I’m pretty sure I’ve just come off of one of the busiest summers of my entire career. I’ve got no complaints and there was definitely never a dull moment.
June started off with taking some Canadian Tire dealers fishing on the Bay of Quinte. They had won a contest that the folks at Mystik Marine Lubricants did with the Canadian Tire dealers from across the country. We stayed at the Picton Harbour Inn and caught numerous walleye and pike on this trip. It was also the maiden voyage for the new Ranger VS1882WT aluminum mulit-species boat that we had rigged with the first Mercury V6 four-stroke in Canada.
Before I tell you about the fishing I have to say that this motor is absolutely the most incredible 175-horsepower outboard I’ve ever used. It’s quiet, it gets great gas mileage and it has awesome torque and high-end speed. It’s the most amazing outboard motor I’ve ever used.
We got out fishing and it was pretty good. We were catching a lot of incidental bass (the bass season wasn’t open at the time) while fishing for pike and walleye. We ended up catching a number of pike, including some pretty good sized ones, by using the Berkley ½-ounce lipless vibrating War Pig crankbait and fishing it around some of the newly emerging weeds that were coming up in the bay.
My friend, fishing guide and proprietor of the Picton Harbour Inn Scott Walcott, happened to be out doing a charter that day. He was catching a ton of walleyes and as he was wrapping up his charter at three in the afternoon he called me and asked how we were doing on the walleyes. I told him that we hadn’t caught any walleyes but we had been doing well on the pike. Scott told me where he was and said that if we needed some worms and crawler harnesses we were welcome to come and get some so I said we’d be right over. We idled over to Scott’s boat, loaded up on worms and harnesses, and proceeded to catch a number of nice eating sized walleye. Overall it was a fun day. One thing about Prince Edward County is it’s a really beautiful part of Ontario that has become quite a tourism destination. We ended up doing some fine dining every night at various restaurants in the town of Picton during our day and a half trip down there.
Then it was back home for the annual Fishing Forever golf tournament. We hold this every year at Turtle Creek Golf Club, which is just northwest of Milton. It’s a fun event and attracts just over 100 golfers every year. The tournament raises money for Fishing Forever, our not-for-profit program that has supported the Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire Fishing Days events over the years, as well as assisted in funding a number of conservation initiatives in Ontario.
After the golf tournament it was off to Lake Champlain for the FLW Costa tournament. This tournament was in mid-June and my expectations were very high. The bass were spawning throughout the lake so sight-fishing was one of the main techniques used by the competitors. I spent a number of days at my buddy Rick McCrory’s place on the east side of Lake Champlain while I was pre-fishing for this event. Rick fed us and housed myself and a couple of other competitors and we had a lot of fun telling stories every night after I got off the water. For the most part, every day I fished for about 12-hours getting ready for the tournament and I felt I had this one pegged and had a good shot to do very well.
Well, at the tournament meeting I got boat number 156. That’s a bad draw in a tournament where you’re going to specific fish that you’ve got marked on your GPS. My spots were in about a 70-mile stretch of lake, from the north to the south, so getting boat 156 made me ask myself whether I should go south or north after blasting off from Plattsburgh, New York.
Because it was blowing out of the north pretty good in the morning I decided to go north and pluck some of the fish I had found up there but by the time I got to the first few spots where I had four-pound plus fish marked, there was a boat on every one of them.
I’m not the type of guy who’s going to encroach on anybody’s fishing spot. Some of the tournament anglers these days are pretty aggressive but that’s not my style. I’d rather cut the other guys some space so I fished some other areas and managed to get 15-pounds, 2-ounces for the first day, which put me quite a long way down in the standings.
So on day-two I headed south to an area where I had some big fish marked. I pulled in and started zig-zagging with my electric motor and got a couple of smaller fish, but not the ones I had marked. Then a competitor from Alabama pulls in and starts using his electric motor to look around.
When he got closer I asked him how he was doing and he said he wasn’t doing too well so far that morning. I asked how he did yesterday and he said he had caught over 18-pounds. He told me that the fish were in this area good yesterday. I asked if he had caught a fish near a dock in the corner of the area and he said yes, and it weighed over four-pounds. Needless to say, he had caught all of my better fish from that area the previous day.
So, I went to my next area and there were three boats there. My next area had four boats in it and the spot after that had a couple of boats too. So I just “went fishing” and ended up catching 16-pounds, 13-ounces, which put me one-pound, four-ounces out of the money. Unfortunately, my high starting number forced me to decide which way to go on day one and tournament fishing is all about making decisions. Whether they’re right or wrong you have to live with them at the end of the day.
Then it was off to the B1 in Belleville where Darren and I weighed in a two-day total of 27.61-pounds of largemouth. In this tournament you could only fish as far as the end of the Reach, past Glenora Ferry. We had found some smallmouth down there pre-fishing but we decided not to run for them during the tournament because a number of other boats had found those same fish. Instead, we decided to stay in the bay and concentrate on largemouth bass.
We caught our fish on a wacky rigged Berkley 5” MaxScent General as well as on buzzbaits and chatterbaits. Every day of the pre-fish, for four days in a row, we had fish four-pounds or bigger. We had several days of 17 to 18-pound limits. As it turned out, during the tournament we didn’t get a four-pound bite in two days and our 27.61-pound total put us in 36th place. That’s how tournament fishing goes. You’re going to have highs and lows this was a couple of lows in a row.
The Canadian Open on Lake Simcoe was the following week. This is a Pro/Am event where you draw a different partner every day and they fish with you as a team. Day-one was cancelled due to high winds but on day-two my partner and I had 20.15-pounds. On day-three my partner and I ended up with 21.95-pounds, giving me a total weight of 42.10-pounds and putting me in ninth place overall.
Then it was off to ICAST for our annual trip to see what’s new and to say, “Hi,” to many of my friends in the fishing industry. I definitely feel like a kid in a candy store seeing all of the new tackle that will be introduced later this year and early next spring. After getting home I headed out to do some scouting on Lake Erie for a few of days for the upcoming FLW Costa tournament out of Buffalo.
Then I made a trip to Blue Heron Resort at the mouth of the Spanish River, in Ontario’s Algoma Country. The housekeeping cabins are clean and comfortable with full kitchens and a barbeque on the deck. There’s a boat ramp and a small marina so you can leave your boat in the water overnight, and the resort is right at the mouth of the Spanish River so you have easy access to the North Channel or Lake Huron for fishing.
We ended up catching some really big smallmouth, including some four and five-pounders, by dropshotting with the new four-inch Berkley Powerbait MaxScent Flatworm in black. The first spot I went to was a little island that was out in the North Channel. I was casting a swimbait off the point when I got a hit and set the hook. As I was fighting this heavy fish, all of a sudden my line gets bit off. So I Power Pole down on the rocks beside this little island and started rigging another one.
As I looked down into the water I saw a four-pound smallmouth swimming by. I looked down again a couple of minutes later and I see the fish swimming by in the other direction. I finished rigging the swimbait but before I started casting I said to my son Darren, who is also my cameraman, “You might as well roll some video and I’ll see if I can catch this smallmouth.” I lowered the Flatworm on the dropshot down into about 12-feet of water, felt a tick, set the hook and got a four-pound smallmouth. That was my first fish of the trip. After that I caught numerous big smallmouth bass and some pike on a Berkley War Pig ½-ounce lipless crankbait. The fishing was so easy that we got the show shot in a few short hours. If all my shoots could go that easily I’d have lots of extra time to fish more tournaments!
My only complaint about this place is that there’s way too much water to fish. You couldn’t fish it all in a lifetime and that’s what I like about going up there – there are endless fishing opportunities. You can go out and catch trout and salmon in the big water; you can catch walleyes, crappies, largemouth, smallmouth, pike – you can catch them all close to the resort. It’s just got a lot to offer.
Then it was over to Buckhorn, to my sister-in-law’s place, for my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday party. It was great seeing everybody and, since my sister-in-law lives right on Lower Buckhorn Lake, they even caught a few bass fishing off shore during the party.
Then it was back down to Lake Erie to start getting ready for the FLW Costa Buffalo tournament. Adam Moryto is an actor from Toronto who I met recently and he’s really into fishing so I took him down to Lake Erie for a few hours of pre-fishing. We got out there for three or four hours and caught a number of smallmouth bass up to four-pounds by dropshotting. It was a sign of things to come for the tournament.
The FLW Costa Buffalo tournament turned into a one-day shootout because high winds on Lake Erie forced the organizers to cancel the first two days of the three day tournament. At the end of the single day of the tournament, 44 limits came to the scales that weighed more than 20-pounds. Canadian angler Neil Farlow ended up winning the event with a five fish limit weighing 24.4-pounds.
I did more running than I should have and ended up with 18.4-pounds. I couldn’t get a four-pound fish and finished in 73rd place out of 169 boats. In the first two FLW Costa Northern events – Buffalo and Champlain – my co-anglers caught four-pounders. If I could have got just one in each tournament I would have been in the money. It’s crazy how tight the weights are in the Great Lakes bass tournaments that have big smallmouth.
One of my favourite tournaments every year is the 1000 Islands Open that I fish with my son, Darren. They moved it from Rockport to Kingston this year and I was jacked for this tournament. We’ve never not had a top-10 finish in this event since it’s been around.
On day-one we fished all deep spots on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. We used a Gulp! three-inch fry and a four-inch PowerBait MaxScent Flatworm dropshotted and ended up with 24.23-pounds. On day-two we weighed in 23.73-pounds but we decided to actually do it a little differently. We tried the lake, we tried the river and we only got one 1 ¼-pund fish. So it was time to switch gears and run about 50-miles to a shallow spot and we ended up putting together our 23.73-pound limit that included a 6.36-pound smallmouth bass that I caught on a PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow on a shallow dropshot rig. A shallow dropshot rig is where I use a smaller Ultra Tungsten weight of about ¼-ounce; a shorter lead that’s about ten-inches long, and I cast it rather than fish it vertically.
On day-three we went all shallow and got 22.76-pounds. I lost three giant fish that day that would have brought our weight up substantially but I was so jacked up in this tournament that I horsed them all. In fact, on one fish I was fighting it so hard I actually bent the hook right out. Truly an amateur mistake. After 45-years of tournament fishing you’d think I’d know better but adrenaline is something that’s hard to get rid of when it gets going. We ended up in 6th-place overall with 70.72-pounds over the three days. The team of Neil Deleeuw and Brent Cescon won with 75.40-pounds. The fishing was off the charts at that tournament. There were a lot of big fish including a lot of fish over six-pounds weighed in.
Then it was back to Lake Erie for the Berkley B1 bass tournament out of Port Colborne. There’s not a lot to talk about in this tournament. Darren and I fished this as a team and finished in 15th place. We got 18.17-pounds on day-one and 20.55-pounds on day two for a total of 38.72-pounds. The tournament was a lot of fun, we caught a lot of fish but once again we just needed some more of those better bites to have a bit better weight. In this tournament we ran west quite a ways, about 50-miles, while most of the teams fished east of Port Colborne. In fact, most of the teams who beat us fished east of Port Colborne closer to the site, fishing a lot of the same areas that a lot of the guys from the FLW Costa event fished. I like getting away from the crowds but sometimes that doesn’t always work out when it comes to tournament fishing.
The Pallotta family, who run the CSFL series of tournaments, put on the FLW Canada Cup in Trenton and 74 teams competed on the Bay of Quinte. Darren and I finished in fourth place with 15 largemouth weighing 49.65-pounds over the three-day tournament. It was a lot of fun catching them on buzzbaits, five-inch Berkley MaxScent General stickbaits and PowerBait Chigger Craws. We caught them on weed flats, flipping in the weeds and fishing boat docks and shoreline trees. It seemed like the fish were everywhere but not really concentrated, other than one weedbed we found where we caught a number of fish on day-two and day-three. The cool thing about the Bay of Quinte is that you can use pretty near any technique that you like to catch largemouth there. It’s always a fun place to fish.
Then it was a family get-together at my brother Wayne’s, with a little pond fishing in the mix. It was great to see all the nieces and nephews with all their little Izumi’s running around catching some bluegill out of Wayne’s pond and roasting marshmallows. It was a good family outing.
Then it was up to northeastern Ontario to do a show out of the Mattawa River Resort. When we arrived, hosts Nicole and Adrian Grigorov immediately made us feel right at home. This is truly a family business as the whole family seemed to be working around the resort. This place has a lot of character with clean, comfortable cabins and great food at the Cardinal Restaurant in the main lodge. It’s funny how I’ve been doing the show and traveling for 36-years now and I’ve never been to this little corner of Ontario.
Cara Carmichael, who has been a friend for many years, joined us on this trip. She recently got her own Ranger bass boat and has been fishing a lot of local tournaments up in the Ottawa Valley.
On day-one we caught about 30 bass and about five pike just playing around out there. We decided not to film because we wanted to test the waters first, but it was incredible how many fish there were. In fact, in the evening we ended up catching smallmouth over 60-feet of water on crankbaits and swimbaits, fishing them in the top 10-feet of the water column. The bass were busting pinhead minnows on the surface over 60-feet of water. For about a 200-yard stretch we were catching bass after bass, but no big ones.
On day-two we trailered the boat a few miles east to where the Mattawa River dumps into the Ottawa River, to film with Cara. We probably fished there for four or five hours and ended up catching 30 smallmouth bass up to about three-pounds, including lots of two to three-pound fish, and a number of pike up to five-pounds.
After our two days in Mattawa it was time to pack up and get back on the road again. It seems like I’m always heading somewhere new – and I’m loving every minute of it!