As you may know I like driving, so jumping in a vehicle and doing a road trip is appealing to me. For years I would routinely do 100,000 km per year or more on the road. So this Tales starts with me heading out again, back to Brennan Harbour Resort in Spanish, Ontario. Located in Algoma Country, this friendly resort is operated by James and Casey, who are a wonderful couple.
It was a few years back when we did a spring walleye trip to this facility so on this two-day outing I wanted to explore the bass fishing. Long-time friend Rob Hyatt, who has guided and tournament fished over the years, joined us to fish this area on northern Lake Huron. He drove over from his home in Callander to hook up with us. We ended up catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass in our two-days of fishing these beautiful waters. Cranking a Berkley War Pig and using the Max Scent General produced for us.
Way back at the Pan American Sportfishing Bass Championship in 2018 I was asked by the “Powers That Be” to host the next Pan American event in Canada. Even though my plate is definitely overflowing with other projects, I agreed to get the event off the ground this year. There were a number of anglers that wanted to participate so we held a qualifying two-day tournament in Cornwall, on Lake St. Francis, in August. This is the same water that the actual Pan Am event would be held on in October.
Thirteen teams caught a bunch of fish during the qualifier. On day-one alone there were eight, five fish limits that went from 20-pounds to 24-pounds. By the end of the two days the top seven teams advanced to join my son Darren and I to represent Team Canada at the event.
We had a very talented group of anglers in place for the full competition. Without the help of the Canadian Sportfishing League and the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.
I had a number of business meetings that I won’t bore you with, interspersed through late summer and fall on a few other projects that I’m involved with. I guess you could say I like to keep a busy schedule.
Then it was back to shooting the show, starting with a trip to Cedar Cove Cottages on Big Rideau Lake. For years I’ve fished Big Rideau, mostly competing in bass tournaments.
Cedar Cove Cottages was definitely one of the most unique resorts I’ve stayed at. It’s a family run establishment with a half-dozen cottages on the shore of Big Rideau. What makes this getaway so special is that it’s surrounded by the family property, called Box Arrow Farms. Thoroughbred race horses and cattle are the first impressions you get as you drive into the farm.
While we were there I had the opportunity to spend some time with owner Shirley Thomas, who is a legend in the horse world. Back in her ‘teens she competed all over the world in a number of competitions, including horse jumping. She was the first woman to win the World Cup. Shirley shared some amazing and inspiring stories on our visit to her family’s property. Her family and staff were gracious hosts during our two days there.
I knew the fishing wouldn’t disappoint us as Big Rideau is an amazing lake. Even though we fished during a cold front, the fish still cooperated. My former neighbour, Mark Alford, joined us and when he wasn’t running the camera boat he enjoyed the best lake trout fishing he’s ever had. My goal was to catch as many species as I could for the show and I ended up getting lakers, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and some jumbo pumpkinseeds and bluegills.
Cedar Cove Cottages is a place where you bring your own supplies and food, as it is a housekeeping facility. We cooked at the cabin one night and went out to eat on two nights at local restaurants. It was a beautiful, private location; wonderful people and, of course, lots of fish. What more could you ask for?
My brother Wayne is involved in a company called Izumi Aquaculture that has a very interesting way of farm raising rainbow trout in reclaimed gravel pits. It’s a clean, sustainable way of producing fish for the table. Wine-maker Greg Wertsch, from Between the Lines Winery, and I did a little fish catching for some of the escapees at the facility. We shot some video and I have to confess, the fishing was pretty easy. Greg had never fished before in his life and I think he wants to take up the sport now. I just hope he isn’t disappointed if he goes out to try some real fishing down the road!
It’s hard to believe I had never been to Manitoulin Island in my life until this past September. The adventure started with us taking the Chi-Cheemaun ferry across Lake Huron to the island. It was a very cool boat ride with our trucks and boats on board. Wayne had friends John Ward and Mike Jenkins join us on the trip.
Once on Manitoulin we drove up to the north side, to Batman’s Cottages and Campground. On arrival owners Andre and Lisa, as well as a group of die-hard resident anglers, were there to greet us. They all were super-friendly people who would do anything for you.
The lake trout trolling was on pretty good as a number of them were caught by the gang, but we decided to focus on smallmouth bass on our two-days of fishing as I wasn’t set up for trolling. It didn’t disappoint us as we got a lot of smallmouth, along with a big bonus largemouth bass, during our stay. My only regret is that I couldn’t have spent more time fishing there.
After we got back I finally had my first weekend open all season. Rather than spending it at home I took an invitation from my friend/neighbour, Mario Rollo, to visit his cottage on the shores of Georgian Bay. I did a little boating and a lot of eating up there. He really should open up a restaurant – the guy’s a great cook. Many of the items we ate came from his garden just down the road. Okay, enough about food, I’m getting hungry!
As we got into the fall it seemed like we had a lot more windier days than normal. As a big water angler I like to fish the Great Lakes but you really had to pick your days to go. I got out for an afternoon fish at Long Point on Lake Erie but the winds had a lot of the outer bay stirred up, so the fishing was spotty. In the few hours I fished, a long, skinny largemouth, two decent smallmouth, a jumbo perch and a rock bass were all that bit. A few days later I thought I’d hit the eastern basin of Lake Erie and hammered the bass on a Berkley Warpig lipless crankbait. The water was a bit choppy, but the fish didn’t mind.
Long-time friend and tournament angler Jay McCormack joined me for the Canadian Tire Open out of Chippewa, Ontario the following weekend. This is a one-day tournament that is a lot of fun. Unfortunately the high winds put Lake Erie off limits, making it a Niagara River only event. We managed to catch our limit of five bass but only one of them was the quality we needed to do well in this event. Hey, we were only four bites away from having a big limit! Overall it was a lot of fun and a very well-run tournament.
My son Darren and I were fortunate enough to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family before jumping in the truck and heading east to Cornwall for the first-ever Pan American Sportfishing Bass Championship held in Canada. There were eight teams from Canada, eight teams from the USA, seven teams from Mexico and three teams from the First Nations (Akwesasne).
We arrived late that night with the boat and truck completely full of tournament swag for all involved. It was about 4 am before I finally closed my eyes and fell asleep. Even though the plan was to pre-fish for the next few days, that was cut short because I had to do a lot of event organizing with the CSIA, the CSFL, the competitors and the media.
The cool and unique aspect of this event was that Team Canada all worked together. We had a great group of people and shared what we were finding on the water. Even though finesse presentations were working, a few of our team members were using a more aggressive approach, power fishing with inline spinners and chatterbaits for the shallow smallmouth.
The Pan Am tournament was scheduled to be two days of competition with gold, silver and bronze medals going to the top three countries as well as to the top three individual teams. As it turned out, the weather on day-one was nasty with high winds and torrential rain. In this event each boat had a scrutineer on board with the two team members. With three people in the boat it’s safety first, especially with the cold water, so it was decided to cancel day-one and make it a one-day event the following day.
The twist to having a one day tournament was that there would be two weigh-ins during the course of the day; the first at 11:30 am and the second at 5 pm. All of us had to have our “A Games” ready for the two different sessions. It was like fishing a two-day tournament in one day.
It was so cold and windy out there, yet the fish cooperated, big time! Of the 27 teams competing, 15 weighed in five fish limits over 20-pounds in the morning session. The fishing was off the charts with Team Mexico weighing in a 25-pound limit. The afternoon bite was a bit slower yet seven teams still topped the 20-pound mark.
The overall country medals were decided by the country’s total weight divided by the number of teams they had in the event. When the numbers were crunched, Team Canada prevailed by .01 of a pound over Team USA. Our team average was 38.98 while the USA had 38.97 pounds. Team Mexico took home the bronze. The individual team medals were dominated by the United States, who took the gold, silver and bronze.
None of the teams knew who won until it was announced at the evening banquet. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement when we found out Team Canada had won the overall championship. This event could not have happened without the hard work by all involved. Special thanks to the City of Cornwall, SDG Counties, and Ramada Cornwall for all of their support.
I get to meet a lot of interesting people in my travels. A few years back I had the pleasure of taping a show at Hawk’s Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. It was there I met manager Sheldon Suga, who recently invited us to a Hawk’s Cay Resort media function at Canoe Restaurant in Toronto. It was a fun night with good company and excellent food. The resort was damaged in a hurricane in 2017, and an announcement was made that it is better than ever after major renovations of $50 million had been completed.
The next day we were on the road at 5 am to hit Lake St. Clair for some late season muskies. Captain Jim Fleming, from Drifter II Charters, has paid his dues over the years and certainly knows his stuff. Day-one ended with two muskies landed and I lost a good one. We decided to get a hotel and give it another shot the next morning. By lunch we landed three, including a 45 and a fat 50-incher. We were on the road by lunch with another successful outing fishing with Jim under our belts.
As I mentioned earlier, the wind and weather has really limited my late fall days on the water. Whatever I’m doing, it seems like I’m always keeping an eye on the wind and the weather forecast. Well, the wind finally laid down but I was up to my ears in other work. That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore so I hooked up the boat and hit Lake Erie for two-hours of fishing before the sun set. The fish were absolutely on fire and I landed 15 fish, all of them on a ¾-ounce gold Johnson Splinter Spoon. The biggest was just under seven-pounds.
A few days later a dozen of us had an off-site business meeting in the new boardroom that my friend, Charter Captain Scott Walcott, has put in at the Picton Harbour Inn. It’s always nice to mix a bit of pleasure with business, so we had Scott and his brother Dave take us out on their charter boats for an afternoon of walleye fishing. We landed three on Scott’s boat with the biggest being nine-pounds. Three fish were caught on Dave’s boat with one of our attendees, Nicole, catching her first ever fish – a 13.25-pound walleye. Not a bad start, but I think that giant fish might have ruined her fishing for life!
After getting back I was up to my ears with other work, but there wasn’t a breath of wind. It was time to hook up the Ranger and go back to Erie, even though I’d only have an hour to fish by time I got there. What can I say; by “strolling” a Berkley 3.8-inch Power Swimmer with the electric motor, a half a dozen smallmouth fell victim before it was time to head back to the launch.
As you may or may not know, I love my food so I was pumped to join Chef Mark McEwan at Gordon Food Services in Milton. Chef Mark has a lot going on with restaurants, grocery stores, TV hosting etc. We taped a segment with him, showing how to prepare rainbow trout from Izumi Aquaculture. It was, without a doubt, the finest trout meal I’ve ever had. To top it off, the folks from Between the Lines Winery brought out their latest red wine for a tasting to determine the next batch of Izumi red.
As I’ve done all fall, I kept a close eye on the wind and a day later there was a window of light winds forecast for the second from last day of the bass season. I decided to go back to Erie for some smallmouth fishing with friends Peter and Mike Greco, from Vinylguard Window & Door Systems Ltd. The water was murky from two days of heavy wind but we made the most of the conditions. The key was using a super-slow presentation dragging tube jigs on the bottom. After catching 15 smallmouth bass I’d say it was worth the trip. The last few months have been busy but they’ve also been a lot of fun, and that makes for an amazing journey.