When it rains, it storms. The Ottawa River is known for its lush cover and abundant vegetation that just screams largemouth bass. But it's also the one body of water that has been known to produce more skunks than any other in the region. In other words, 5 bites may be all you get during the course of the day. So when it comes to a tournament for 5 bass, one simply cannot afford to miss or lose a fish. Unfortunately, I can now attest to this statement.
Day 1 of practice I invited Berkley B1 marshall, Aaron Cohen out with me to scope out some fresh water. I decided to focus on an area that has historically produced winning bags known as Locharbor Bay. This shallow, weedy is known for its above average frog fishing and some seriously heavy piggies. I have not spent a tremendous amount of time in this part of the river so I thought this could be a great opportunity to explore.
On Day 2 of practice I invited long time fishing pal Jon Belanger out with me to pick apart some cover in hopes of discovering new areas that could produce some decent keepers. This time, we focussed our efforts on more of the outside terrain. Weedlines, isolated reefs, islands and channels. The day proved to be much more promising as we found some decent bites including a backup smallmouth pattern that we would keep in our back pocket.
What's interesting to note is that we actually decided to split up to cover even more water. Benji spent the day covering more inside bays and found some nice fish hanging around isolated patches. Together, we put together what seemed to be a pretty solid gameplan heading into the tourney. Our expectations were 17-19 lbs based on our pre-fish, probably a mixed bag to boot.
Here comes the tragic news. As per our plan, we roll up to our first zone and start picking it apart. Water levels seemed noticeably lower than during practice. One hour later, no bites and the temperature already at 35 degrees and its only 8am. We make a quick adjustment and back off a little bit and then we spot her. A gorgeous 4-5lb largie cruising the area! We throw a jig to her and she immediately scoots off. I quickly reach for my wacky rig and cast it beyond the direction we saw her headed. Tick...and I set the hook! She jumps out of the water and her fat belly can barely wiggle past the surface. I try my best to maintain control with my finesse lightweight outfit but it's no use, she turns and dives head first into the thick heavy cover and my line breaks....Fish #1 lost.
We continue with our plan for the next 3 hours with no avail. Our fish seemed to have moved and nothing we're doing can get them to go. At 11am we make a drastic move and go to plan B, smallies. During practice, I found a nice strip of docks on the main channel that were holding some quality smallouth. No nickels but definitely several 3-4 pounders that were highly territorial and would attack a jig if placed properly under its dock.
Using a pegged, 3/8 oz Ultra Tungsten bullet weight with a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss in Vampire Orange, I casted the perfect pitch into the darkest deepest part of the dock. Sure enough, it was there, a 3.5lb smalljaw that would come flying out from the dock! As it lands, it turns back into the pocket it came from and somehow manages to get itself wrapped around one of the chains that hold the dock in place. After 5 minutes of trying desperately to get it out, she comes unpinned. Fish #2 lost.
Now more frustrated than ever, we move to the next dock. Again, I pitch right into the sweet spot and tick...I hookset like a bat out of hell and up comes another 3lb plus bronzeback. This time, it decides to be an extreme acrobat and lunges 2 feet into the air and guess what...wait for it...spits my hook right back at me....Fish #3 lost.
We ended up weighing in a disappointing 12lbs knowing full well that we had actually hooked a 17lb+ bag. And with the lower weights being brought to the scale that day, this could have potentially been a top 5 finish. But hey, that's fishing, especially in tournament situations. I am proud however that we never at any moment ever gave up and stopped fishing. Did losing those fish bother me? More than you can imagine. If fishing was always easy and predictable, where would be the challenge?
Not everything went sour that day however. Back at the dock, I was greeted by a group of kids that were really excited to meet me and check out my new Charger boat. Rockstars may have "groupies", but I've got the coolest "Woopies" around! The next Renegade event is on one of my favourite bodies of water: Lake St-Francis. Benji and I have no choice but to perform at this upcoming 2 day event if we are to have a shot at qualifying for the classic this September.
When you're fishing a major tournament, any tournament, there's always pressure to perform. Money and reputations are on the line, pride is also always playing a slight role as well. After having fished two different events in far away lands, it was definitely nice to get a chance to compete on a body of water that I am much more familiar with...the Richelieu River. It was the Pro Bass Canada Open and this time I partnered up with good pal and river rat, Dobyn's Rods Pro Dennis Fontaine. Dennis and I have been fishing both the Richilieu and Lake Champlain for that matter together for quite a few years now. I knew that I had the right partner from the get go.
With my busy tournament schedule, we ended up only dedicating one day to prefishing, and a week before the tourney to boot!
Our initial pattern we developed was punching thick main river matts with 1.5oz Ultra Tungsten bullet weights and Havoc Smash Tubes. We even found a couple shallow grass clumps that were holding some decent fish. As you can see from the photo above, we ended the day with confidence, feeling pretty good about what we found and ready for the following weekend.
To our disappointment, absolutely none of our patterns were working. By 10am we had yet to catch a keeper and panic started to kick in. Do we continue on our path or do we call it and make a drastic change in the gameplan? After much thought and comparing views, we quickly decided to try something different. We had noticed that the water levels were certainly lower than the week previous and who knows? Maybe the areas we had found that were holding fish may have been pounded pretty hard by other teams during the week. This is the reality of tournament fishing. The only thing that you can truly concern yourself with are those variables that you actually have control over. In this particular case, what we were going to do next. Believe it or not, we went back to basics and starting hitting up some docks that we suspected may be holding a fish or two. To our surprise, almost each and every dock we hit produced fish! A 4 and then a 4.5...and then even a nickel! Yep, we were onto something and the timing couldn't have been any better.
We threw compact baits such as the Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, designed by Skeet Reese in June Bug colour. Most of the docks had stained water under them so we wanted to make sure to throw a dark colour. Pegged to 1/2oz Ultra Tungsten and the combo was just on fire.
At the end of the day, we went to scale with our best 5 weighing in a decent 19.95lbs anchored by a 5.05lb lunker. Good enough for 4th place overall and a cheque. I can honestly say that I had an absolute blast fishing this one and can't wait to do it all over again. Thanks Dennis for another awesome time on the water. Lesson learned? Never be too stubborn when it comes to fishing. Always pay attention to change and be open to change it up, even when it may be in your own backyard. Next stop: Ottawa River for Renegade Bass Q2.
I'm fishing arguably the most elite bass fishing series in the country, Renegade Bass, with long time pal and partner Daniel Benjafield. We'll be up against some of the top touring Canadian pros including Izumi, Desforges and Chong to name a few and we're hitting up some lakes we've never been on before. Our adventure started on Lake Mississippi, Ontario, a small /medium sized shallow lake located about 45 minutes west of Ottawa loaded with 2-3lb largemouth and smallmouth bass. We put in 2 days of prefish total and struggled to find any size. Although we did manage to boat a few decent 3lb+, they were one-offs that were caught in very random locations, this made it that much more challenging to put together an actual pattern. Wind also played a key role in the fishing. The lake was getting blasted with south winds of 35-45K almost every day, including the day of the tournament.
Ultimately, we ended up settling on 2 main patterns for the event: shallow weed clumps in the north end of largies, deep offshore weedline in the south end for smallies. Our pattern held up as we successfully boated largie after largie, all coming from Berkley Havoc Smash Tubes flipped pegged to a 1/2oz Ultra Tungsten bullet weight. We even scored a nice 3.2lb "lunker" to boot! Although we did take some time to check out our smallie deal, we were disappointed when we arrived and found 3 other boats doing exactly what we wanted to do on exactly the same spot. Oh well, I guess we had found a community hole...ooops!
All in all, we went to the scale with a very modest 11lbs even, putting us in 50th position in the standings. Our overall goal is to make the cut for the Classic which means we'll need to finish in the top 40 teams by Q5. Next stop is Ottawa River for Q2, we'll definitely need to play a little catch up and hook into some pig largies that we know live there.