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.