Interview with Canadian Bass Tournament Record Holders

Lake Simcoe Open Winners Joe Muszynski and Mark Moran
Winners of 2010 BPS Lake Simcoe Open
The total weight of 31.5 lbs weighed-in by this team set the all time record for the heaviest five Bass ever weighed in a Canadian Bass Tournament! Learn how they did it ... right here with this Focus On Fishing interview.






BPS Lake Simcoe Open Winners
Joe Muszynski (left) being interviewed by MC Dave Mercer, partner Mark Moran looks on

It’s been described as the greatest victory in the history of Canadian Tournament Bass Fishing! Not only did Mark Moran and Joe Muszynski win one of the largest cash payouts ($53,000) in the history of the sport here in Canada, they did it in grand style and set a new all time Canadian record to boot at the 2010 BPS Lake Simcoe Open hosted by the Aurora Bassmasters... Canada’s premier one day bass fishing tournament.
Focus on Fishing interviewed them recently to try and learn just what set these two anglers apart that fateful day on October 23rd 2010 when they were crowned champions.

Focus On Fishing: Age, marital status, kids, job, sponsors and how long you’ve been fishing tournaments?
Mark: 43, married to Carol, 5 kids, Dealer Development Manager for Masterfeeds, fishing tournaments for 15 + years, fishing since 4 yrs old.  I grew up on the Bay of Quinte. Sponsors are Extreme Marine, Fishing Depot, Set The Hook
Joe: 32 years old, married to beautiful loving wife Eli. My boy William is three and is the center of my universe.  I work for the telephone company as a cable splicer.  I have been fishing competitively for about 15 years now. Shimano , Angling Outfitters in Woodstalk, Top Gun Marine, Power Proline and Set The Hook

Focus On Fishing: How many days did you pre-fish prior to the event?   Did you fish Simcoe at other times of the year with this tournament in mind? Please explain your pre-fishing techniques. Would you dissect certain sections of the lake and also try to figure out weather and wind patterns?

Dave Mercer
Mark’s turn for an interview with Facts of Fishing Fishing’s funny man Dave Mercer

Mark: We prefished five days prior to the tournament.  I spent a minimum of 10 days this summer fishing Lake Simcoe.  I would spend part of the time catching or at least trying to catch and part of the day mapping and searching areas with my Humminbird Side Finder.  I would say it definitely paid off because when it came time to prefish we were able to locate fish quickly and begin to plan our tournament day.

Decision making on the water was critical during the tournament.  We actually pulled into our first spot; made two drifts and left with 15 minutes! We just didn’t like what we saw so moved to where we caught all our fish.  Without prefishing that decision would not have been possible. 

For prefish we used tubes and dropshot to catch fish to see the size of the bass we were looking at.  During prefish we moved very fast and that actually helped us find the pattern we used during the tournament.  We found the fish were scattered so we moved fast using our electronics to locate fish and put our baits right on the fish.  Some would bite, others would not, and it was a matter of presenting our baits to as many fish as we could.  I also spent every day looking at the Lake Simcoe weather buoy to follow the water temperature and a number of weather stations to see what winds would be etc.

Joe: Mark’s devotion to scour Lady Simcoe all summer looking to uncover one of her hidden gems was key to our victory.  He does this almost exclusively for the BPS open, but also for the odd summer event and because he truly has a passion for the lake.  It helped us immensely because in the few decent practice days you get during the week of the tournament, you can bounce around quickly and sort out who's home and who's not.  And at that point you're more "checking" as opposed to "looking" for good zones. 

We book off the week before the event every year, but may only get out for a couple of days (weather permitting).  A lot of our practice involves graphing out areas.  We spend hours staring at that little screen hoping to see a sign of anything that looks like it will warrant further investigation.   At this late point in the season bass are in transition; moving towards their wintering areas ... so you can't totally focus on where they are as much as where they’re going!  Smallmouth move almost daily around the time of this event. The huge deal is trying to stay on top of them.

Focus On Fishing:  How many bass did you catch during the day? What depth, did you drag your tubes and drop, your drop-shot? Care to elaborate on color, weight, brand names?  Dragging speed - did it make a difference?

Mark: We caught around 20 fish or so.  Fish were in 30 to 40 feet of water. Our biggest fish was in 36.  I was using a green pumpkin tube on a 3/16 weight.  The drop shot I used was a custom, hand poured minnow bait, in white/black.  We move fast looking for fish and then dropped baits down on them.  Speed is deceiving; we moved fast but fished slow! This means we covered water but when we marked a fish on the graph we slowed right down.  Presenting our baits to as many fish as possible was important and key to success.

Joe: For Lake Simcoe’s proverbial poverty bite standards, WE ABSOLUTELY PASTED THEM!  We caught over 20 bass between 4.5 and just under 7lbs.  It was the most incredible day a bass angler could ever ask for.  We would drag a tube around until we marked a pod and then drop down and pick them off with a drop shot.  Our dragging speed made a huge difference because the fish were scattered and we had to move around fairly quick so we could keep up with them. 

Lake Simcoe Open trophy
Joe and Mark hoisting the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open trophy.
The custom made trophy can be seen at Bass Pro Shops in Vaughan. Photo by Wil Wegman

Focus On Fishing: You said 90% of the time on Simcoe you struggle.  Perhaps not enough people can appreciate this - all the hard work (and brutal fishing - weather and lack of action) that goes into developing the skill and knowledge to weigh-in big bags at this time of the year on Simcoe.  Can you please elaborate on the whole struggling part - and paying your dues?  What makes Simcoe so tough for that 90% and yet still be one of the finest trophy smallmouth lakes on the planet for the rest of that 10% of the time?

Mark: Generally summer fishing on Simcoe can be tough.  Fish will be in an area for days and then gone.  I fished/won the CSFL twilight tournament last summer with Doug Brownridge and we fished on a group of fish that I had been catching all summer.  The week following we went back and nothing; they never did come back. 

I have had success in an area one year and never saw the numbers or size of fish in that spot again.  It’s that type of situation that leads me to begin looking for new areas and patterns.

Don't forget the old spot because the bass will be there again sometime. The fish are always somewhere. 

In the fall it is easier to locate them but getting them to eat becomes the tough part.  Let the fish tell you what they want. 

Joe: Lake Simcoe is feast or famine!  We fish to win bass tournaments, not place.  If you asked me for a few zones on Simcoe to catch a limit of two pounders I couldn't even give you one. I think they hatch at 4lbs on that lake!  If you fish to win on Simcoe you have to be prepared to weigh in a bagel.  We caught a lot of fish this year, but that isn't the norm.  I've always said that 8 bites on Simcoe is a great day and you have a shot at the win. 

Between Mark and me, we've had more bad days than good. But when you have a good day on Simcoe you’re going to weigh a SACK! Every time that you launch your rig here you have a chance to accomplish something special like we did.  However you have to gamble because with such a trophy class of fish you have go for broke if you truly want to weigh five of the lake's biggest beasts.  When you roll the dice like that you can hero or zero because these fish are extremely pressured and educated ... They are the hardest fish to catch in the province!

Dave Mercer
Double High Fives right after Dave Mercer announces
they won and are now Canadian Record Holders. Photo by Wil Wegman

When fishing this huge, wide open lake if things don't go well in the first few hours, it doesn't leave you enough time to scramble around the lake in panic mode to scrape up a limit.  Every time you try but fail on Simcoe its part of paying your dues because you always learn a little something every time out ... another piece of the puzzle. 

To succeed on Lake Simcoe you have to keep taking your lumps and the ability to put it all together to have just one shot at glory.

Focus On Fishing: Would this be the biggest win of your lives? Plans for the winnings? What you think of this event and this lake compared to others you fish?

Mark: Definitely the biggest win of my life.  The record feels bigger than the win, since the days of the Crackle Cup I've dreamed of that 30 pound bag.  I didn't think it was possible this early in the year. I think that's why we were so surprised with the weight and all those big fish. Throughout the course of the whole season, I think the fish were heavy throughout. Perhaps the warmer season contributed to that; who knows?  I would have to say it is the best event I fish hands down.

Lake Simcoe is my favorite lake.  I live in Port Perry and did not put the boat in Lake Scugog the whole year! I will drive to Simcoe before anywhere.  I think Simcoe is a tremendous fishery - smallmouth and largemouth.  My family loves to go to Simcoe to enjoy the water as well. We like to fish for a while and then pull into a sand bar and swim.  It just has so much to offer.  I am happy to see the research work that is being done at these tournaments to measure the impact on techniques like fizzing and tournaments on the fishery.

Joe: In my career I have won TOY titles, a Classic and some one day events, but winning the BPS Open is by far my greatest accomplishment.  I have a deep passion and respect for this body of water and to set the record with all the Lake Simcoe greats who fish this event is very special to me.  I need to upgrade a lot of electronics on my boat and my very first purchase will be a fish finder with side scanning technology.  I've wanted one so bad for years and now I have an opportunity to buy one. I will also put a chunk of money away for my son Will’s education. 

This event is a standalone and I think everyone agrees that it is the biggest tournament in our country.  The industry support and preparation are phenomenal and make this event a huge success. One of the reasons Simcoe is so productive is because it has an abundance of food. Crayfish, smelt, emeralds, and now the round goby!  These Simcoe Smallies have an endless buffet and I think it is scary to think how big they will get.  31.5 pounds for five bass and one just over 8 pounds ... Who would have thought that would have ever been possible?

Official weight
Official weight turned out to be 31.5 pounds for five bass.
Here fish are shown in Shimano in-water weigh-in system - bass
were also verified via dry-weight. Photo by Wil Wegman

Focus On Fishing: What do you think you did differently to elevate your game this year compared to others? There are plenty of big bass in Simcoe ... did you have areas that you ignored because they customarily produced smaller fish- perhaps just four pounders when you needed sixes? 

Mark: I think there were two things that contributed to elevating our game.  We had finished 3rd our first year, 2nd the year after and last year we made a bad decision and it cost us.  The second factor really is an extension of the first.  We made the right decisions in 2010.   

Joe: Like I said earlier Simcoe produces GIANTS and we often pass over the smaller 4's and 5's (LOL) for a shot at the true brutes that the lake has to offer.  Lake Simcoe has always and will continue to produce giant smallmouth bass.  It isn't just the smallmouth though, the lake produces giant catches largemouth as well as perch, whitefish, lake trout pike name it.   

Focus On Fishing: Lasting thoughts?

Mark: Thanks to Aurora Bassmasters and Bass Pro Shops and all the sponsors and volunteers...  Awesome event!  I did the culling during the tournament and a number of our fish had been previously fizzed - some likely just days prior to the event.  It was very clear a number of fish we caught had previously been caught, thanks to catch and release.

Joe: Really just like to say a huge heartfelt thank you to all the sponsors and volunteers of the BPS Open. Jack's Links, BoaterExam, Humminbird, Advanced Taxidermy, Minn Kota, Rapala, Ontario's Lake Country, Ontario Tourism, Berkley, Toyota, Tracker boats, Maple Toyota, Mustang Survival, Shimano, Yamaha, G.Loomis, Strike King Lures, Musky graphics, Bass Pro Shops and the CSFL.

31.5 pounds of smallmouth
31.5 pounds of smallmouth - all were successfully live released
after being tagged and sampled for the award winning Lake Simcoe Bass Research Program.
This Photo by George Wallace; all others by author

Focus On Fishing:  Now that the 2010 BPS Lake Simcoe Open is over three months behind us, have your lives changed any? Are you receiving more invites to speak at clubs or make other presentations? Did any additional sponsorship arise from your win? What are your tournament plans for 2011?
Mark: For me it changed for a few weeks with phone calls, interviews etc. but all is back to normal now. There were and are still a few invites to speak at clubs. BassTalk has invited me to speak for the first time, at their Whitby event and I am looking forward to that.

I have been working with Set The Hook for a few years now. Since the tournament, that sponsorship has increased and they have brought Joey on board as well. Set The Hook tubes have contributed a lot to the success we have had at the Simcoe Open over the past four years. Right now I plan on fishing the CSFL Casey Cup on Sunday June 26th and the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open on Oct 23rd 2011.

Joe: Life has definitely changed for the better around my house. There’s something about not paying interest anymore that is very liberating! I have certainly done my rounds for club talks since the win and I think I have another three or four to do in the coming months. I have two Basstalk seminars scheduled and possibly a seminar or two at the coming shows. The win has definitely strengthened the bond with existing sponsors and have added Set the Hook as a new sponsor for 2011. I have free entries for the Western and Northern Division of the CSFL Bassmania so I'll be fishing those along with the Berkley B1, Orillia Fall Challenge and of course the Bass Pro Shops Open!

Below ... Author, Lake Simcoe Open Competitor, and coordinator of the Lake Simcoe Bass Tagging Research Project Wil Wegman with the 8.05 pound smallmouth weighed in by James Paluch and Shaun McKay. This fish also ended up being a Canadian record - for the heaviest bass ever weighed in during a tournament in this country. Here this bass and others were fizzed, measured, scales and spines were taken for ageing and they were double tagged with a unique number on each tag. “ Anglers catching this, or any one of over 1,300 tagged bass from tournaments on Lake Simcoe over the last 5 years are asked to call in with the numbers and details of their catch,” asks Wegman.

Wil Wegman with bass