A lot of you folks reading this probably won’t believe it but since the last issue I’ve actually worked harder than I ever have in my 39-years of fishing for a living. I have been completely immersed in a number of business and work-related projects and I haven’t travelled nearly as much this year than I have in the last 39-years. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that I am addicted to travelling. I’m addicted to fishing different types of fish and different waters, and for some reason I like being on the road.
In my busiest year ever I was on the road for 320-days, and for three-decades I averaged 275 to 300-days on the road. In recent years I’ve cut it back to 250 or 260-days. I like hotels, I like moving, I like driving. For many years I averaged 100,000 km of driving per year, and that’s not including flying. This past winter I didn’t drive a lot and I miss it – I can’t wait to put the rubber to the pavement. Actually, in the last few weeks I’ve been getting out a bit more so I’m starting to get my fix.
In our last column I talked about getting ready to head up to Lake Simcoe. I was invited by the Berkley and Abu Garcia folks to join them, and a group from Canadian Tire, on Lake Simcoe for some mid-winter ice fishing for perch. There were about 45 people on this outing, including Al Gallagher and his crew from Eastern Outdoors and Team Camp Chef who came out to do the cooking for us. The fishing wasn’t exceptional but we managed to catch a few perch. Although we hit a bit of a lull in the fishing, the camaraderie, the fun and the eating were all very good!
Al and his crew from Camp Chef put together some wonderful food. We had homemade cinnamon buns, perch, sausages, burgers – we had a pretty good feed while we were out there. Many of the gang from Canadian Tire had never ice fished before so it was quite an experience for them. We had our SnoBear out there and we gave some of the crew rides in it. My friend John Whyte, who lives on Lake Simcoe, came out to help and he let some of the people ride his snowmobile. Some of these folks had never been on a snowmobile in their life and John taught them how to drive it and then let them take it for a little toot out there on the ice. Overall it was a pretty cool experience for all of us who attended.
I’m not sure how many of you reading this like going to the dentist, but I find it kind of soothing. To me it’s relaxing, sitting in the chair as they’re working away in my mouth. It’s a little bit invasive but there are times when I’m sitting there with my jaw spread open that I almost feel like taking a nap. I think I’ve got the best dentist in the world. I really like Dr. Loukas Papas, he’s such a nice guy and a great dentist.
After the ice fishing trip I had an appointment to get a cleaning and a checkup from him. For about a year now there’s been a weird feeling on the root of a tooth that I had a root canal done on years ago and Dr. Papas said it’s time we got it checked out. It looked like there was a little bit of disturbance there but he couldn’t pick it up with his X-ray equipment, so he sent me to a clinic that did more of a CAT scan type of inspection. So I got that done and then went to see a specialist. To make a long story short, I’ll be heading back to his office this fall for an implant. He decided the best thing to do would be to pull that tooth – luckily it’s one of the ones on the back bottom so it’s not anything that you can see. While I was there I asked one of the women who works in the office if they could put me out for that.
She asked, “Are you sure”?
I said, “I think so, I mean, it’s got to hurt”.
She said, “Yes, but you won’t be able to eat for eight-hours beforehand”.
When I heard that I said, “Okay, I’m out, forget that”!
Later on I asked her, “Don’t most people get put out for that”?
She said, “No, not really, hardly anybody”.
When I got home I told my wife and she laughed. I’m not going to tell you what she probably was thinking, but she laughed when I asked if I should be put out to get the tooth taken out.
So I went back to the dentist and they froze the tooth. I could feel Dr. Papas wiggling away with the pliers and the next thing you know it was out.
I thought, “Wow, that wasn’t bad at all”.
Like I said, I love my dentist, he’s good. He chose cow marrow to put in there as a base for the implant. I guess there’s a choice of human, cow or pig bone marrow. The idea is for this marrow to take so that when they do the implant later this fall it will have a good, solid foundation.
After my dental appointments it was back out for a little bit of fun ice fishing on Lake Simcoe with the SnoBear, doing a little running and gunning catching some perch. Then I had some radio interviews to do and then it was off to the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show to hang out at the Columbia Sportswear booth. Since they’ve moved the Sportsmen’s Show to the International Centre it seems like they’ve got the crowds back like they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s when the show was at the CNE grounds. It seemed like it was rockin’ and rollin’ with lots of people there. I met a lot of viewers of the TV show and had some great fun talking fishing with those folks.
I met Travis Gerrits at the Spring Fishing and Boat Show in February and he and his dad came to say hi to me again at the Sportsmen’s Show. Travis is on the Canadian Olympic Freestyle Ski Team and he finished seventh at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He got a silver medal at the World Cup and he also got a silver medal in the World Championship. This guy is a freestyle skiing athlete who literally flies through the air. After meeting him the first time I “Googled” some of his accomplishments and watched some of the video of what he does. All I can say is that it’s definitely not for a guy my age and in my shape! It’s pretty amazing to see these freestyle skiers and their athleticism and no-fear approach to flying through the air down a ski slope.
Anyways, Travis is also a fanatical fisherman. He lives about 10-minutes north of me and fishes all the time. He’s pretty much addicted to it. We’re going to get together and get out for a day of fishing sometime this year. You never know who you’re going to meet when you’re working in the public, as I do when I’m doing some of my appearances. It was interesting when I first met Travis. When he came up to me he was wearing a custom-made Columbia ski jacket. I was looking at it and said that it was a pretty interesting jacket. That’s when he introduced himself and I found out that he was a World Class skier. That was kind of cool.
After the shows I had more dental checkups and then a lot of meetings. For the first time in my entire career I decided that this year I wouldn’t go crazy fishing all winter, which I normally do. Usually I’ll fish in Florida for a couple of weeks then come back up here and ice fish, do appearances at the fishing shows and then go back down to Florida, but this year I decided I wanted to get things in order.
For those of you who know me from this magazine or the TV show or tournaments or whatever it might be in the fishing world, there’s another side of what I do that you don’t see and it’s definitely not as glamorous. Things like getting ready for shoots, planning shoots, getting boats ready for tournaments, taping and editing the TV show, meeting with sponsors, doing appearances, working on all our other media properties and attending to some other business interests that I have. I could probably make a full time job out of just one or two of the things I do, so last winter I decided it was time to get things in order.
I haven’t really looked at what our company’s been doing in the last 30-plus years so it was time to dig through the books and see where we are. Then it was time to organize even little things, like my clothes and fishing gear. I took out several truckloads of clothes and several truckloads of tackle. For those of you who are concerned about where it all went, I’ll just say that it all went to very good causes
All of that only touches the tip of the iceberg. I could take the next four-years just getting organized. And I’m not joking about that. Between my office at home, my office in Burlington, the things in the basement at my house, the things in the garage, the things in my tackle room and the things here in the basement at the office, I could take years getting it all organized. The bottom line is, I just wanted to get a start on it and that’s what I did for most of last winter. It’s been an interesting exercise in finding out what a hoarder is!
Along with trying to organize myself, I’m also involved in organizing something really cool. The folks from the USA asked me (when I was at the Pan-Am tournament at Lake Okeechobee a year and a half ago) if I would host the next Pan-Am bass tournament in Canada. That took up a lot of time last winter but I’m happy to announce that we just got the official word from the City of Cornwall, on the Lake St. Francis section St. Lawrence River, that we’re going to have the first ever Pan-Am tournament in Canada the week after Thanksgiving.
There will be a maximum of eight teams per country in this tournament and we have interest from the First Nations, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Canada at this time. We will have a qualifying tournament in August to see who’s going to be on Team Canada. I will be the Team Canada Captain this year and fishing it with my son Darren.
We’re still working on all the details so watch my Twitter and Facebook pages for more information as it becomes available. What I can tell you is that the Pan-Am tournament is basically for pride and bragging rights and that the team will be staying in Cornwall, at the Ramada Inn, in October.
It would be nice for Canada to win this event at home. I mean, the Americans now have won the World Championship in South Africa, they’ve won the World Championship in Mexico and they won the Pan-American tournament on Lake Okeechobee in Florida in February of 2018. There will be some stiff competition this year as some of the “best of the best” will be fishing it.
The idea of this tournament is to help make fishing a recognized sport around the world. There’s an organization in Italy working very hard to make fishing an Olympic sport in the future but in order to make it happen there are a number of things that they have to do. One of them is to hold some of these Pan-American tournaments and to make sure that fishing is a worldwide activity. If fishing is accepted into the Olympics there will be a number of different types of fishing in the category including ice fishing, kayak fishing, offshore fishing, carp fishing, bass fishing, etcetera.
I’m going to say that organizing this event, getting the support from the folks in Cornwall and the industry support from the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, has been like putting on five major weddings at once. I’ve never really organized a wedding but I can only imagine how much work it is and I feel like it’s been like that for me. Still, I’m so happy that we’ve got it to the point that it is now and that the event is definitely a go-ahead.
My friend, Adam Moryto, got second place at the Trinidad and Tobago offshore tournament and he qualified for the Offshore World Championship in Quepos, Costa Rica. Adam invited myself, a mutual friend Rob Lee, Logan Humphrey – who was one of his first mates from a boat in the Barbados – and his girlfriend Caitlin Cohan to join his team.
This tournament was essentially for marlin, sailfish and dorado with points being given for sailfish and marlin catches. It was a four-day tournament that was very well run; this was a first-class event. Rob and I were able to join the team for the first two of the four-days of fishing and day one started off very good in terms of bites. Unfortunately, we were 0 for 11 on the first 11 bites we had. The team finally got things rolling and we ended up landing five fish for 24 bites that day. After talking to a number of the other 45 teams in this event, we definitely would have been in the top-five if we had landed more of the billfish that we had take our baits. Our hooking percentage was definitely on the low side though and we were in the bottom third after day one with five fish on the board. I believe something like 17 fish landed was leading on day one.
On day two I think we landed three fish, and then Rob and I had to head back to Toronto. The team ended up getting a couple of more fish over the next two days and ended up in 39th place overall. There’s no question that the amount of billfish caught and released in this tournament was exceptional. There were 636 billfish caught during the event including 1 black marlin, 25 blue marlin, 2 striped marlin and 608 Pacific sailfish. It was definitely a fun event to fish and it certainly broke up a long winter of work.
Right after I got back from Costa Rica at the first of May my buddy, Rick McCrory, came down for a visit. I hadn’t seen Rick since last fall so it was nice to have a visit with him. While he was here we had a nice wind forecast for Lake Erie we decided to head over to the New York side of Lake Erie with another fiend, Will Kooy, to go after some monster perch and it turned out to be exceptional.
Derek Strub was out the day before and he told me about an area to hit, so we went there and caught a whack of jumbo perch. The biggest one weighed two-pounds even, and we got a lot of them in the one to one-and-a-half-pound range. We caught well over 100 of these jumbo perch in three to four-hours of fishing. We raced back home and I put the Cuda fillet knife to work cleaning a bunch of them so we could have a feed of fresh perch that night. It was a long but fun day and we definitely had a good perch fry!
After our perch trip I had to get my Z522D Ranger ready for the Sturgeon Bay Open. I took it out of storage, got it prepped and loaded, then Derek Strub, myself and my son Darren hopped in the truck and made the 12-hour trip over to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. My son Darren fished with Darrin Bohonis who is a fishing tackle rep in Central Canada, based out of Winnipeg. I believe it was Derek and my 11th year fishing this tournament. It’s always a good time when we go down there for this event.
During the week of practice we hit some very cold weather. The water temperature was anywhere from the low 40s to the low 50s Fahrenheit and the smallmouth fishing was challenging. It seemed to be very hit and miss during our pre-fish, but the walleye fishing was absolutely on fire. We caught probably 25 big walleyes during practice. At one point, on a patch of sand in about 12 or 14-feet of water, we saw a school of about 50 walleyes. We backed off a bit and Derek threw a cast out with a gold Johnson Thinfisher. Within seconds had a 10-pound walleye on. We ended up fishing for a couple of minutes and caught another one about six-pounds before we left to go looking for bass. At the end of the day we decided to run back to that spot and in 15-minutes we landed five more walleyes between six and 10-pounds. Throughout the four-days of pre-fishing we landed walleyes in anywhere from four to 37-feet of water without even targeting them – we were looking for smallmouth bass.
As it turned out, we scrambled in the tournament. On day one, the first fish that I landed in the morning looked like a nice, fat five-pounder. We didn’t weigh it, we just put it in the livewell and thought that it was a good start to the day. We plugged along and ended up catching about a dozen fish for the day. We weighed in with 24.01-pounds for the first day.
The funny thing is that Derek caught another big fish that day that looked like it might go just around five-pounds too. At the weigh-in I stayed with the boat Derek took the bag of fish up to weigh.
When I met him back at the boat ramp he said, “You know those two fish that you thought were just around five-pounds? Well, the tournament director said I should weigh one of those for big fish. I asked some of the people in line what they thought and they said I should definitely weigh one. So I picked one for big fish and it weighed 6.59-pounds!”
So the other big fish we had was a 6 ½-pounder as well – or very close to it. Derek thinks he picked the wrong fish but, in hindsight, we had a pair of 6½-pound smallmouth in the boat and we didn’t even know it! We ended up with the fifth biggest fish on day one, the biggest bass of the day weighed in at 6.98-pounds. We were sitting in 20-some-odd place after day one.
Day two was tougher fishing for us and we really scrambled. We were lucky to even get what we had, 20.84-pounds for day two. For most of the teams the fishing actually got a little bit better and the weights were slightly up over day one. To give you an example, there were five fish over seven-pounds weighed in on day two. It just goes to prove that this is one of the most incredible smallmouth fisheries in the world. The Sturgeon Bay area of Lake Michigan really kicks out some monster fish. With the early bass season that they have in that part of Wisconsin, it’s such a neat place to get in some world class bass and walleye fishing in the middle of May. We ended up in 26th place overall out of 138 boats, but I really can’t complain about how it all turned out.
After I got home and got some work done it was time to make a quick trip down to the St. Clair River, just outside of Wallaceburg, Ontario, to go get some walleyes with Bill Hamilton. Derek Strub and I left the house at around 12:30 – Strub likes to call me the crack of noon fisherman!
I’ve known Bill since the ‘80s. He used to fish the SWOBA bass tournaments back in the early years but I’ve never had a chance to spend any time with him. Bill was a duck hunting guide for one of the private clubs down on Mitchell Bay for 36-years and he’s also a tool and die maker.
Our plan was to spend a few hours walleye fishing on the St. Clair River. The deal there was to use ¾-ounce jigs with a stinger hook and Berkley PowerBait four-inch minnows. The bite had been really good with guys limiting out in as quick as 20-minutes on the river. It’s been really exceptional for pound and three-quarters to 2 ¾-pound walleyes. It’s the same year class of fish they are experiencing in Lake Erie, St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair and those fish are all over the place.
During our outing I got a good old fashioned piece of humble pie fishing with Bill.
After a few minutes of me running the electric I said, “Bill, why don’t you run the electric – you do a lot of this fishing”.
So he took over and pointed the boat into the current. Before going down there Bill had said that he wanted me to spool up a few rods with fluorescent line so we could see it and fluorocarbon leaders so I rigged up with Nanofil fluorescent line and 10-pound test Trilene fluorocarbon leaders.
Bill said that the idea was to see your line going straight down by the electric motor, so in this case there was an advantage in running the electric. When it was all said and done Bill had landed 11 fish and yours truly got the big fat goose egg. I did get something that was a bonus though – I did catch a sucker. As we were videotaping I told Bill that it takes a lot of skill to get a sucker to suck your jig in and actually hook it in the mouth, as I did.
Bill is an excellent outdoorsman and obviously has a very good grasp on how to fish current and catch fish. It was funny because I’m a competitive person and, after we finished our shoot and drove home that night, I felt like a big smallmouth bass trying to hide under a boulder. It was a very humbling day for me and it’s going to make a great segment for the TV show. To make things even worse on my ego, another local angler, who has a tackle shop in Wallaceburg, was out with his son who’s in grade three and the kid got his limit while they were doing the drift beside us. If Bill would have zeroed that day, like I did on the walleyes, it would have been one of those shows you don’t ever see but because he caught fish we did get some good video shot. What can I say, things like this do happen. It’s happened before and it will happen again.
Now that we’re heading into summer it’s getting to be that busy time where I’m going to be travelling and on the water a lot so for the last three days I’ve spent 12-hours a day outside working on boats. In fact I didn’t put sunscreen on my head on one of those sunny days and my “solar panel” took a little too much heat. I have to admit, it’s a little tender right now. You’d think after all these years I’d be a little more conscious about that but I just thought I would be in and out of the garage so much it wouldn’t matter. I guess if you’re out for an hour in the sun and five-minutes in the garage then an hour in the sun and back in the garage all day, light to dark, you’re going to get burnt.
A lot of you might wonder why I rig the boats myself. Well, I rig my electric motors and electronics for a couple of reasons. First off, because I fish tournaments and I’m out in the elements a lot, if anything goes wrong them I want to know how they’re rigged and how I can fix them. I also carry spares with me on shoots or at tournaments so if anything happens I can replace components, parts or the whole unit if I have to. So I rig my own. With electric motors I use six stainless steel ¼-inch bolts with big stainless fender washers underneath so they will never come off. Even if I torpedo the boat they’re not coming off. I use Loctite on all my fasteners and I put things on with heavy duty nuts and bolts because of some of the big water tournaments that I fish. So as I wrap this up I’m going back to put my mechanic’s face on, cover my dome with a hat and get back to rigging. And when I’m finished with that, I’m going fishing!