It’s a week after bass opener, and the annual Collins Lake bass tournament is finally here. Its the day I look forward to all year, the day I can’t miss. Is it because there is money on the line? Because I get to compete with some like minded individuals? Because I get to spend 1 and a half days straight on the water with no distractions? Heck no, its because Fatima, our host, cooks up some unbelievably tasty Portuguese food, which, I get to stuff unceremoniously into my gullet. Seriously, some of the magic she pulls off could kick some serious butt on master chef Canada, or other shows of the like. Im talking as good as those tasty videos everyone seems to posts on their Facebook wall.
I could go on about the delectable Portuguese treats for paragraphs, but since this isn’t a cooking blog I’ll get down to the details of the tournament.
For those who haven’t read past posts the tournament is structured like so:
$100 entry per person
4 fish limit: 2 weighed in the first morning (with an option to cull in the afternoon), and an additional 2 fish weighed in on Sunday morning.
Live bait is allowed
We had a total of 15 participants this year, from all across the province. The weather seemed favourable, at least for a couple hours each morning, and we were a week after bass opener, which, we were hoping would lead to some calmer fish. Hoping was the key word. Unfortunately, our hopes were in vain as the fishing was slow. The fish seemed apprehensive and the bite was light. Not to mention our afternoons were ruined by some pretty significant winds. Ever try to cast a senko in 30 kph winds? I don’t recommend it.
The tournament progressed, and although weights were smaller than past years, we still had a good group of folks near the top after the first day. there was a lot of room for anyone to run away with the tournament.
My personal weight was much lower than I was used to on Collins. It seems my luck had run out a bit. I wasn’t the only one with bum luck that day. On the way into the launch we came across a boat having motor problems. it seemed like something we couldn’t fix on the water so we tied the beast to the green machine and towed it back to port. First time towing for me and the Green Machine.
Weights on the last day were nothing to brag about. most folks added another 2-4 pounds to their bag.
The winner (my uncle) finished with 9lbs for 4 fish followed by Jim at just over 8lbs, and Jody following close behind.
Congrats to the winners. Fishing conditions were tough and each of you earned it.
The blog has grown cold. Cobwebs have gathered in the digital corners of the site leaving many, including myself, sad. What the hell happened? After all I was on a role with my outings… Well, life happened, as a matter of fact. Project schedules at work, family time, etc.. Things seem to have piled up leaving little to no time for me to continue my explorations of the Wilds of Ontario. I know, boo hoo, first world problems…
Thankfully there is always bass opener. I’m pretty sure it would take a category 5 hurricane to keep me from participating in this, the holiest of holies, Bassmass! With Schedules on hold, and a solid morning carved away from any commitment, I found myself and two others headed to Loughborough Lake for some greenback action. My compadres were Dave, a regular here on WOO, and Jamie, a beginner fisherman who made his debut on the fishing scene with an 18lb rainbow trout. Talk about beginners luck! Jamie had never caught a largemouth bass prior to our trip and was eager to explore what all the fuss was about.
Loughborough was an obvious choice for a first bass outing: no tournaments there to my knowledge, great habitat for both small and largemouth bass, lots of water to cover, and the right orientation to take advantage of the southwesterly wind we expected that day.
We fished the eastern basin heading from the centre east and immediately were met with action. As luck would have it, Jamie’s Beggineer’s luck streak was still hot and he managed to catch the first fish: a healthy 1lber. All three anglers were soon into many more bass with the odd pike to boot. things had worked out exactly as I had hoped for Jamie’s first outing. Considering the conversations we’ve had since, It seems we may have another convert!
Bass opener was great. A little too great. In fact I liked it so much I decided to extend the opening weekend into Monday. Frank, another regular on WOO, was in town all the way from Pennsylvania, and was looking to target some of the local toothy critters. His visits had become something of a yearly thing but as of late, they seemed to always conflict with bad weather or my busy work schedule. The wind was up so our original plan to fish the St. Lawrence had to be revised. Big water + big wind + my small boat is not a good combination, so after a quick scouting trip to some sketchy launches, we decided to head to an old standby: Newborough lake.
After a tough start, we finally started to hook up with pike and bass.
Frank has been talking (and dreaming) and talking of connecting with a 10+ lb pike for a while now. This isn’t such a pipe dream for an outing on the St. Lawrence, but it is certainly a tall order on the back lakes around Kingston. We hammered the bays and weed edges with all manner of spinner baits in a desperate search for Frank’s elusive prize. All to no avail. However, on a long bomb cast into a weedy bay frank hooked up with what turned out to be a tank of a largemouth, weighing in at a whopping 5lbs, 1oz. Respectable for sure, and quite the catch considering we were fishing immediately after the busiest bass fishing day of the year.
This was Frank’s biggest largemouth to date, which left him happy. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it certainly left him with a smile on his face. I’m reminded of the classic rock lyric: “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!” Indeed he got what he needed, a big fish, just a bit less toothy than what he was looking for.
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.
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.
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!
The opening morning blew by quickly and the first weigh-ins of the tournament were upon us.
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.
The end of the first day saw Jay with a healthy bag of fish and in contention for a top three finish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Group shot (below)
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!
This weekend found me fishing my old stomping grounds: the Bay of Quinte. Together with my dad and another gent, we launched at the Deseronto boat launch around 7:00 am. Winds from the previous day were lingering which left a good “walleye chop” on the water. In addition the sky was overcast and periods of drizzle were common. This seemed like a perfect day for catching walters!
From the launch we travelled past foresters island and headed for Catalaque Shoal where we dropped the trolling motor and proceeded to troll. Bottom bouncers and spinners were our go to lures that day however the action was slow to start with only perch and white bass caught. We criss-crossed the lake fishing in everything from 18 to 40 FOW. Again only perch and white bass seemed to be interested.
Being a firm believer in “If it aint working, try something else” we decided to try a troll line of the eastern shore line where there was a definitive drop. Trolling in everything from 17 to 24 FOW we started getting lots of hits and proceeded to land several nice sized drum. One we estimated to be around 13 Lbs. We tucked in even closer to the shore line to find a submerged weedbed where we caught a couple decent sized largemouths. As an added bonus we even caught a walleye while on the out side of the weedline.
All in all a decent day on the water.
My apologies for such crummy photography work. I left my DSLR at home as the weather was predicted to be pretty lousy.
Ah well, low quality fish pics are better than none at all right?
Southern Ontario is blessed with an abundance of great, albeit often overlooked, fishing opportunities. I know I am starting to sound like a broken record on this issue but hear me out.
The misconception is that you need to travel a great distance to get to good fishing opportunities but in my experience this is not so. While there is great fishing in the states and Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario has many vibrant watersheds that are not only conveniently located near major centres but afford the angler a chance at quantity and quality of fish.
Case in point, my report below:
I packed a light bag and hopped in the car at 8:30 pm Thursday evening headed for Bethany to meet up with my uncle. After a few hours of sleep we awoke at 4:30 am and were on our way to Port Darlington. We launched the boat and sailed out of port into 80 FOW.
We dropped the down riggers and dipsy divers and instantly had a hit but couldn’t capitalize. We trolled for another hour out to 117 FOW with no hits and no sign of bait balls. Things were looking grim with no fish in the boat so we decided to head back to the scene of the crime where we had the first hit.
Sure enough we had two quick bites and boated two rainbow trout: one was 6lbs the other was 9lbs. Both were healthy fish and provided a strong fight.
An hour later and a after couple more near misses we received a strong hit on the down rigger. I set the hook and proceeded to reel in the fish thinking we hooked another decent rainbow. You could imagine my surprise when the fish kept up its impressive run for what seemed like forever. Fifteen minutes and a couple blisters later we boated a beautiful 18lb Chinook salmon. This was a truly magnificent beast, built for speed and strength. The truly impressive thing about these fish is that they will fight to their very last ounce of strength making it essential for proper equipment and proper release techniques.
One more impressive thing, they are located just minutes from the 401 along almost the whole stretch of southern Ontario.
With our Big lake appetite sated we pulled the boat and took a few hours break giving me just enough time to make a quick stop at SAIL and have a quick nap.
In the afternoon we towed the boat to Sturgeon lake, located near Lindsay Ontario to take a crack at the resident walleye population.
The walleye cooperated and we boated multiple 40cm fish which put them convienently in the 35-50 cm slot in force on the lake. All within a couple hours.
Since I can’t resist the taste of fresh walleye we kept two nice eating sized fish for the table and released the rest.
(my new abu Garcia verdict and cardinal in action)
All in all an impressive day on the water with a total of four species caught ( included a jumbo perch caught while trolling) and all within less than an hour’s drive.
Once again, I recommend trying the fishing opportunities in Sothern Ontario. Not only is the fishing great but you will save on gas too!
Figuratively, that is. My two co-workers, Dave and Jordan, and I had put in a solid 9 day stretch at work right through the first two days of the Canada Day weekend. You would think after 12 hours days the last thing we wanted to head to the office, But this was no ordinary office. This was the kind of office where your coworkers are your buddies, your clients are cagey bucket mouths with a temper, and the wages directly proportional to how hard you want to work and how good your skills are.
Thankfully we are good at our jobs, so the pay was good!
We left Kingston around 6:30, grabbed our morning coffee and hit Highway 15, my gateway to all things fishing.
Getting up this early on or first day off in a while was tough, bit we all knew what was waiting for us so we did it gladly. We had yet to decide on a lake and all had a serious craving for some bucket mouth action. and Since we had all heard of the monster bass stories from cranberry and dog lake we decided to give it a go. We had never fished the lake before and had nothing but our hard earned bass fishing experience to guide us. With that, we fired up the 40hp on the green machine and ripped down the lake. Didn’t take long to find a nice weedy cove and we were in business. moments later we were hammering in to green gold at every weed bed edge and every floating muck pad. This was the only way to relax after a hard week.
Bass started small, and gradually got bigger. Things got interesting when Jordan hooked what he thought was the biggest bass he ever caught. Turned out it was a decent sized dogfish (AKA. bowfin). These characters showed up fairly often during the trip and were always huge.
Me with a decent little bucket mouth.
Lots of wildlife to bee seen on cranberry and plenty of ospreys.
Dave with a pig he dragged out of the shallows.
halfway down the lake we picked up a stalker who thought our boat would be a nice place to sun himself. I always love seeing big snappers swimming around. A true sign of a healthy lake.
This office, definitely has a better view and is much more spacious!
The clients were happy today and very cooperative!
The wages were good!
Fishing was good and the office was busy.
Best we have seen all year and its only the beginning of summer. That being said, we will definitely be going back to cranberry.
Last year Dave and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a local bass tournament in the Kingston area on Collins Lake. The tournament isn’t a huge one with between 10 and 25 people every year, but regardless of the size, the people are nice and the hosts always put on an amazing spread of authentic Portuguese delights. You can count on plenty of laughs and good times too boot!
Based on all the fun we had last year (not to mention Dave winning the tourney), we jumped at the chance when we received the invite again this year. Regardless of there being bigger tournaments out there, this one really focusses on the community aspect of the sport which plays a crucial role in why we returned this year.
The tournament started with drinks and poker at the hosts house followed by an early morning start at 6am out of the launch. Im not going to lie, this was “difficult” to do for many of the fisherman as the night was late one.
However, foggy as we were, Dave and I manned my the Green Machine and arrived at the launch followed closely by Jay, the participant who invited us.
Out of the gate the day started with a bang as I landed 4 solid bass weighing in between 1 lb 13 oz and 2lb 11oz each. This was a solid bag considering lasts years tough conditions and Dave’s win with only 7lb 15oz. But as the rules dictate, only two fish could be weighed in during the morning so two went back into the drink.
Dave started late into the fish but managed two decent 2 lb ers at about mid morning. We pulled the plug at noon and headed into the shore to weigh in and see how we fared. Things were looking good for me with my 4lb 13 two fish bag until Mark, another participant from Mississauga, came in to show us his whopping 3lb 4oz beast. It was a race, and Mark was winning with me trailing closely behind and Jay and Dave closely behind me.
We headed back out after a delicious sandwich prepared by Fantima with a renewed sense of competition and a satisfied belly.
It was anyone’s game and we all knew it.
The afternoon confirmed my worst fears, the fish had shut down and pickings were slim. I wasn’t able to fill my last two slots and wound up stagnant. However, Dave saddled up a swim bait rig he had been working on and managed two average size fish from some large weedy bays. Dave had his four fish and was now the front-runner with 7 lbs 12oz.
The following day had me tied up with family duties but most of the other participants made it back out. I am told Mark landed more fish to bring him to 6oz shy of Dave’s bag and Jay hooked, and unfortunately lost a 6lb beast.
At the end of the day Dave held onto his title and the trophy with a weight consistent with last years total. Koodos to Dave for thinking outside the box and to Jay and Mark for bringing such stiff competition. You guys are excellent fishermen whom id rather be fishing with than against any day of the week.
Pics posted below (please ignore my wild disheveled look. That’s the look of a man running on 4 hours of sleep and a few too many beers the night before).
(Above: The green machine at the weigh station)
All in all, a solid bass Derby with great folks. I am sure I speak for Dave when I say we are grateful for the chance to fish with such great people. Not to mention such healthy competition.