hooked a good fish, about four-pounds, and Cal set his rod down to grab the net. His rod literally had a foot and a half of line hanging from the tip and his tube bait was hanging over the side of the boat. While he was netting my fish, Cal’s rod jumped. He grabbed it and landed another bass that was over four-pounds. This was in crystal-clear water that was only four or five-feet deep! That gives you a good idea of how day one went. Cal and I ended up with 23.65-pounds, which put me in 5th place after day one. I was pretty happy with the way things panned out. After seeing how good the shallow water fishing was, I decided to gamble and go shallow on day two. My non-boater on day two was Fab Marchese, who turned out to be long-time friend of Bruce Leeson, who I’ve also known since the ‘80s. Bruce and his father, Denny, fished tournaments together for many, many years in the early years and Bruce still fishes them. We ended up not faring as well as I thought and only got 17.8-pounds on day two. That dropped me back to 11th place. On day three my non-boater partner was Dave Waltner, who is in the Canadian military. We had a great day on the water but unfortunately we didn’t get enough of the bigger fish that put you in the hunt to win. We ended up with 18.25-pounds for the day and I finished the tournament in 14th place. My day one partner, Cal Climpson, went on to take first place on the non-boater side, and my son, Darren, finished in third among the non-boaters. In the last four-years Darren has had a first, two seconds and a third place finish in this tournament. On a sadder note, while I was fishing with Fab on day two, he told me that Denny Leeson wasn’t doing too well. Denny is in his 80s and up until just a few years ago was still actively guiding up at Kesagami Lake Lodge. Within two weeks of the tournament, Fab contacted me and said that Denny’s condition had gotten worse so my wife, Sandy, and I went to Hamilton to visit him. It was really nice to visit with Denny and talk about the old days and tournament fishing. Only a week after our visit I got the news that Denny had passed away. He was always a gentleman, a sportsman and a keen competitor. My condolences to his wife, Molly, and the rest of the Leeson family. Denny will definitely be missed. On our way back from the Canadian Open, Darren and I decided that we would fish another tournament so on the Sunday we fished a one-day Quinte Fishing Series event out of Belleville. We ended up catching 22.13-pounds of smallmouth bass by fishing three-inch Berkley GULP! Fry on dropshot rigs. We made a 150-mile round trip in the Ranger 620 Fisherman that day and literally got back with seconds to spare. It turns out that our long run paid off and we ended up winning the tournament. This is eight-years in a row that I’ve been fortunate enough to have a first place and it kind of took the monkey off my back. After the tournament I talked to my old friend, Ken Wychopen, from K-Rock 95.3 in Cold Lake, Alberta. He does a weekly show called Outdoor Adventures that I made an appearance on. We had a great talk on his show and then it was back to the Hampton Inn in Napanee for three, one-day Bassmania events. By now you’re probably getting the impression that I like my tournament fishing and you are right. I am 100% addicted to it; it’s what I live to do. The first two days were restricted to the Bay of Quinte and the third day included Lake Ontario. We didn’t do that well in the first or third tournaments but we managed a 7th place finish in the second event with 16.1-pounds of largemouth bass. Then it was off to the Police Association of Ontario’s annual general meeting in Burlington to speak about the Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire Fishing Days programme. It’s always nice to be invited to talk about the benefits of our relationship with the Police Association and all of the events we are involved with. This year alone we have done over 70 kids’ fishing events. My hat is off to the Police Association of Ontario for supporting the programme for as many years as they have. There’s a little lake in eastern Ontario called Dog and Cranberry Lake that is spread out like a spider web and it was our next destination on the Renegade Bass tournament series. The last time we were on this lake we had a top-five finish by fishing one weedbed for pretty well the whole day. While I was pre-fishing I had a couple of really good old friends join me. My buddy, Dave Smith, from Oklahoma, spent about five days with me and I invited another old friend from the ‘80s, Dick Knapp, who is 80-years old, to join us as well. The three of had a wonderful day fishing and laughing out there. It was one of those days that I’ll cherish for a very long time. Upon arriving at the lake, Darren and I found that the weedbed we fished last year was non-existent so we had to make a change of plan and look for a new area. The best place we found had about four boats starting in it – and it could really only fit one or two – so that changed our plans again. We ended up buzzbaiting and flipping weed pockets out on the flats. We scrounged out a small limit but finished down in 37th place. After the tournament we headed up to Glenn Burney Lodge, located in Seguin, Ontario, minutes out of Parry Sound. Brent and Larry McNamee from BoaterExam.com joined me, my son, Darren, and my brother, Wayne, on this Georgian Bay adventure. The owner, Wesley Thuro, has really done a wonderful job with this lodge. The mix of West Coast Native art and vintage guitars decorating the lodge, along with the fine dining they provide, makes it a very interesting place to visit. This lodge is one of those hidden gems that I didn’t even know existed but I’m very glad we found it. We met so many wonderful people up there including TV personality/author and Chef, Marc Thuet. Marc is friends with Wesley and just happened to be staying there with his family on their way to Sudbury to do some bear hunting. It was nice meeting Marc and his family and finding out that they are all avid outdoors people. Our group got out and caught a bunch of smallmouth and largemouth bass on our first day. The next morning I poured myself a coffee and, as I went to grab it, I spilled it all over the video camera my son uses to shoot the Real Fishing Show. I had a sick feeling in my stomach but I had a slight hope that maybe the camera would still work. Needless to say, Darren wasn’t too pleased when I told him. Unfortunately the coffee did get into the camera and it is now an official boat anchor. Without a camera to shoot the show, we decided to just fun fish. As it turned out, we caught a lot of fish and could have easily got our show done. The one positive is that now I have a good excuse to get back up there! I finally decided to take Labour Day weekend off, the first weekend I’ve been off in months. It was nice to spend time with family and friends but when the weekend was over it was time to get back on the road for the Renegade Bass Classic out of Cornwall on Lake St. Francis. On day one we weighed in a small, 16.32-pound limit of smallmouth bass. I wasn’t happy with that or with the fact that we didn’t have a single four-pound or better fish. Out of the 40 boats that fished on day one, we were in 35th place. As humbling as day one was, I was still excited to get out there for day two. We decided to change it up and went to some deep fish that we had found in practice. We caught four good ones right off the bat and then decided to move shallow, but the shallow bite was really off. We went to another spot that we had found in practice and Darren hooked into a great fish that weighed 5.79-pounds. If you can believe it, we missed winning the big fish award by .06 of a pound. I’m so glad Darren was on his game. He caught another fish over 4-pounds later in the day that secured our 19.64-pound limit and gave us a 25th place finish for the tournament. It goes to show you, A: how good the tournament anglers are when you’re fishing against the top guys from a particular regional circuit and, B: how much more work we have to do to finish better in these events. Can I afford to spend more time fishing these tournaments? Not really, so I’ll continue to roll the dice. What keeps me coming back are days like the second day of the Renegade Classic where I see my son catch a giant fish. In tournament fishing or any other type of fishing there’s always hope that a monster will show up. You never know what you’re going to catch on your next cast.