Bass Opener 2015 – Collins Lake Derby V4.0

Another bass opener has arrived and along with it, the annual bass derby on Collins Lake.  This year attendance was a bit low due to some health issues among the group, however we still managed to put a group together and proceed with the tournament.

As is typical, our tourney started with a meet and greet on the Friday evening with some sociables and poker.  For some of us it is the one time in the year we get to see the group and there are always lots of stories to be told.  Its always difficult to call an end to the night before festivities since its always such a great time and the quality of sleep a fisherman can expect the night before the opener is almost not worth the while.  But hey, its bass opener and some would argue being sleep deprived only makes that first bass of the year that much sweeter.

The tourney itself has an interesting structure; competitors may weigh in two fish after the first morning and may cull them in the following afternoon.  Two more fish may be weighed in after the next morning, at which point weights are tallied.  As easy as four fish sounds, separating the weigh ins by days  makes it infinitely harder.  Mostly because on a small lake like Collins, Every weed bed gets hit hard on the first day, leaving shy and skittish fish for the second.

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The weather ended up being a bit cold in the morning with some nifty fog which made for cool looking blast off. Eventually the sun burned off the fog and the fishing began.  Fishing started off fairly well and several decent fish were caught off shallow weedbeds and shoals using senkos and swim baits.  As most bass fisherman do, we slowly moved around the lake fishing weed beds.  Eventually we arrived near a bed located immediately adjacent to deeper water.  Once there we started connecting with much larger fish, with some in the 3lb + range.  Immediately I thought of the old saying “Big water = Big fish”.  We worked the deeper edge of the weedbed with a variety of tactics we managed to cull a few of our fish before deciding to move on to try a few other hot spots.  The morning wrapped up and we finished with a two fish bag weighing 6lb 8oz for me and 4lb 12oz bag for Dave.  The afternoon was mediocre at best with nothing bigger than a 2lber caught.  We were in the running but there were lots of folks coming in close to us with one gent in the lead by 1lb.

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The next day was a bit tougher since the shallows had been hit pretty hard the day before.  The shallows were ice cold and we were forced to change up our methods to deeper water tactics.  We did manage to fill each of our remaining two spots and our final bags ended up at 11lb 13oz for me and 9lb 9oz for dave.   Great bags to be sure but not enough to take the win.  We ended up coming 7 oz short behind the gent who culled up on the first day.   Interestingly enough he culled up with one of the elusive smallmouth bass that inhabit the lake that weighed 4lbs 4 oz.  Catching these fish is like winning the lottery; it rarely happens, and the pay off is usually big.   All said and done the gent weighed in a four fish bag totaling 12lb 4oz.

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(Above: The tourney winner with his 4lb 4oz bronzeback, being assisted by “Captain” Joe, the tourneys resident joker)

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(Below: Dave and I even managed a double header with two decent largies)

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(Above: The author with a couple of chunky hogs from the first day)

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(Above: Jay holding a decent 3lb 14oz on the left)

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(Above: the second half of my bag – not as impressive but solid fish weighing 2lb 14oz and 2lb 7oz)

In addition to some great bass fishing, we also tied into some very respectable pike and a ton of other species ranging from pan fish to an incidental bullhead.

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(After a year of custody, I was obliged to give up the trophy to the next winner)

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(The top three finishers)

Another year, another great tournament with some exceptional bass fishing.   Not to mention some stellar competition with some big pushes by several anglers right at the end of the tourney.  This tourney truly was a nail-biter right up to the end.  Collins Lake certainly produced once again for everyone with quite a number of decent sized fish.  Out of all those fish caught, I’m proud to say all except one was released to swim another day.  What about the lone mortality? I understand, he promptly became dinner.

Cheers from the lake

Albert

Bass Opener 2014 – An Ontario Tradition

Its finally here.  The day bass fishermen revere as holy.  The day where we trade in our walleye and pike gear for braided line and wacky rigs to hit the slop with fervor.  Precluded by restless sleeps and early morning Timmies runs, the story plays out much the same across the province.  All types of people in all manner of water craft from questionable tinner to decked out bass boat share the same dream of bagging a bassquatch on opening morning.

But its not just this dream that drives us to hit the water with such religious like fervor.  No, Bass Opener is steeped in tradition here in Southern Ontario.  Tradition that is centred around family and friends.  For some, its their only chance to re-unite for a fish with their long lost uncle jimmy.  For others, the day is set aside specifically for parent child bonding.  For me, I had little to no tradition for this day other than getting out as soon as possible to maximize my bass fishing season.  I had no loyalty to one lake and roamed from year to year trying my hand a new water constantly.  That all changed though when a fellow fisherman friend invited me to a local tournament on Collins Lake three years ago.  With such great hosts, quality participants and amazing Portuguese food, I had finally found a tradition worth partaking in.  Fast forward three years later and I am still taking part in this amazing event, made so not by the fishing, but by the quality individuals who take part.

The beginning of this year played out much like the past three. We all met at Gabriel and Fatima’s house the Friday before opener for a few pints and to catch up with one another.  Not to mention a little friendly trash talk to keep the spirit of competition alive.  The meet and greet was followed by restless sleep for all and an early morning at the launch.

Day 1

Unfortunately for us this year, there was a lot of traffic on the lake as another tournament was taking place.  This put a lot of pressure on the fish and made it even tougher for us.  The silver lining was that, the first day was gorgeous and the conditions were optimal for bass fishing.

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The tournament itself has a really interesting structure.  Fishing occurs over the course of 2 mornings and one afternoon.  Fisherman can weigh in two fish after the first morning and have the oppourtunity to upgrade or cull these fish during the first afternoon.  The second morning gives each angler a chance for two more additional fish.  The great part about this structure is that livewells aren’t crammed with 4 fish and the fish don’t have to spend a whole day in a hot livewell.

Fishing started off at a slow and steady pace.  Dave (the former champion) and I had two decent fish each in the live well with multiple culling opportunities.  Although the bass fishing was turning out much better than the last year, the more exciting catches were incidental off species.  Dave seemed to have a knack for hooking into large versions of anything that couldn’t be weighed in!

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The opening morning blew by quickly and the first weigh-ins of the tournament were upon us.

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Quite a few decent fish were weighed in, including Dominic’s surprise 3.0 lb small mouth.  Those of you who fish Collins on the regular know smallmouth are a rare occurrence on this lake, and a 3 lb smally is even rarer still.

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The end of the first day saw Jay with a healthy bag of fish and in contention for a top three finish.

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Fortunately for me, the bass gods were smiling on me during the first morning and I managed to weigh in two of the fish above for a combined weigh of 5lbs 5oz.  Not a huge number, but then again, Collins is not a huge lake.

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Pretty much everyone had something to weigh in by the end of the first day and there was a group of 4 or 5 who seemed to be battling for a shot at first.  The fact that the difference between 1st and 3rd was only 3 oz says it all.  Everything was riding on the second day and that was a nerve racking concept considering the second day has historically been very slow for fishing in this tournament.  Anxiously we completed the day and headed to Gabe and Fatima’s for a little socializing and alot of well needed relaxation.  Sleep is a hard commodity to come by during these tournaments, even more so this year with so many people gunning of the top spot.  Not to mention a cohort of anglers ranking just behind 3rd who had good solid weights putting them in a good position to catapult to first should they land a lunker.   Considering my personal best LM was from Collins and weighed in at just over 6 lbs, I know better than most how very real a possibility this is.

Day 2

Dave and I hit the water the next day thinking we would start on the shoal we fished on day one.  Considering it was immediately next to some deep water we speculated that fish would come back up to the shallows during the evening.  Although it was good for some undersized bass on Day 2, we were left with no viable fish in our well and had to make a snap decision to keep trying shoals or to maybe try cranking the flats.  In the end I wanted one more crack at another shoal that has always produced and so pulled up the electric and gunned over.  This was possibly the decision that made the tournament for us as we quickly located and hooked up with some meaty largemouths.  An hour or so later and Dave has a 4 -5 lb bag he would later weigh in and I had a solid 3lber with a little 1lb kicker.  Now Dave was looking good to jump from 4th to the top.

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With the shoal fished out, we probed a few more shallow spots and some lake edges catching a couple more mediocre fish.  Our last trick in the book was fishing some large flat areas that had tall weeds with empty pockets scattered throughout.  The flats turned out to be the perfect mid morning location and we began hooking into some very decent fish.  Thankfully I was able to cull out my 1lber for a nice fish just under 3 lbs.  This brought my total up to 11 lbs 5oz but there was no telling what the other anglers would drum up.

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Had to get my fish inspected by the resident comedian in our group (above).  Thanks for the Laughs Joe!

Sure enough, the lunker factor played a role in the tournament as Fatima (one of the tournament hosts) brought two giants up to the scales. Combined with here 2.4lbs from the day before, these giant fish catapulted her into the top three in no time flat.  Possibly the most impressive fish of the tournament was her 3lb 15oz smallmouth bass.  Good Job Fatima!!

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When the dust settled my 4 decent fish managed to maintain the lead, Dave jumped from 4th to second with his catch from Day 2 and Fatima came from behind to steal 3rd place.  The competition was fierce and the fishing was top notch which made for lots of fun and some great memories.

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Group shot (below)

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Collins Lake always surprises me.  It is such a small body of water that receives an enormous amount of fishing pressure, yet it still manages to produce some quality fish and in good numbers. Not to mention the odd smallmouth!

Weighs and numbers from the last two years seemed a bit stunted when compared to the lake’s past glory.  This thought was a bit depressing.

However, after this year’s success I am left with an overwhelming sense of optimism for the lake.  Again surprised by the lakes tenacity as a fishery, I am confident trophies will still be available when my kids take up the torch.  Still, future success on this lake is dependant upon catch and release efforts, proper care of the fish when kept in a livewell and an over all attitude of conservation.  If you fish this lake, or any lake, please do you part to maintain the health of those big buckets.  Your not only keeping these fish healthy, your keeping the tradition of bass fishing in Ontario healthy as well!

Till next time, Cheers from the Wild

Albert

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