Winds blow Team Ontario chances off course

Last week, we left off describing - the pre-fishing preparations for the Ontario Bass Federation annual Hank Gibson provincial qualifier tournament. This year's event was held in Orillia and the top 12 anglers would qualify for the Eastern Divisional Championships that will also be held here on Lake Simcoe next summer.

My pre-fishing the week before the event re-enforced my belief that in order to qualify for Team Ontario a fourth time, I would have to put all my eggs in one basket and focus on large mouth bass instead of the more plentiful and generally bigger smallmouth.

As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't pattern those darned smallies. To make this even more of a precarious gameplan, I would have to travel all the way from Orillia to Cook's Bay both days. If I had even one day of weather that would keep me near Orillia - I felt I was doomed.

My worst fears were realized early on day one of the big event. In boat No. 07, I was in the first flight, blasting off at 6:30 a.m. I went out of Couchiching, through the Atherly Narrows and into Simcoe. Then I saw my first bass boat turn back.

"Can the winds be that bad?" Ken Hamilton of the Mississauga Bassmaster said.

Well they were and several times I thought of turning back. Several other boats did because of the strong south winds, but slowly and carefully I picked a safe route along the west shore. It took a little less than two hours to get to Cook's Bay. I pulled four largemouth bass from my first spot with my Rapala fire tiger Colored DT 16, caught two 4.5 pound­ ers with the same lure from another spot. Before I knew it, I had 17 pounds of bass in the wells without even hitting all of my best spots. It was a great first day, despite the wind and I was 6th out of 150 anglers.

Day 2 was the exact opposite in more ways than one. The 40-minuts run down the calm lake to the bay was a sheer pleasure. Right away, I man­ aged two quick largies on my same hot deep diving crankbait and then began to struggle.

I pull up to it excitedly - a gorgeous deep weed point combined with an inside turn that was just stacked with big bass in pre-fish and the day before when I nailed my two big ones despite the high wind that wouldn't let me fish there effectively. La and behold, another tournament competitor is right there on my spot.

The place is far too small for more than one boat, so I move on to my second best spot. r can hardly believe my eyes when yet again another accomplished tournament angler is sitting right there hauling in bass. I move on-dejected. At the next spot, my partner skillfully used a big tube jig to catch his limit of largemouth that would tip the scales at more than 18 pounds. I only caught only one, two-pound keeper in the bay for myself.

Back-near the weigh-in at the Orlllia waterfront, I get one more small 'bass but know my four bass and eight pounds aren't going to do much for me. I placed 18th with 25.70 and it takes 27.52 to qualify. I was one bass away from qualifying for Team Ontario - ah the joys of tournament fishing.

2008 Qualifier Focus on Fishing article.pdf