The High’s and Low’s of my 2010 Tournament Season

Wil's MuskieWow ... 2010 was quite a year!  I’ve been a hard core tournament junkie since the first year I bought an aluminum Spring Bok bass boat with a 30HP outboard.  That was 1986 and I used it extensively until the mid 1990’s when I upgraded to a Nitro Bass Boat.

  I’ve always understood that tournaments here in Canada are very seldom a money generating activity ... but I continue to fish them with a passion. Why? Cause I just love the competition ... But surprisingly perhaps, it’s really more about me competing against the fish than against the other anglers in the tournament.  

In 2010, I competed in over 20 tournaments from start to finish and perhaps like no other season was aware of the highs and lows that these events bring.  In this look-back, I will try and recall the basic highlights of all those events and tag them as either a high or a low.   By the end of it all we’ll see which outnumbers the other.
Competitive Fishing Events are exciting and accelerate the learning curve far more rapidly than just regular fishing.  After 25 years, I’m still learning with every event I fish... and that is a huge part of the appeal.   Regardless of whether you are just getting into the game, a club angler or are a seasoned pro, I hope you enjoy reading over this piece as you begin to look forward to another exhilarating year on the water.

1) Feb 20 and 21, Canadian Ice Fishing Championship, Lake Simcoe:

Rating: High

For the last couple of years, I was unable to fish in Canada’s major ice fishing tournament because of my duties to cover the Bassmaster Classic in the US.  As Conservation and Media Director for the Ontario BASS Federation Nation, I would also attend the conservation meetings held concurrently while down there. In 2010, BASS elected not to host conservation meetings so I was available to fish the hard water competition at home.

For the ice fishing tournament again lined up accommodations with my friend Gerry Kucharchuk of the Peninsula Resort in Pefferlaw and my regular tournament partner Gerry Heels and I stayed there during the competition.  It was a real high during the registration night to see my former boss Peter Waring receive the Bill Bond Memorial Award for dedication to conserving and promoting the Lake Simcoe fishery.  I nominated Peter because of his lifelong service with MNR – a great deal of which went beyond the call of duty because of his passion for the lake in his backyard.

Fishing during the championships wasn’t terrific for anyone really on the deep water day ( lakers and whitefish) but we did ok in shallow water for perch.  Our overall standing was a respectable 19th place.  One 'big fish’ would have certainly moved us to top ten where we would have won money instead of prizes – but several of the 80 teams could make the same claim.  A more in-depth article on this event can be found here.

Rating: High

2) March 6, Perch Attack, Lake Simcoe: Gerry and I prefished just one day for this event and found some perch, but knew the quality wasn’t there to win.  Despite a little gambling to try and find bigger perch the day of the event, we could not lose sight of the fact that the fish we did find 'weren’t all that bad.’ So, we fished hard, caught 7.79 lbs worth for 15 perch and placed 15th out of 35 teams.

Notables include catching my first ever round goby thru the ice.   We were getting picked at by small fish but weren’t able to connect - and every once in awhile would get a decent perch like the one Gerry is holding below.  But as you can see in the pic beside that- goby were also around and biting the same HT Alien Jigs tipped with a maggot and Micro Craw.


Rating: High

3) June 6, 2010 Metro Toronto Police Association Charity Pike Tournament Keswick Lake Simcoe

Three months after my last tournament and my first open water one of the year. This one was for Northern Pike and we would represent Lake Simcoe Living Magazine . I used to fish many pike tournaments up north every spring, but for various reasons haven’t the past few years.  They can be a lot of fun and great practice before the all-important bass tournament season starts.

Wil holding his pike (right) and Bob’s winning pike (left).
Bob sliced his hand on his pike and was unable
to hold his fish - Wil gladly obliged for this photo opp.

Fighting the elements is par for the course on Lake Simcoe and this event was no exception, with heavy rain, wild winds and four foot waves. I was fishing with fellow Aurora Bassmaster Bob Kendall of Newmarket who has caught his share of tournament winning pike over the years... and he nailed the biggest one of this event; a nice 9.15 pounder. Complete details available here
Rating: Low

4) June 27, Casey Cup, CSFL Bassmania Wildcard Orillia, Lake Simcoe

We only had one day to prefish because bass season had just opened the day before the event.  It rained and blew so hard that pre-fish day; we couldn’t get our boats in the water till noon ... a real bummer.  Even worse, our traditional spots were void of bass.  New ones didn’t yield anything better.  Come tournament day, we struggled big time ... Man it was tough and frustrating because we have caught some monster smallies at this time of year in shallow water.
Rating: High

5) Tuesday June 29, Aurora Bassmaster Club Tournament - Lake Eugenia

This was our first club tournament of the year.  We like to fish this small lake mid week and early in the season to maximize our chances at catching lots of fish.   Most people come in with a limit but finding the bigger bass is a challenge.   Last year I was paired with Des Barnes, and it was his first time on these waters.  He placed first and I was 2nd.   This time fishing was tougher and although we fished some of the same areas as the year prior only a few still produced.  I got most of my largemouth on a green 5 inch wacky rigged Trigger X stick bait.

9th place/22 anglers

Above, Ontario BASS Federation Nation founder Des Barnes
proudly shows off the Aurora Bassmaster Angler of the Year Trophy he won for the 2009 season.

Rating: High

6) Thursday July 1st Canada Day - Bassmania Halliburton, Lake Kashagawigamog 

1st CSFL Northern Division Series Tournament of the year.  We only had a day to pre fish but made the best of it.  We elected to focus primarily on largemouth instead of smallies like last year.  We established a unique pattern (for us at least) for that early in the season.  Our primary bait was a blue and silver Rapala DT 10 that we threw across 8-12 foot weed flats.  This bait dove to the perfect depth and although it would get hung up occasionally, it was remarkable how easy it would deflect weeds and trigger bass.  It only took a couple of decent largies in pre fish to tell us to come back.  We did and culled several times during the day.  In another location, we did well with Rapala X Raps. We ended up weighing just 9.35 lbs but placed 12th to cash our first check of the bass season.

Rating: High

7) Tuesday July 6th Aurora Bassmaster Club, Gloucester Pool

6th place/26 anglers
One of the most incredible memories of this event was not all the bass we caught but of all the cool fish we saw. I pulled into a new shoreline- one with a very deep break leading in.  At first I couldn’t figure out what all the small 'logs' way up on the surface were as I pulled in.  Then as we slowed down - the logs began to move! We were amongst not just dozens by hundreds of gar pike! There were big ones and small ones all along sections of that particular shoreline. At one point, we actually tried casting to them – forgetting for a moment we were in a bass tournament. “I’ve done this many times over the years and have never actually landed a gar” I said to my non boater ... who proceeded to make a cast with an X Rap jerk bait and catch one on his very first try!

Gar Pike
Gar cruising the water’s surface and Wil holding
one caught from a trap net during fisheries monitoring work.

Rating: Low

8) Sat. July 17,Aurora Bassmaster Club, Kashe Lake

I’ve never really done well on this lake and today was no exception. Just couldn’t seem to get it together.  With so many unmarked rocks and shallow areas to watch out for, I am always a little gun-shy here to explore new areas … but if you want to win in this lake, that’s exactly what you need to do.
12th place/22 anglers

Rating: High

9) Sunday July 18, Junior Bassmaster Mentors Tournament, Gloucester Pool

This was a fun tournament!  My two partners for the day were young Mark Murrison and Alex Ross.  I was the adult 'mentor’ who would take the two kids to different places on either Gloucester Pool or Little Lake and as a three person team we would weigh-in our 5 heaviest bass. This was the first tournament I have ever fished on this system where I decided to stay entirely within Little Lake and not venture into the bigger waters of G Pool!  We didn’t have the highest placing, but thanks to the youngest member of our trio we managed to put a couple of decent limits in the boat .  More importantly we found a pattern and location that Mark used successfully to win the Juniors only tournament the following week.  He also ended up winning the overall points race in the 11-14 age category in 2010 and represented Ontario at the Divisional Championships later that year.

Gar Pike
Mark Morrison - Junior Bassmaster Extraordinaire!

10) Sat Aug 7th Bassmania, Baysville Lake of Bays

I spent two days prefishing this lake and had a great time doing it. One of the most productive patterns I found was gained by looking for pods of baitfish in water from 18-25 feet deep.  For me this early in the season, that’s quite deep … and fishing that far off shore was risky and took a certain amount of discipline.  It also proved to take a lot of patience without catching or even seeing fish.  The tough part was having enough confidence to continue searching for these fish despite the hours of inactivity.   This is one reason I love pre-fishing alone … not all the time … but quite often… it simply takes all pressure off getting bit and allows me to do my thing.
During pre-fish I was busy searching off shore in 22 feet when I noticed a pod of suspended baitfish.  I tried various baits- spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters to catch any big fish that might be nearby but nothing cooperated.   I then dragged a tube thru the school and hooked up with a solid fish.   Here we go … but it didn’t take long to realize this was no bass.  15 minutes later a 22 pound northern was brought alongside the boat.   I took a couple quick pics then let her go. I tried the area awhile longer but nothing.  Still the baitfish stuck in my head.

Northern Pike
Wil’s Big Northern fell for his trusty Rapala Husky Jerk

Come tournament day, Gerry and I began at a familiar spot that is always a good producer and started throwing Skitter Pops.  We then tried Rapala X Raps and Husky Jerks.   Still no fish.  As we worked along this otherwise productive shoreline with a good mix of rock, in deep and shallow water, we were perplexed that no fish were present.   A shallow bay with a dock that always yields fish was our next stop…   Here we were berated by an irate woman on shore who went ballistic before we even approached her dock.   

Interesting that some people have so much built up anger … and thank God we showed up just in time for her to let loose and relieve her of all that hostility … otherwise I’m sure she would have self imploded. As much as we wanted to fish the dock in spite … we quietly went on our way.
By noon we still didn’t have any fish in the well … but out of the corner of my eye, I kept looking at the spot way off shore where the big pike made my day yesterday. “What do you keep looking at out there?” Gerry asked “The spot where I caught that big pike is just over there. I keep thinking that if all those baitfish are still around, perhaps there’s a chance that smallies have now found them and are nearby.”

By now the sun was up as high as it would go so we dragged tubes looking for the school of baitfish. Whack!  “There’s one!” As a nice three pound smallie jumped behind the boat, Gerry quickly marked the spot on his Lowrance HD Unit.  These hot , offshore remote places can be so small that if you don’t pinpoint them with GPS you can literally kiss a winning paycheck good bye. As Gerry netted that fish, I turned the boat around to drift back into the area where the fish hit.  Gerry picked up his drop shot rod and made a long cast. His two pounder was soon swimming next to mine in the livewell.

For the next hour and a half we had an absolute ball.  Our limit came quickly and we were hammering two pounders faster than we thought possible on this lake.  Our productive area was perhaps a hundred yard stretch.  Most of my fish came from a green tube and Gerry dropshotted a Gulp! Minnow to get his bass. We didn’t place all that well in this event – but we caught a lot of fish in a hurry and had a blast- so it definitely rates as a high.

Wil with a typical Lake of Bays Smallmouth

As quickly as it started however, it was over.  We tried several other offshore areas that held baitfish … and bass during pre fish … but they were void of either today. Even trying our islands and points that typically yield a fish here and one there, were futile efforts to get a kicker that would really set us apart.
11.05 lbs and 28th sot- 65 teams

Rating: High

11) Sunday Aug 8 Bassmania Gravenhurst, Lake Muskoka

The day after Lake of Bays we were on Lake Muskoka.  This body of water is one both Gerry and I have been fishing for many years and it is often one of our favorite tournament stops.  Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, we have also experienced great disappointment as this lake. It can let you down BIG TIME.  We were convinced that once again we were destined for a letdown because  by 1pm we only had one small bass in the well.   So many otherwise productive areas were either occupied by other boats or void of fish. “What about 'that point’ … where we often catch a limit of 13 inch fish?   The way the wind has been pounding on it all day, it could be stacked with smallies,” I asked Gerry.

Well at this next spot we were quick to learn that the typical keeper-size bass we were ready to settle for were nowhere to be found.  Instead some serious grown-ups had moved in instead! Man what a blast.   We fought wind and rain and brutal holding conditions … but the excitement of 'finally getting on them’ easily superseded the pain in the butt it was fishing the wind-swept area. Tubes and drop shot were the primary producers and although we would lose plenty of baits here because of the rocks, we caught plenty of good sized bass in a relatively short time frame.  Once again a flurry of activity saved our bacon! We placed in 9th spot with 12.55 lbs in a low weight tournament where the winner had just 14.6 More importantly though, we gained valuable points and cashed another cheque.


Rating: Low

12) Sat August 14, Aurora Bassmaster Club, Six Mile Lake

Six Mile is another lake I am very familiar with but have never caught a really big limit on.   I have managed some very nice fish here but getting a winning bag has eluded me. I did decide half way thru the day to try some new areas and one of them had great potential even though we only caught a couple fish there.  It appeared to be a great early morning spot and I filed it away for next year.  At another big fish spot my non boater caught one of the biggest smallies of his life ... which was a cool deal ... for him!

12th place/21 anglers
Rating: High

13) Tuesday August 17 Aurora Bassmaster Club, Lake Couchiching, Orillia

I was thrilled when our club placed Cooch a week before the Bassmania Tournament.  I have found that the latter part of August can really be exceptional on this lake over the last few years.  It used to be that from mid September thru October was the prime time – but no longer for me.  One key reason I’m sure is because I now target largemouth in deep weeds more than smallies within the traditional rocky Limestone areas. My first spot at was a familiar deep water weedline.  The weeds were up and although my non boater caught a small keeper size smallmouth there, the spot just didn’t seem prime yet. 

Before the tournament even started I was determined to use this event as a productive pre-fish for the all-important CSFL event  and I had a particular area mapped in my head ready to try near this first spot.  It was a big area and I was searching for that something different.  We began catching a mix of largemouth and smallmouth and I GPS’d each spot. It was very tough however to see what we were fishing because of the pouring rain so I worked quickly and covered a lot of water. Then we came to a rock pile mixed with some weeds and I caught a decent largie from it.  After catching a couple more, I moved out from shore looking for more rock weed mix.  One spot that produced had heavy with weed and it yielded a nice largie as well.  I ended up culling and was thrilled at the potential of this new area- it had all the key ingredients to produce Big Time again. 

1st place/18 anglers

Rating: High

14) Sat August 21st Bassmania Lake Couchiching, Orillia

Gerry and I utilized our own boats to prefish here most effectively. He spent the Friday here and I was fortunate to fish the day before as well.  We each developed unique and totally opposite patterns.  His involved smallmouth and shallow (2-4 feet) weed/rock mix.  Mine was an expansion of the club tournament pattern the week before and focussed on largemouth in deeper (8-16 feet) weeds.  During the beautiful weather in pre fish, I was able to see just how wonderful the habitat really looked in that productive area. I saw one big largemouth in particular that was well over 5 pounds and shook off several in the 3 to 4 pound range.

The morning of the tournament we showed up at the Orillia launch with about half of the field there as well and we all wondered what was going on.   Then we heard good ol Andy on his mega phone letting everyone know that the tournament had to be moved to Washago last minute.  Apparently there was too much concern our bass boats would be a safety hazard for the swimming portion of an annual Tri-Athalon that occurs in Orillia – so we were asked to move venues.  In some respects, this was a mixed blessing because it brought us closer to our two key areas – but also made the decision of which to fish first more difficult.

The decision was made for us when Andy elected to bring the full entourage of tournament competitors way out into the main lake for the blast off and neither of us wanted to double back through the field to reach his spot.  The first half hour or more was very slow and I was secretly very concerned the fish had moved on.  Then the action started ... slowly at first on top waters and then more steady within very specific sections of the 100 yards of territory.  There was one particular weedbed – the one far off shore that was especially fine and we caught 2 or 3 very good ones off it alone. Gerry caught some on a jig and pig and wacky worm ... and mine came from a deep diving Rapala DT 14, a Chug Bug and the Trigger X wacky rig.

We ended up fishing that area almost exclusively for the rest of the day ...but finally moved when another competitor whipped right in and planted himself right on top of our 'weedbed’! Obviously he had found that spot on the spot as well and knew how good it could be.   Gerry and I watched him jig and pig the thing with a fine tooth comb and he proceeded to pull several 3 pounders from it.   We were dually impressed and pissed off at the same time!
We quickly tried a couple of other spots in a fast run and gun effort to nail a kicker bass.  I thought I finally had it going on when a solid fish grabbed hold of my crankbait at a weedline near the launch ... but it turned out to be my first ever Cooch walleye – a nice 5 -6 pounder.

Wil’s first ever Lake Couchiching Walleye; caught and released on a Rapala DT 17

This was our last regular season CSFL event of the season and we wanted a good placing to help us get enough points to make the Classic.   This time it would be much more difficult than other years as only the top 25% of the teams from each of the divisions would qualify.
We ended up in 13th place on Cooch with 15.35 pounds but that was enough for another paycheck. More importantly it gave us a 7th place overall standing in the Northern Division.  We were Classic bound!

Rating: Low

15) Sat/Sun Aug 28,29 OBFN Qualifier, Niagara Falls,  Lake Erie

The OBFN Qualifier is the most important tournament of the year in my books and the one I look forward to more than any other. Since the OBFN formed in 1995 and our first Qualifier the next year, I have only missed one event.  I have been fortunate enough to have qualified for the 12 man Team Ontario three times and typically feel each year that I have a good shot of making the team.

In 2010, I spent just three days prefishing Erie but figured out what my gameplan was going to be come tournament time. My pre-fishing for the Qualifier is usually a full five days, but this time three was all I could spare.  I typically pre fish this alone and a lot of water is covered 'just looking’, and 'not fishing’ .  Pre fishing with me can be an awfully boring exercise ... even for me! Erie is huge and I covered a great deal of the area out from Buffalo and was happy with an area near the mouth of the Niagara River dragging tubes in 20-25 feet of water.

Come tournament day I raced out to the mouth at full speed and after the first drift we already had a couple of bass in the well.  The main lake was far rougher than any weather forecast we heard, so with my best area being near the mouth it was a no brainer to stay put and just make drift after drift with the wind. By 10 am I already had my limit of nice 3 lb smallies and my non boater had a couple decent fish as well.  Things were looking good despite the rough conditions... but not for long!
We were taking off, fighting the metre high waves towards Buffalo when I suddenly heard something 'not right’ in my engine.  It was rattling like mad in there and I quickly stopped, pulled the cowling off and had a look.   I couldn’t see a dam thing wrong despite my uncanny yet totally inept mechanical acumen. I slowly moved forward and we made one more drift ... I culled a couple of times and my non-boater caught a nice one.  We had a couple of charter boat guys from the US come so close to mimic our drift that it was amazing our lines didn’t cross.  We both had to chuckle though- when all they seemed to catch were freshwater drum- while we were getting the sought after smallies.

But ... I knew it was time to start thinking about getting my boat fixed. I motored below the Peace River Bridge near Fort Erie and towards the local marina.   They were just packing up for the weekend and would not be able to even look at my boat.  After speaking with the tournament director over the phone I elected to dump my 16 pounds of bass and pull myself out of the tournament as long as I could get my non boater back to the weigh-in.  Ironically enough it was just then that Gerry Heels called the tournament director as well because his non boater was deathly ill with sea sickness and wanted out.
So, my non boater  Berend Peereboom of the  Muskoka Bassmasters would ride back to the weigh-in with Gerry while I would wait for a volunteer to come get me and his non boater at the boat launch in Fort Erie.  Gerry’s non boater was white as a ghost and was hurling so bad he remained in the fetal  position  during the entire drive back to his hotel an hour after he was dropped off.  What made this tournament even more disappointing was that Gerry had to pull out because of engine troubles as well.

The best part however was to hear that Berend not only weighed in a good sack that first day, but used the same pattern and location for day two.  He was able to qualify for Team Ontario with a solid 5th place finish and 31.10 lb for 10 bass.   Not bad for a non boater or your first attempt to fish our premier Qualifying event in the province.    Later that week I learned that I actually blew my 13 year old 150 HP Merc and would have to get a new one... a task that took me over a month! The Erie trip was immediately followed by major back pain and was certainly the biggest low of the season.

Ironically enough, as I write this year end recap of my 2010 tournament season, I am sitting in the Buffalo Airport with my family just minutes from the same waters I fished four months ago.

Rating: Low

16) Friday Sept 3, 4th Bassmania Classic Halliburton ON Lake Kashagwigamog

This tournament was so close to the Qualifier that all we could pre fish was two days.  We got onto a surprisingly productive pattern long-lining tubes in Sawyer Lake for smallmouth.  The last day of pre fish we tried to expand on the weed pattern for largemouth we developed earlier in the year.  I managed to catch a nice 15 pound muskie on Rapala DT 10 that was relating to weeds but the bigger bass were gone.  Even worse, when I went to release the muskie after a quick photo it zigged and I zagged causing me to throw my back again ... so I could barely get off the deck.  There were plenty of 12-13 inch largemouth around  but we knew they wouldn’t do us any good.  Another secondary spot we had in the main lake looked like it had potential for an early morning bite though- so that’s where we would start.

The next day we hit that point first thing and began throwing topwaters.  My Chug Bug attracted several really good smallmouth but I just couldn’t seem to keep them on.  In Sawyer Lake our success wasn’t much better. We weighed in but new our chances were gone.  We decided to fish the next day though- but didn’t weigh in the fish we caught because we knew there wasn’t enough weight to make the top 25 cut for day three.

Wil’s Haliburton Muskie caught and released on a Rapala DT 10

Rating: High

17) Sat. Sept 12, Aurora Bassmaster Club 'Bass Sampling ' Tournament. Keswick Lake Simcoe

I fished this tournament with my friend Brian Cappe in his Ranger.  He keeps it at Monto Reno Marina on Lake Simcoe, so we just met there for this fun little tournament.  We didn’t catch a lot of bass but Brian managed to nail a beautiful 6 pounder that came from a spinnerbait in 10 feet of water.  That fish won us the tournament.

1st place 16 anglers

Wil’s friend Brian Cappe (left) holding just the water bottle but
he had every right to be holding the winning largemouth instead.
He let Wil have the honors. This and all other bass were tagged for the Aurora Bassmasters
Lake Simcoe Bass Research Project

Rating: High

18) Sat Sept 25/Sun Sept 26 Bassmania Wildcard Chippewa Lake Erie

This was a fun tournament despite the fact we really didn’t place all that high.  The entertainment actually started during a pre-fish day that occurred only because the tournament planned for the day had to be cancelled.   There were small craft warnings in the Niagara River no less and Lake Erie itself had gale force winds.  Despite the wind, we decided to venture out into the river for some fun fishing and got onto an incredibly productive pattern throwing Terminator Spinnerbaits.  With the strong wind behind our backs we were able to throw the 1 ounce baits a country mile and the smallies would just crush it.  We caught over 20 averaging 2 ½ to 3 pounds without worrying about the next day because we were sure we would fish the main lake where the bigger bass were.

Hook in finger
When fishing is fast and furious ... anglers oftentimes get lost
in the moment. The urge to quickly release the battling smallmouth
on the end of your spinnerbait – to get another cast in quickly,
can prove costly. Here Wil shows what can happen if you don’t focus
on the task at hand. With a pair of handy bolt cutters nearby
however, the hook was cut straight and it slid right out . Wil quickly
resumed casting and catching afterwards.

Alas, the next day we couldn’t resist hitting that area in the river first for a quick limit.  We went there and sure enough the fish were still on fire and we landed a couple limits before we forced ourselves to forgo these 3 pounders and head to the main lake.  Wouldn’t you know it, but here Lake Erie was calm as can-be but with all the spots out there, we just couldn’t get bit and had to settle for our river weight of just 16.85 pounds.   

Rating: High

19) Sat. Oct 3 Aurora Bassmaster Club  Keswick Lake Simcoe

This was a team event and pre fish had told me that the largies were not cooperating so I elected to focus on smallmouth with my partner Dan Fuligni.  Although Dan had trouble connecting, my long line-tube jig presentation was just what the bigger bass wanted.  Others caught bass too but just couldn’t seem to get onto the bigger ones.  It was a lot of fun catching so many 3 pounders. We ended up with the biggest bag of the Aurora Bassmasters club season at 18.06 lbs
1st place/22anglers

Rating: High

20) Sat Oct 16 Aurora Bassmaster Club Lake Dalrymple

Before fishing this last club tournament of the year, I learned that if Rick Lewis from the club placed higher than 4th then he would win Angler of the Year.  However, if I won and Rick didn’t do too well, then I would become the AOY.  I was unable to pre fish Lake Dalrymple but have had plenty of experience on this Kawartha Lake and enjoy fishing it. I was paired with Chris Barrett and that morning someone pointed out that this was the 3rd year Chris was my non-boater on this lake even though I was unable to fish it last year. Some people have such great memories!

We began on Avery Point – a local hot spot that can yield good numbers of bass.   Nothing there, but as we moved around the point Chris did get a 14 incher.  The only problem was that there were 3 or 4 other boats there as well and the areas wasn’t all that big.  Still, some of the guys were catching bass- similar to the size Chris had.  “These fish aren’t going to win this tournament Chris ... mind if we try at the far end?”  Chris was also ready to go, so we did ... and hit a spot where we caught some nice bass two years ago together.

Not long after we hit this small rock pile surrounded by weed growth, Chris caught another nice one. I netted the fish and then picked up my rod.   Immediately I felt a hit and set the hook on a decent bass. Soon my first 2 ½ pounder was in the boat. I got one more and then we were off for spot number two near an island that I thought would be prime.  “The wind is pounding right on it and it’s loaded with weeds and rock on an extended point”, I said. On the way there though, a very fortuitous thing happened – at least for me!

“Years ago, I had a small hump marked on my GPS ... but since I lost all my old waypoints I don’t have it any more,”  I yelled over to Chris.  I was travelling over an area mid lake where I thought that spot was and actually passed it, when suddenly my Lowrance HD unit  went from 35 feet right up to 11, and then right back down again. “Did you see that ... I point to the screen?”   I turned around and re-traced my track until I came right back to the hump.   I threw the marker buoy and made a few casts.

Whack ... a good rap and I set the hook.  The fish jumped and showed itself as a beautiful 5lb plus smallie.   A few scary runs near the boat and then Chris slid the trusty Frabil folding net under the big fish!  Yee hah ... now we’re talking.  This almost looked like a Simcoe smallie and would give me that kicker fish needed in a lake like this where you can see your fair share of two pounders. As good as the spot looked with some incredible weedgrowth close by ... it failed to yield any additional fish... so after  45 minutes we left for the island... I was starting to feel real good thanks to the nice smallie seen below.

Wil with his big Lake Dalrymple smallmouth

It only took a couple casts before I connected with my first largie of the area.  Then another and another and I was culling before I knew what hit me.   The most remarkable thing was that all my fish that day were coming from a new rig I had been having great success with in Simcoe.  Basically it consisted of a small swivel tied to the end of my line.  On it I tied an 14 inch piece of Suffix 8lb line and a 1.0 Gamakatsu  offset hook... rigged with a green Trigger X tube.  On the bottom end of the swivel, I had another piece of line with a green tube on a quarter ounce darter head.  The rig was thrown with a MH 7’ Rapala Shift rod and Avantis spinning reel coupled with 8 pound Suffix Line.

After a while Chris commented that  my rig was hanging up a little more than his straight tube likely due to that second unweighted tube. But he noted that my ripping motion was actually triggering the bite.  I was still catching and culling, and although not all the fish were being caught on the top tube ... almost half of them were so it was paying off for sure. He decided to rig one up as well but unfortunately the bite was just slowing down and although he did get couple, they didn’t measure.
At the weigh-in I was surprised to learn I was the only one to come in with a limit of bass.  I won with 17.54 lbs pounds (2nd biggest bag of the season) and took big Fish honors with that 5 pound plus smallie.  Greedy bucks went my way too – a voluntary pot anglers contribute too if they wish to collect some extra cash.  The bad news for Rick Lewis was that he didn’t do well in this tournament but the good news was that for the majority of other events  throughout the year he did remarkably well.  

A couple of days later, our tournament director Dave Meadows revealed that Rick and I tied with exactly 563 points each for the year.  In our bi-laws we didn’t have a clause using total weight to break the tie for the AOY race ... but if we had, the records show Rick’s weight for the year was 53.38 lbs and mine came in at 69.86...  Sorry buddy- I couldn’t resist!

Nice Bass
Rick Lewis with two nice bass

It’s been quite a few years since I have captured Angler of the Year title for club and with so many good anglers now, it is more difficult than ever. Seeing as how mid way thru the club season I was wondering if I would even have enough points to qualify for the OBFN Provincial Championships next year, I’m thrilled that my season ended strong (with three wins in a row) and to have the honor of sharing the AOY trophy with such a quality angler and person like Rick Lewis.

1st place/20 anglers

Rating: Low

21) Sat Oct 17 Barrie Bassmasters Open Barrie, Lake Simcoe

This was a pre fish for the bigger BPS Open but still we wanted to get onto a pattern.  We fished several otherwise productive spots in K Bay ... but the nice bass normally there at this time of year, eluded us. We tried several other spots well away from the bay ... but again we came up empty.  It was a frustrating tournament and the only one of the entire year where we came in empty handed ... a complete goose egg! It was also a dry-run for tagging and sampling bass before the big tournament the following week.

Last place!/30 teams

MNR Bass Tagging
An all-female crew of MNR Fisheries Biologist tag bass at
the 2010 Barrie Bassmasters Open Tournament. In the five year project,
over 1300 bass have been sampled and tagged and over 60 tagged
bass have been called in by anglers

MNR Bass Tagging

Rating: High

22) Sat Oct 23, BPS Lake Simcoe Open Orillia, hosted by the Aurora Bassmasters

This would be the last tournament of the year and the one with the biggest payout ever for a one day Canadian tournament.  We bill this as the country’s premier one day event and the winners would walk away with more than $50,000 in cash if they broke the all time Canadian one day record of 30.05 lbs. Gerry and I based our fishing on the week of pre fish prior ... which for both of us was terrible.  Major winds kept us from really exploring efficiently ... so we ended up forsaking K Bay, where we placed 7th overall last year and hit the main lake instead.

Gerry and I tried a variety of baits and techniques for over two hours before we finally got bit and simultaneously during a double header figured out the pattern that would provide us with 21.85 pounds for 13th spot, tied with Rob Hyatt and Ernie Janzen.  That bait was the same one as the year before ... a Rapala X Rap.  The only difference was that last year Gerry and I shared the catching duties and a few different colors seemed to work.   This time ... it was just one bait, one color and one angler that did the catching... A white X Rap that Gerry caught almost all the fish with.

We were happy to make the 20 pound club so that we could participate in the drive by weigh-in and see Mark Moran and Joey Muszynski shatter the old record and weigh in 30.50 worth of bass to take home over $50,000.  An 8.05 pound smallie was caught as well that turned out to be the heaviest bass ever weighed in at a Canadian Tournament ... wow!    

13th place/100 teams and cashed a cheque.

So, there you have it, a full year of tournament fishing for a passionate yet not outstanding competitive angler.  Twenty two tournaments ... with 16 highs and 7 lows... not bad.  I cashed a cheque in 10 of those  highs (plus prizes in 2) but as you may notice cashing a cheque is not a pre requisite to classify a tournament as a high.   Having fun, exciting and memorable competitive angling experiences worth writing about is far more important to me.