The all new, Montreal Bassmasters club kicked off the season with their fist event in a series of 3 tournaments plus a Classic on the Richelieu River out of St-Paul-de-l'Ile-aux-Noix this past Sunday. The river has long been a favourite of mine to fish due to its close proximity and more importantly, its abundant numbers of big largemouth bass. Well, that is until recently...
For the last 2 seasons, the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain for that matter have experienced much higher than normal water levels in the early season. This has had a major impact on the development of aquatic vegetation in the early summer. So much in fact, that I believe it has played a major role in the decline of bigger sized bass. Simply put, no weeds means no cover for baitfish which leads to no bass. On a river system that is normally rich in deep weedlines, milfoil patches, matted vegetation, bullrushes and stickgrass, high water levels decrease the amount of light penetration in the water therefore stunting its growth and in some cases, stopping it. If I compare the quality and the quantity of the fishing from 2010, the difference is tremendous. The proof is in the pudding. Only 15 or so pounds to win the event. 2 years ago I weighed a 19.95lb bag and only came in 3rd!
As for the fishing, we targeted both species to be safe. Smallies definitely seemed to be the more stable bite as we found them roaming rocky flats on the main river in 4-8ft of water. Many were still relating to nests as the water temps during practice hovered around 68-69 degrees. A combination of tiny soft plastic swimbaits like the new Berkley Havoc Grasspig Jr. swam on Revenge 1/8oz Fish Hedz and 3/8oz tubes were the ticket. For the largies, wacky rigged Havoc Flat Dawgs in black and blue pitched into dark water at the back of canals tricked some bucketmouths to the boat.
This event proved to be a battle of ounces as the post-spawn conditions proved challenging for the entire field. My highly detailed Navionics charts really helped us find the right stretch of water for this one and Vigor Eyewear polarized lenses made it possible to target and sight-fish all tournament long. Ended up in 7th place overall with a modest bag of 12.57lbs.
Next stop is Lake St-Louis, where I've steadily gained more confidence in the past few years by putting in the hours. Might very possibly be another mixed-bag strategy as the hunt for the bigger than 3lb fish will be the deal-breaker!
For more info or to join Quebec's only B.A.S.S. club, check them out at www.MontrealBassmasters.com
It's always a special challenge when tournament organizers decide on producing events on bass season opening weekend. The Econobass series on the other hand, takes it one step further by not allowing any pre-fishing the week of the event. So with no practice and no indications as to how the water conditions were, my partner Max and I had to rely solely on previous experience and good old fashioned gut instinct. The result? A 13th place overall finish out of an impressive 65x team field with a modest 12lb limit. For the record, the tourney was won with only 16lbs.
Overall, the conditions were very tough. Water levels are significantly higher than previous years resulting in very little grass growth and potentially expanded areas where fish may be hiding. Furthermore, the water colour was much more stained than usual and a full field of 65 boats on a relatively small body of water such as the Richelieu made for some pretty cozy shoulder to shoulder fishing. So how did we attack this conundrum?
Max and I knew that the fish would most likely be in a post-spawn state with very few fish still on beds. We were also pretty confident that the obvious area that most anglers would target would be the canals in the St-Paul area. We felt that the better fish, that is the females, would most likely be looking for a resting zone, somewhere they could set up for a week or two to recharge after spawning. So we targeted main channel cover with the warmest water temp we could find. Fish ended up being really scattered and not very schooled up. In fact, we only had 7 bites throughout the entire day! We casted towards any visible cover or isolated structures we could find with Berkley Havoc Pit Bosses in June Bug colour. I had soaked them the night before in some Gulp craw spray hoping to enhance the presentation. With the water stained, I felt that the dark June Bug colour would provide a nice silhouette contrast and the action from the 4 appendages would really entice the fish into biting. Pitched it on a 7' 3" Heavy action Abu Garcia Villain series microguide equipped rod matched with a Revo STX and 25lb Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. Finished the rig with a pegged Ultra Tungsten 3/4oz bullet and a 4/0 EWG hook.
This event also marked the first time my new Mercury powered Ranger 520c courtesy of Groupe Thomas Marine participated in a tourney and I must say, she performed famously. Her jumbo livewells kept the fish healthy and the precise boat control provided by the Motorguide Tour trolling motor and twin Power-Pole Blades made all the difference in boat positioning in the wind.
Next stop: The Lions de Lafaivre bass open on the Ottawa River with good pal Jonathan Belanger. The strategy: We have none! Time to freestyle it and swing for the fences once again...stay tuned!
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.