This Tales starts with a trip to Delawana Resort in the Honey Harbour area of Georgian Bay. The resort has a long history and they’re slowly fixing it up and completely revamping the property. It’s a wonderful family resort that offers some incredible fishing opportunities. On this particular outing it only took us about two-hours to get enough material for the show. And that’s including shooting some cutaways around the resort. We caught a number of smallmouth bass up to 5-pounds during our short outing up there.
Then it was off to Kingston to fish the 1000 Islands Open out of Rockport, on the St. Lawrence River. It’s definitely one of my favourite tournaments of the year and the reason is because of the incredibly diverse fishery on eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. On day-one Darren and I caught a number of smallmouth and weighed in 23.32-pounds. All but one of those fish came from shallow water. We were in pretty good shape after day-one, sitting in 15th place.
On day-two we weighed a smaller limit of 18.81-pounds and slid down to 18th place. We ran all around the lake but we couldn’t get any big fish to bite. Day-three was pretty windy so we decided to fish in the river. We fished deep all day and ended up weighing in 23.26-pounds, including a 6.01-pound smallmouth, and moved up to 8th place overall with a total of 65.39-pounds over the three days.
Then it was back to Lake Erie for the Berkley B1 Port Colborne tournament. The B1 is a series of three tournaments that Ben Woo puts on and this was tournament number two of the series. The high winds of Lake Erie took their toll in this tournament and both days one and two were cancelled due to the conditions out on the lake. That made Sunday, which was originally a backup day in case of bad weather, a one-day shootout.
We decided to gamble and make a long run down the lake but, after taking over two-hours to get to our spot, we only caught 16.60-pounds and ended up in 25th place overall. The thing about tournament fishing is that it’s all about making the right decisions. Sometimes you can be conservative and do well and sometimes you can gamble and do well. You have to make those decisions and live and die by them. Cal Climpson and his partner Eric Santoro won the event with 24.06-pounds of smallmouth bass. As soon as we had weighed in I had to head down to the Potomac River for the Costa tournament. As I drove down there I couldn’t help but thinking about shifting gears from smallmouth to largemouth, which is what you need to catch on the Potomac.
As I got down to the Potomac River on Monday afternoon the dark clouds were rolling in. I made the call to not go out because the wind and rain had started. It really came down heavy so I didn’t get out on Monday afternoon as planned, so I only had Tuesday and part of Wednesday to practice for the tournament.
On day-one of the tournament I decided I would play it safe, keep my bait in the water and fish close to the tournament site to try and eke out enough fish for a respectable finish. It worked because at the end of the day-one I was sitting in 6th place with 16-pounds, 5-ounces. I only caught seven keepers that day, but five of them were pretty decent fish.
Day-two started with me losing a decent feeling fish before catching six keepers over the course of the day. I ended up with a small limit of 9-pounds, 12-ounces and wound up 8-ounces out of the top-10 cut, in 11th place overall. There were no complaints on my part as I felt that I had a pretty good finish. After the tournament I was sitting in 9th overall in the points for the Northern division, which easily put me in the top-40 to qualify for the year-end championship on Kentucky Lake.
The following week I took Costa dealers on a corporate outing to Lake Ontario for some smallmouth and walleye fishing. I enlisted the help of charter captain Scott Walcott and we split the group up. For half the day I took half the group out bass fishing while he took the other folks walleye trolling, then after lunch we flipped groups. The weather was beautiful, the fish were biting and everybody had a great day on the water.
After I got home I had the chance to visit the Ribfest in Burlington. I’ve never been to one of these before so I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. An old friend of mine, Dave Kent, who used to produce Buoy-O-Boy life jackets in Guelph, is now in the rib business. He’s got a couple of great big stainless steel trailers and he goes all over the place doing these Ribfests. I ended up getting a behind-the-scenes tour of how they do their cooking and I also got to meet some of Dave’s fellow ribbers. It was great seeing Dave and getting a chance to taste some of his tasty barbequing. His Silver Bullet Bar-B-Q certainly didn’t disappoint me, in fact, I’m still using some of the sauce that he gave me to try!
Then it was up to Chaudière Lodge on the West Arm of Lake Nipissing, for a quick corporate fishing outing with the folks from Mystik Lubricants. As soon as I got home the next day I was off to London, to Columbia Sportswear’s Canadian headquarters, for a staff fish fry. We cooked fresh perch fillets for somewhere between 150 and 200 folks and had a wonderful Friday afternoon.
The next day I flew up to Ottawa to do an appearance at Sail’s Ottawa store for their, “The Big Sale”, event. It was very busy, there was lots of traffic, and it was great to see and talk with fellow anglers from up in the nation’s capital.
As Labour Day approached it was time to take out a couple of Columbia Sportswear prize winners from the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show. Lucas Zammit brought along his friend from college and we went down to Lake Erie to catch some smallmouth. We ended up having some fun out there catching a bunch of smallmouth bass.
The following week was set aside for personal time – no fishing-related work. The reason is that my daughter Kristin was tying the knot the following weekend in Picton, Ontario. Travis MacLachlan and her have been dating for a long time now. They met in Victoria, when Kristin was going to university out there years ago. They decided to have their wedding at this lovely barn that was converted into an open concept for parties. It was just an amazing day having family and friends together for such a wonderful celebration. The weather was absolutely ideal, the food was second to none. Overall, it was a very memorable week.
Then it was time to head further east, to the third Berkley B1 tournament of the year, on Lake St. Francis in Valleyfield, Quebec. The thing about fishing Lake St. Francis is that there are so many options. It’s one of those fisheries where you can fish shallow, you can fish deep, you can fish for largemouth or you can fish for smallmouth. We decided that we were going to keep an open mind, but we would definitely not spend any time on largemouth bass. Over the years largemouth have been our demise at this tournament. Every time we’ve gone for them we have never done well. Although there are big largemouth there, they just can’t compete with the big smallmouth.
On the first day we weighed in 20.92-pounds of smallmouth bass. Three of those fish came from shallow water on the new Berkley Max Scent General stickbait, rigged wacky style. The other two came from deep water and were caught by Carolina rigging a green pumpkin coloured Berkley Rocket Craw.
On day-two we fished deep for the entire day and weighed in with 20.89-pounds, putting us in 9th overall in the tournament. Chris and Cory Johnston continued their ways by weighing in 49-pounds of smallmouth over two-days and winning their second B1 tournament of the year. What can I say; those kids really know how to catch them.
Then it was off to LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp on Rainy Lake, in Ontario’s Sunset Country. I’ve heard about Rainy Lake for decades but I’ve never, ever made a trip there to fish, so I was looking forward to getting up there. Our goal on this trip was to fish for walleyes and crappies, even though I know that Rainy Lake has a tremendous bass fishery, primarily for smallmouth. Since I had just finished fishing for smallmouth during the Berkley B1 tournament on Lake St. Frances, I thought it would be nice to switch gears and try some late September walleye and crappie fishing on this trip.
On day-one Dale La Belle showed us some islands and shoals to hit for walleyes. His spots were right on the mark because by lunchtime we had caught numerous eating sized walleyes. We went back out in the afternoon and caught several more walleyes up to four-pounds before deciding to call it a day. That evening I asked Dale how the crappie fishing would be and his reply was that we could go and give it a shot, so we went out the next morning and just hammered slab-sized crappies.
What really made this trip special was getting the chance to know Dale LaBelle and his extended family. Meeting and spending time with them, along with the great fishing we had, made this a trip that I wish I had done years ago. Having met the gang at La Belle’s, I’ll definitely be back – whether they want me or not!
I was going to fish the Lake Erie Open on the first weekend of October but for some reason Cory Johnston decided to have his wedding on the same day. I asked him if he could move his wedding but he didn’t seem to think that was possible. So we ended up not fishing the Lake Erie Open and going to Cory Johnston and Kerrilee Delong’s wedding instead.
Kidding aside, it was a lot of fun. They had their wedding party in an airplane hanger at Cory’s aunt’s place in the country, outside of Peterborough, and they asked me if I would do a little talk at the wedding reception, which I was happy to do. When Cory got up to talk at the end of the night, he asked if me and some of the other Canadian tournament anglers who were there would stand up. I thought it was really nice that he would acknowledge all of us. After about eight of us stood up, Cory said, “I just want to thank all of you guys for helping to pay for this wonderful meal tonight.” It was an awesome line! His delivery was right on and everybody had a good chuckle about the money we’ve donated in entry fees that he and his brother have won over the years.
After the wedding I was scheduled to fish with charter captain Jim Fleming for muskies on Lake St. Clair. We’ve had some wonderful trips fishing with him over the years and have always had success. One of the things that I really admire about Jim is that he will call off a trip if the conditions don’t look ideal, and that’s exactly what happened. The fishing had been pretty good and then the wind switched direction and blew a lot of floating weeds into the areas Jim fishes. When you’ve got a lot of floating weeds on Lake St. Clair it gets on your line and slides down to your lures. It makes trolling very hard and it cuts down your odds substantially, so he called off the shoot.
Later that week I was off to Kentucky Lake for two days of scouting before the lake became off-limits before the FLW/Costa Championship. After 25 or 30-years of running a Chevy Suburban I had decided to switch things up and I bought a GMC diesel Denali pickup. I had just picked up the new truck and decided to break it in on this trip to Kentucky Lake. My buddy Rick McCrory, from Pointe-Claire, Quebec, joined me. We caught a few largemouth here and there, including a couple of good ones, but overall the fishing was really tough. After our two days of practice the folks at the FLW headquarters let me leave my boat down there, so we left the boat and drove straight back to Ontario.
When I got home I had to pack and get ready for a following day departure to the Amazon. This was my third trip to fish the Rio Negro River for peacock bass and I was pretty excited about it. There’s no question that, pound for pound, peacocks are the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there.
When we arrived David McCarthy, from Hooked on Adventures, who had put this trip together, said it had rained three-days earlier and the river came up about three-feet, making the fishing tough. He was with a group the week prior and on the first part of their trip they caught a lot of 20-pound-plus fish. They had an incredible outing before the rain came. When the river rises it disperses a lot of fish. They either go out into open water or way back into the jungle, making them a lot harder to find. So we ended up having to work a little harder than normal for the fish.
My brother Wayne, off-camera and in another boat, caught the biggest peacock of the week, a 22-pound trophy, by trolling a homemade bucktail hair jig. Truly a fish of a lifetime. I believe my biggest was about eight-pounds. I caught a few in that range both on topwaters and bucktails. My son Darren caught a 13-pounder on a topwater ripper-type bait. It was pretty cool because that fish exploded on this bait about 10-feet away from the boat as it was being ripped across the surface.
David McCarthy works with the Amazon Lord and the Amazon Lord II. Both of these boats are luxurious and are incredible to stay on for a week of fishing down there. The food was top-notch and each room had two beds, a fridge and a bathroom. There were areas to sit outside, air conditioned areas inside to watch movies or play cards; a bar and a dining room. It was really a nice setup. I will say that out of all the trips I’ve ever done for peacock bass, staying aboard the Amazon Lord with the good group of people that were with us, certainly made this trip memorable.
When we got back home on Sunday afternoon I had to get some things unpacked, then repack some other things because the next morning I had a 14-hour drive back to Kentucky Lake in Tennessee. The good thing was I didn’t have a boat to tow, since I’d left it down there two-weeks prior. I got on the water for Tuesday and half a day Wednesday to scout as much as I could. I caught a few keepers – which have to be a minimum of 15-inches – on an Alabama rig so I was pretty excited about that.
My game plan for the tournament was to run some rock bluffs that were about 60 to 80-miles down south on the Tennessee River, and also fish some back bays in the area with topwater lures. Because I was running so far and had an early weigh-in time, I only had about 5-hours to fish on the first day. I started off on day-one by fishing two different creeks but I didn’t catch any keepers. I had one heavy fish hit an Alabama rig in deep water along one of the bluffs on the main river, but it got off. I caught some non-keepers during the day but when it was all said and done I came in with a big, fat, goose-egg.
On day-two I had to make a decision: do I burn all that time and gas and run south again? Since I had a late check-in (I didn’t weigh in until 5:10 that day) I decided to make the run. Well, first thing in the morning, on my first stop, I caught a 3-pound, 13-ouncer on an Alabama rig at the mouth of one of the creeks and thought, “Hey, I could have a good day”.
Later on we pulled in to get some gas and, while we were filling up the Ranger, my co-angler noticed a bass chasing bait on the other side of the creek. After filling up the boat we went over to where the fish was, and didn’t my co-angler catch it on a buzzbait! It ended up being over 3-pounds so we decided to go further back into the creek but the fish we caught there were just short of being keepers.
We came across a few logs in the water and I threw a chatterbait over one of them. All of a sudden I saw a fish flash on the lure so I let him suck it in. I set the hook and was fighting him but halfway to the boat the hook pulled out. That fish was over 5-pounds. Later on I lost another 2-pounder that hit an Alabama rig along a rock bluff. I should have had over 10-pounds that day, which would have been a pretty respectable for three fish, but as it turned out I only weighed in one fish for the tournament.
To tell you how hard this tournament was, only one person out of the entire field of almost 200 professionals weighed in a limit three days in a row. It just goes to show you how tough some of these fisheries can be. When the fish aren’t biting there’s not much you can do.
When I got home it was time for our annual wine tasting dinner at the Between the Lines winery in the Niagara region of southern Ontario. As usual the food was off the charts, and the wine tasting was very interesting with some very unique tastes. We certainly enjoyed a lot of the different flavours that evening while we were picking our next Izumi wine.
Then I tagged up with Larry McNamee, the founder of BoaterExam.com, to do some swimbait fishing for smallmouth bass on Lake St. Francis. Although we had a cool northeast breeze that day, we scrounged up about 10 smallmouth up to about 4½-pounds by fishing the Berkley Pro Shad swimbait on a jighead. The key was to get our baits down to the bottom, in around the rocks, and slowly swim them about 6-inches above the rocks.
After having a successful day on Lake St. Francis it was back home and then off again the next day to Lake Erie to fish some smallmouth bass. I wanted to do some spoon jigging for the cold water smallmouth but for some reason the water temperature was still pretty warm. Here it was, the middle of November, and the water temperature was still 50°F. We ended up catching fish just under 6-pounds on a ¾-ounce, gold-coloured Johnson Splinter Spoon. We got quite a few big, fat smallmouth and had a good shoot down there.
Then it was down to the Bay of Quinte to do a show with charter captain Scott Walcott. Scott’s an accomplished charter captain who has been operating down in the Bay of Quinte for a long time.
About two-years ago he acquired the Picton Harbour Inn, which is right at the tip of the bay in Picton. We stayed there and I’ve got to tell you, I love that place. It’s a quaint place to stay and they’ve redone all of the rooms. And, what can I say, the breakfasts there are incredible!
As usual Scott didn’t disappoint me on the fishing. Because it was just a down and dirty trip I decided to fish aboard Scott’s custom made aluminum boat that has a cuddy cabin. Throughout the day there’s always a fresh pot of coffee and you can sit in the heated cabin or stand outside, depending on the weather.
We ended up trolling in 100-plus-feet of water and caught six fish with the biggest being 11-pounds, 5-ounces. We had another one just under 10-pounds and four smaller fish. We got what we needed for the show, we had a wonderful time with Scott and, as usual, his hospitality was second to none.
I was on Lake Erie yesterday with my old buddy Mike Watson. Mike recently retired from his auto manufacturing job and is enjoying the good life doing a lot of fishing. I jumped in Mike’s boat for a couple of hours of fishing and we caught about 15 bass up to 5-pounds. What can I say, it’s a dirty job…and I hope to be doing for a long, long time!