Since our last issue I guess you could say I’ve had a bit of the winter blues. Okay, not really the winter blues, but I decided I would not go to any warm, tropical destination this winter until I got a ton of work done. Contrary to some of my Tales columns that you might have read over the years, there’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that you don’t hear about because they’re rather boring. I mean, it’s just normal work.

When you’ve been in this business for as long as I have, if you don’t eat, sleep and drink fishing, and the fishing business, you’re in the wrong trade because there isn’t a waking hour of my life that I don’t think of something that needs to be done in the fishing world. Whether it’s my next tournament, a magazine article, social media, sponsor commitments, a future shoot or an existing show that we’re editing, there’s always stuff to do, and it never ends.

Am I complaining? Well, I guess I might be a little bit, since I haven’t been fishing a lot since my last column. This is the first time in 39-years that I have fished as little as I have from about the middle of December to this current Tales that we’re doing here in late February. So there’s basically a 2 ½-month period that I’ve done the least amount of fishing that I’ve ever done in my career during this time frame. Usually I would have about 20 to 25-days of fishing during this time period but I’m just trying to get other things done. If you saw my garage you’d understand. I’m so embarrassed about my mess of fishing equipment that I will not show you a picture of it. The TV show Hoarders has got nothing on me!

It seems like when I come back from a trip there’s so much to do that my fishing equipment is the last thing that gets looked after. For example, if I go fishing for lake trout, when I come back I throw my gear into a pile because my next trip might be a bass tournament. After that, the next trip might be for walleyes and the next trip for muskies and on and on and on. So I do all of these trips that I have to get ready for, but I never, ever seem to clean up after I come back from them. That’s what I’m up against from an equipment standpoint. Anyway, my goal is to get everything in order, from equipment to business, before I aggressively attack the water again.

Having said all that, I think that being organized makes you a better angler. There’s no question that if you are organized before you get on the water, or ice, you’re going to catch a lot more fish. If you have a checklist of things you need to pack you’ll never end up saying, “I wish I would have brought this” or “I forgot that” or “I need this”. When you have those situations arise, they can affect your fishing performance out there. So I take great pride in being organized when I get on the water. The unfortunate thing is that I’m lacking a bit in the after-fishing organization department!

During the month of December we did get out to fish the Niagara River and the Niagara Bar. John Yancoulis, who I’ve known and competed against in tournaments for a number of years,  was sitting beside me at the Berkley/Abu Garcia Ambassador meeting and I told him that I was going to hit the Niagara River. I asked him if he wanted to join us and he said, “Sure”, so we ended up going out there.

We didn’t launch at Queenston because I wanted to avoid the traffic at the boat ramp there, so we launched at Port Dalhousie in St. Catharines and came across the lake. We started fishing on the Niagara Bar around mid-day. Our plan was to try and shoot a segment for the show but the water was muddy and the fishing was tough. A couple of fish got caught around us in other boats, but we made maybe four or five drifts and didn’t get any so we decided to fish some other drifts upriver, towards Queenston.

On this particular day we decided to mix it up and try to catch a number of different species. We started on one spot that’s notorious for brown trout but we didn’t catch any, so we moved to a walleye drift. After a number of drifts we didn’t catch any walleyes, so we ended up going upstream and fishing various drifts. When we got to Queenston, with about a half-hour to fish before sunset, we finally landed three nice rainbow trout and missed three or four more.

As we got back downriver and onto Lake Ontario the sun was pretty well set on the Niagara Bar so we decided to do a quick drift while we were taking our microphones off and getting ready for the trip back across the lake. That’s when John hooked a big lake trout. He fought it about halfway back to the boat but then it came off and that was the end of our day.

Overall, we didn’t set the world on fire but we did catch a few fish by trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Had we just fished the steelhead I’m sure we would have caught 10 or 20, but we thought we’d try a bunch of different things out there. I don’t always go with the sure thing. Sometimes, when you’re on a multi-species river like the mighty Niagara, it’s nice to mix it up and try to catch other species, even though you know a certain species may be biting better than others. Hey, that’s fishing.

After the Niagara trip I had a number of corporate meetings to go. When those were done I had John Ward, from Cuda, over to the office for something that I have to admit I’m not very good at – how to pick a good knife sharpener and how to properly sharpen knives. I brought in a handful of knives from the kitchen and boat so he could show me how to properly sharpen them.

We sat down in the boardroom and shot some video of how to pick the right knife sharpener, then John showed me Cuda’s DMT line of sharpeners and how to properly use them on a blade. It’s amazing how sharp you can get a knife by using the proper sharpener in the correct way. I didn’t realize how common it is for folks to not know how to properly sharpen their knives. I was too embarrassed to admit that I’m not a seasoned veteran at sharpening either, but after spending some time with John I guarantee I can put an edge on a knife now!

Christmas rolled around and it was nice to visit with a lot of friends and acquaintances during the festive season. As usual I ate way too much, and I definitely caught up on my binge watching. It’s funny because I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies during the warmer months when I’m on the water a lot. For whatever reason, this winter I just decided I would catch up on a lot of movies and series’ that are available on the internet. I definitely saw some well-produced programs but I have to say that I’m ready to take a break from that. My ADD is setting in and I’d rather be running around out on the water.

The good thing about ADD, at least the version I think I have, is that with fishing I bounce around a lot. If things aren’t working I just keep moving around trying different things so the ADD never really sets in for very long. When I’m watching movies or series’ I find that while I’m watching on the big screen at home I’ve also got my laptop in front of me. I end up drifting back and forth between reading about tournament fishing and other things, and trying to watch the show. It drives my wife crazy when I continually ask her what happened in the show after missing a few minutes of it because I was reading some article on how some guy just won a tournament or something.

After my binging, I went down to Cornwall for an interesting meeting with the folks from the City of Cornwall. I can’t give you any of that news yet – it will be coming down the road – but there’s a very good chance that there will be a Pan-American bass tournament held in Ontario this coming fall. There are still a lot of details to work out but it will be a follow-up to the Pan American tournament we fished on Lake Okeechobee in Florida last winter.

There was a very big celebration in the marine world in 2019 in honour of Mercury Marine’s 80th Anniversary, and the first boat show to celebrate it was the Toronto International Boat Show. Mercury had a get-together there on the first night of the show and we were invited. You know, it’s funny to think that I’ve been working with Mercury for almost half of the length of time that those motors have been in existence. I’ve been with them now for 39-years and I will say that it was pretty cool to be part of that anniversary party.

It’s amazing to look back at the technology and innovation that Mercury have introduced since they started 80-years ago. With this year’s new line of V6 and V8 four-stroke outboards, the celebration at the Boat Show was the perfect setting for them. The demand for these new motors has already given them record sales. After running a new 175 V6 on my Ranger aluminum boat, and a new V8 Pro XS four-stroke on my Ranger fibreglass boat, I have to say that these two motors are the finest motors I have ever used. They are just incredible. They’re fast, they sound cool, they’re good on fuel and they look amazing. What else could anyone ever want in an outboard?

The Spring Fishing and Boat Show is something that I look forward to every year because the whole show is devoted to nothing but fishing boats, fishing equipment and fishing destinations. It’s very targeted and more professional anglers go to it, either to work or to do seminars, than any other outdoors show.  On the Sunday night my niece Mariko and her husband Kevin Estrada, who runs Sturgeon Slayers charter service in British Columbia, held their fly fishing film night. This is where a number of independent producers show their fly fishing films that are shot in locations all around the world. It was a real treat to see how some of the people approach fishing and what it means to them.

If you’re looking for a grass-roots fishing show to go to and learn about fishing, this is absolutely the place to go. Throughout the course of the four-day show there is so much knowledge brought to you by all of these guys who run fishing charters, compete in tournaments, specialize in ice fishing and so on it’s incredible. There’s just so many things you can find out from these pros about fishing. In this digital age a lot of folks get their information right then and there from a screen. Well, before smart phones, laptops and tablets, this was the original instant information place and it’s still one of the best. It might be the old-school way of getting your information right then and there, but at the show you’re getting it from real people who really fish.

I will say that the most rewarding part of this time of the year for me is spending time with kids. I’ve always liked little kids. I think they’re cute and they’re fun to be around, and I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the little ones throughout this time frame of this Tales column. My niece’s daughter and my nephew’s son and daughter have been around so I’ve gotten a good fill of seeing them, both at our house and at some of the other family members’ places where we’ve had functions to go to this winter. I guess it’s probably my age, but as I get older I have even a softer spot for these kids. I appreciate them for who they are and how they are progressing as they grow.

During the Spring Fishing and Boat Show, on the Family Day, my daughter Kristin, my wife Sandy and I took Mariko’s little two-year-old daughter Yale for a part of the day while Mariko and her husband Kevin were working the show. We took her to the house and we ended up cooking a turkey and all kinds of food since we were having a number of the family over that night after they finished working the show.

I’ll never forget little Yale that evening. She was having fun playing with a little porcelain tea set that we’ve had at the house for years. She was pouring water into each of the little cups but as soon as her mom walked through the door you definitely knew that she has a very special bond with Mariko. When Yale saw her mom she went running to the front door at full speed, with her arms wide open. On a scale of one to ten I’d say her happiness went from being a five to a ten when her mom got there. I think in her mind she wondered if Mariko would ever show up because she had asked about her mom a number of times that afternoon. It was kind of funny and really cute to see that reaction. All in all it was pretty cool to have her around.

As we wrap this up, later this week we’ll be heading to Lake Simcoe with the folks from Pure Fishing. Pure Fishing includes a number of iconic brands including Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Pflueger and others. We’ll be joining them out on the ice to do a little perch fishing with them and some of their corporate customers. I can’t wait to get out on the ice and I can’t wait to eat some fresh fish out there. From what I understand, the Pure Fishing group are bringing some fresh, commercially caught perch because the group is fairly big and we don’t want to have to clean enough fish to go around. I guess I’ll have to wait for another day to show off my new knife sharpening skills!