It’s day 1 of the 1000 Island Open and I’m in a bay with big fish I found in practice. I hear another boat coming and recognized the deep purr of a new Evenrude motor so I know who it is. Chris Johnston pulls in with father Lynn. We are about 100 yards apart and as he settles in and gets into his typical focus routine I could just feel the fish being sucked out from under me. Partner Jack Levert and I had already boated a nice fish and lost another. Within a few minutes Lynn is holding the net with a huge black bass in the bottom of it. Try as we might we could not get any more of these incredibly big fish to commit. But Chris was on his second fish and I know it was time to leave. One thing I have learned is not to fish beside and share fish with one of the Hoover (Johnston) brothers.

The Canadian bass tournament dominance continues as Chris Johnston sets a new 3 day record weight in winning the 1000 Island Open. In spite of 1.5 pounds of penalties for dead fish Chris distanced himself from the rest of the field with 73.79 pounds of Lake Ontario’s finest. Second place finishers Neil Farlow and Tom Streek were 6 pounds back with a weight that would win most other tournaments at 67.89. Lenny Devos and Kevin VanAsseldonk finished 3rd with 64.70 followed by Bob and Darren Izumi with 64.40 pounds, one pound ahead of Brian Huges and Bert Balas.

The $15000.00 first prize will just get added to Chris’s total for the year which is well on the way to record Canadian earnings. This remarkable year isn’t an overnight success. This is the result of starting to fish tournaments at the age of 11. Fifteen years later at the ripe old age of 26 there has been a steady incline in the number of wins or top 5 finishes. All of this is the result of time on the water, natural instinct and a culture of fishing in the family. It was only fitting that father Lynn who himself has a very rich resume of tournament victories should be there to share and contribute to the win. The good new was that Corey was south of the border on Lake Champlain for the FLW Rayovac.

The inaugural 1000 Island Open was a resounding success as the biggest purse of any Canadian tournament including a $60,000.00 Ranger boat drew most of the best anglers in the country and some great American teams as well. Renegade Bass guided by Paul Shibata with members and volunteers from the organization did an incredible job organizing this event sponsored by Hookset Marketing. The venue was Rock Port on the St. Lawrence Seaway and open to Lake Ontario. The host marina was Ed Huff Marina who not only provided the launch facility and staging area for the weigh-in ceremonies also provide transportation to parking. The whole procedure of launching 82 boats on a single ramp every morning went like clockwork. Everyone contributed to this very successful event and I'm sure Paul Shibata the founder of Renegade Bass must be breathing a sigh of relief after this one.

Big west winds and transitioning fish were the trend of the week. Big water, big fish and extreme weather were the elements to plan for. Some teams planned and executed well, others struggled under tough conditions. A very late spawn played well for those that could find fish on beds but the fish in general were thin and just starting to eat. River smallmouth were scarce so most teams made the long run to the lake and braved the winds and rough conditions on the big lake. The B.A.S.S. Elite Series won by Edwin Evers showed how tough the river was as Evers 3 day total would have placed 9th for the 1000 Island Open.

Some 1000 Island Open teams planned for long run times with as long as 2 hour return trip back from destinations south of the borer or closer to Belleville. Teams more familiar with eastern waters of the St. Lawrence made the run to points as far as Cornwall and shared water with 107 Elite team members. Most tournaments would not have to pay structure to allow for such huge fuel bills to run far for 3 days. But the 1000 Island Open paid as much for 10th place as most tournaments pay to win. Everyone wanted a piece of the purse and a shot at the Ranger. Whereas some tournaments with top heavy prizes lose entrants because of the Johnston effect, this event paid rich right to 30th place. Just to keep everyone interested to the last day a $60,000.00 Ranger boat powered by Evenrude was a draw prize for half the field that made the cut.

What Contributed to the Win?
Chris Johnston has acquired a lot of areas on Lake Ontario that can hold big fish. He said he intended on fishing a different area every day but winds and travel time dictate which of the spots come in to play. Travel time plays a big part of the milk run planning. “I allowed up to 2.5 hours to return from some areas. You have to consider changes in conditions and most important I don’t want to hurt or stress my fish.” Said Chris.

Chris and brother Cory are both early adopters of marine technology. Chris said his new favorite tool is Pan Optics by Garmin. He said it allows him to see fish ahead of him rather than having to be over top of them in deeper water. The feature is more like forward looking sonar rather than side imaging. You can mark fish ahead and cast to them rather than spook them by sitting on top of them and dropping down with a drop shot. Chris used a pumpkin colored Jackal Cross Tailed Shad for many of his fish.

Neil Farlow and Tom Streek of Belleville led after day one with the biggest one day weight of the tournament and followed up with two more good days to finish 2nd with 67.89 pounds.

Lenny Devos and Kevin Van Asseldonk took 3rd place with 64.70 pounds.

Bob Izumi with son Darren had an impressive tournament fishing 4th. Bob said they caught a lot of fish but many were thin post spawn fish that hadn’t started the post spawn feeding binge yet. After 3 days in the same place they gambled and ran to old areas that used to produce and this paid off. With well over $1 million in lifetime earnings, eastern Lake Ontario has been a large contributor over 30 years of tournament fishing.

Rounding out the top 5 was Brian Hughes and Bert Balas with 63.45 pounds of smallmouth.

A total of 41 teams made the cut and were entered in the Draw for the Ranger. One by one all of the teams drew a key and tried to start the boat. The team with a key that turns wins the boat. This was certainly an exciting way to end the closing ceremonies. It was certainly exciting for partner Jack Levert and I. We were second last team to pull the key and we were down to the last two teams. We now had a 50 / 50 chance of winning this gorgeous boat. But just before we were to go up and draw a key, the team of Jeff Storie and Ryan Smith who had already drawn a key that wouldn't start the boat came back up to the stage. They told the organizers that their key would turn but the kill switch wasn't attached so the boat would not start. Sure enough they dug back through the keys already tested and found the right key. So Jeff Storie and Ryan Smith win the Ranger. We were happy for them but would have really liked that new ranger LOL

Paul Shibata actually did get to fish the tournament and draw a key. He cringed as the key would not turn.

Paul along with other Renegade staff and Dr. Bruce Tuff of Queens University have designed one of the best live release systems in North America. Fish care has always been a priority at Renegade.

I had the pleasure of fishing with Jack Levert a great angler and guide from Cornwall and Lake St. Francis. Jack is the best river angler I know. His ability to read currents and holding patterns comes from years of experience fishing the river for a living. Jack started his professional fish carrier at the ripe old age of 11, catching and selling perch to local restaurants. He has been Reneage Team of the year and Classic champ as well as multiple top 5 finishes on that tour. He is an all around great multi species anglers and it shows in his natural ability. Jack had never fished Lake Ontario before so big water was new to him but he can adapt to any water. I have a lot of good water and found good fish in practice so between the pare of us what could go wrong?

I had a great practice finding several areas with very big fish and was able to put together a pattern that should hold up in the tournament. Smallmouth were in a transition stage but areas with good feeding shallows leading into 10 to 12 ft. flats held a lot of fish.

The mouth of the St. Lawrence from Kingston down the east cost to Hendersonville are abundant with these types of areas so when the spots run out the pattern holds up.

Jack and I had a good first day with just shy of 20 pounds but our fish were very thin. On the second day we suffered from big waves, lost fish and a tougher bite. By the third day we had an all or nothing 5 big fish plan to try and jump to the top 10. The plan was based on a forecast of 9km west winds in the morning. After blast off and the 1 hour run to the lake we realized that most of our water looked like a milkshake and was un-fishable. We scrambled, gambled and lost. The shorter last day doesn't leave a lot of time for mistakes. I often wondered how anyone could fish eastern Lake Ontario and not catch bass. After all this might be the best smallmouth fishery in the world. Now I know!

Oh well its only fishing and next on the agenda is the Kingston Canadian Open so I get to do it all over again!