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