This Tales starts on Tim Hortons Camp Day, and for me it was a very busy day. I did a number of Tim Hortons store visits in the Orangeville area, meeting people and supporting the great cause that the Tim Hortons Camp Day is all about: sending children to one of their many camps across Canada and the United States. Then it was off to Glen Eagle Golf Club in Bolton for Golf Fore Fish, the annual fundraising golf tournament for the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association. After that I went up to Barrie for Brian and Anais Hughes’ wedding party. The reception was held at their home and it was a fun and relaxing way to celebrate their marriage.
The next afternoon we got on the road and headed up to northern Ontario. About one in the morning we dragged our heels into a hotel in Sault St. Marie and the next morning we drove to Nipigon where we got a few supplies, launched the Lund and made the 25-mile boat ride out to Bowman Island Lodge to fish with the owner, Gary Lange. This unique lodge is on the shores of Lake Superior, due south of the town of Nipigon, Ontario. I had never fished up in that area for the famous coaster brook trout and I was excited to go catch some of these big, lake dwelling fish.
We arrived at the lodge about seven o-clock that evening and got settled in. The next morning we had some breakfast, Gary jumped in the boat and we got at it. On my third cast with a Johnson Min-O-Spin I caught a 24-inch brook trout. We proceeded to catch about six or seven lake trout, as well as a bonus four-pound rainbow, by casting Johnson Slama Spoons and Min-O-Spins. We took a break for lunch and then decided to try trolling, right out from the dock at Bowman Island. In a few hours we caught about a dozen lakers and one Chinook salmon that weighed about eight-pounds, before calling it a day. Lake Superior is huge yet Bowman Island is sheltered from the big lake so you can get out fishing on most days. The location feels remote yet it is easily accessible, making it an amazing place to experience some outstanding trout fishing. .
The next morning we shot a few cutaways around the lodge then we hopped in the boat, drove back to the boat ramp, loaded up and drove about halfway home before stopping for the night. We got home the next day so, in basically three and a half days, we drove 36-hours and got a great show shot.
Then it was time for our annual Fishing Forever golf tournament at Turtle Creek Golf Club, just outside of Milton, Ontario. As usual, there was a full house competing in the tournament. The day was lots of fun, there were lots of good stories going around and it was all for a good cause.
The next morning I was up early to catch a flight out of Toronto to Miami, then on to Costa Rica where the folks from Columbia Sportswear were having a media gathering at Crocodile Bay Resort. There were about 30 people in the group and we fished for three-days, catching everything from marlin to sailfish to roosterfish – and a number of other species. I don’t think anyone regretted going on this trip. It was an absolutely incredible experience, especially for the people who had never experienced Costa Rican fishing before.
The folks from Columbia had a number of other activities planned for the week but I had to fly home for a bass tournament so I missed out on the kayaking, zip-lining, hiking and some of the other more strenuous activities. At least I got in on the fishing – which was fine by me!
As soon as I got home Darren and I hit the road for Brockville, Ontario, to fish the Shootout Series event on the St. Lawrence River. It took 30.19-pounds to win and Darren and I ended up in seventh place, which happened to be the last prize spot, with 25.72-pounds. Even though we had a five-pound average, it wasn’t near enough to win on this incredible fishery.
I ended up staying in eastern Ontario to do a little taping so, after the Shootout Series, we shot a swimbait show for next year’s TV series. I got plenty of big fish up to five-pounds using the Havoc Beat Shad rigged on a small jighead. I was casting it on a medium action spinning outfit spooled with 10-pound Nanofil and a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Then it was back home for a few days before heading off to the Casey Cup on Lake Simcoe. It took 25.05-pounds to win this tournament and my son Darren and I managed a third place finish with 24.2-pounds.
We stayed in Orillia that evening and the next morning we drove straight up to Chaudière Lodge, on the French River, to visit Steve Niedzwiecki at his wonderful facility. The folks from Mystik Lubricants joined us for a couple of days of fishing up there.
It was my first trip to Chaudière Lodge and, what can I say, Steve operates a first class facility. The accommodations, the food, the hospitality – everything was very, very nice. We ended up fishing mostly for bass and we caught a lot of smallmouth, largemouth and some bonus pike. The baits that produced for us were the Havoc Flat Dawg, rigged wacky style, and the Havoc Beat Shad, rigged on a jighead. I can’t wait to go back to this place. The fishing, food accommodations and hospitality are all so good and it’s just a short drive from the Greater Toronto Area.
Then it was off to eastern Ontario, to Cornwall, for the first Renegade Bass tournament of the season on Lake St. Francis, which is a section of the St. Lawrence River. My son Darren and I won a Renegade tournament there a number of years ago so we have some pretty fond memories of this place.
We put together a decent limit of fish that weighed 18.96-pounds and snuck into 10th place. To tell you how well this place was fishing, there were nine weights in the 18-pound range and it took 21.84-pounds to win.
We stayed overnight to fish the St. Lawrence River the next day with Brent McNamee from BoaterExam.com. We decided to switch gears from smallmouth fishing and hit the heavy cover for largemouth bass, so we did some flipping with Berkley Chigger Quads and some topwater fishing with the Sebile Pivot Frog. After catching a few dozen bass we had more than enough footage for one of next year’s shows.
Then it was back home for a day before heading up to Orillia where our friend Frank Guida, of Tri-Con Concrete Finishing, was holding his annual fundraising bass tournament on Lake Couchiching. Frank puts on quite an event and the proceeds go to various charities, including Fishing Forever. It was a fun event and everybody had a good time in support of a great cause.
After Frank’s tournament it was time for the annual trip to the ICAST Show, which is the biggest fishing trade show of the year. We flew down a day early to meet up with Columbia’s Jeff Timmins and Bill Ferreira so that Darren and I could join them as a foursome in the Florida Sportsman Bass and Birdies golf tournament at Shingle Creek Golf Club. I believe we were 11-under par on the golf, Darren caught a couple of bass on one of the holes and we thought we had a chance to win it. When the dust settled we didn’t win, but we certainly had a riot doing a couple of my favourite things: fishing and golfing. The next day it was off to ICAST where I had a chance to see what’s new for next year before spending two-days working at some of my sponsors’ booths and meetings.
Then we flew home, packed, and drove to Big Rideau Lake in eastern Ontario for the second Renegade tournament of the season. Darren and I got up there late Friday night and didn’t have time to get on the water so we ended up fishing by the seat of our pants. We still managed to catch 14.92-pounds, which put us in 25th place. It was a little better than I expected and we were happy to get some points for the Classic.
The following week I had some meetings, got some office work done and shot some video tips before heading off to Lake Simcoe for the CSFL Simcoe Showdown. This is the second year for the Simcoe Showdown and it’s a pretty competitive event. This was a two-day deal and Chris and Cory Johnston showed the rest of us how to do it. Chris Johnston won and his brother Cory was .10 of a pound behind him in second place. These two young guns are absolutely the most consistent, winningest tournament anglers in the country right now. Paul Climpson and his son Cal finished in third and fourth, and then yours truly, in fifth. I was pretty happy with my finish, especially since I don’t spend as much time pre-fishing for these events as the people who beat me do. This isn’t sour grapes, I’m just telling you like it is – these guys spend a lot of time on the water preparing for these events and their results show it. Unfortunately I can’t spend that many days on the water pre-fishing so, for the most part, I fish by the seat of my pants.
I got home for a day and then it was off to Kingston for the Renegade 1000 Islands Open out of Rockport, Ontario, on the St. Lawrence River. This was the first ever 1000 Islands Open and it was exciting for me to be there, as I’m very fond of this waterway. Over the years I’ve won five Ranger boats and a Chevy truck on this massive body of water.
Darren and I were consistent in this tournament with 21.01-pounds on day one, 21.83-pounds on day two and 22.06-pounds on day three, putting us in fourth place overall. Chris Johnston, who teamed up with his dad, Lynn, won the event with a whopping 73.79-pounds of fish over the three days.
One of the cool things about this tournament is that there was a fully rigged Ranger bass boat as a draw prize. If you made the top-50 cut to fish the last day, you had the chance to turn a key to see if it would start the boat. I’ve never been to a tournament where you had a 1 in 50 chance of winning a 70 or 80-thousand dollar boat package! It was a unique event that went over very well and a lot of teams are excited about fishing it again next year.
After the tournament, the folks at BoaterExam.com asked me if I could do a CHCH Morning Live segment on boating safety, so I towed the Ranger to the CHCH building in Hamilton and had some fun with host, Bob Cowan. We had some good laughs and at the end of our segment we pulled the cords on our Stearns inflatable life vests and let them fill up with air. It’s always a lot of fun when you inflate those – sort of like a mini air bag going off!
Then Darren and I headed back to eastern Ontario, to Mississippi Lake, for the third Renegade tournament of the year. The first time I went to this lake was back in the early ’90s when my brother Wayne and I ended up winning a two-day tournament. We caught fish in pads, reeds, offshore weeds – we just caught them everywhere in that tournament.
Darren and I caught about 15 fish for the day, including a four-pound plus largemouth and a three-pound plus largemouth, which are kicker fish on Mississippi Lake. Unfortunately we didn’t have anything but two-pounders to go with those and we ended up with 13.72-pounds, which put us in 23rd place and earned some valuable pounds towards qualifying for the Classic.
After the Mississippi tournament we stayed in eastern Ontario, in Kingston, to get ready for the Canadian Open that my brother Wayne, my son Darren and I were all competing in. The Canadian Open is very near and dear to our hearts as Wayne won it in Kingston in 1992 and ’93 and I won it in 1994, ’95 and ’96. It’s a tournament that I’ve had a lot of good finishes in over the years.
I had one of the best practices of my life and on the first day I could have caught 35 fish, but I had surgical tubing over my hook so I wouldn’t hook them. The next day I could have had 25 fish. The last day I thought I’d try to catch them on a crankbait and I caught a 4.9-pound smallmouth and decided I’d better get out of there. I had found fish in about six different areas so things were looking good.
I don’t know what happened, but on day one of the tournament those fish disappeared on me. I picture smallmouth like cattle, grazing in a pasture. One hour you see them in one corner, the next hour you see them in the middle, the next hour you see them in the other corner. I think I must have been fishing in the wrong field because those grazing smallmouth had moved from the area I was in. I drew Cara Carmichael, who is a friend of ours, on day one and we ended up getting three smallmouth – two threes and a two – after fishing in all of my best areas. We hustled and got some largemouth, got a few more smallmouth and came into the weigh-in with a very low weight of 15.95-pounds that put me in 26th place.
In the meantime, my brother Wayne caught some nice largemouth bass and weighed in just under 19-pounds. The big surprise of the day was my son Darren. This was his first tournament fishing as a boater and after day one he was tied for sixth place with 22.25-pounds of smallmouth bass. Even though I was down and out after my not so stellar performance, I was pumped by the fact that Darren was in the hunt.
Day two was cancelled due to high winds but we were back at it on day three. Once we got on the water the wind was exactly double what was forecast. It was pretty choppy but I decided to go over to the New York side of the lake anyway. The first fish I caught was about a pound and a half, then my partner and I proceeded to catch four more bass by 11:30 and every one of them was over four-pounds. Do you think we could catch one more fish to get rid of that pound and a halfer? We couldn’t, and we ended up weighing in 19.65-pounds for our five fish. It brought me up to 13th place which was kind of nice, but certainly no cigar. Darren ended up weighing in 17.1-pounds which dropped him down to 9th place and Wayne ended up in 11th. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes. I guess it’s time to put my game face back on for the next bunch of tournaments…..