When the topic of great bass fisheries in North America comes up, Lake Erie is always near the top of the list. So it was only fitting that this was the venue for the final in the series of Canadian Open Pro Am series of Fishing. The inaugural Lake Erie Open organised by the CSFL was yet another success in the series of Pro Am tournaments including Rice Lake, Lake Simcoe Showdown, Kingston Canadian Open, and finally the season end Lake Erie Open.

The Lake Erie Open added another Champion to the list as local Brent Way edged out Darren Izumi to take home the $10,000.00 first prize. Chris Johnston ended 3rd to cap off an incredible year and become the series Angler of the Year.

There is another story building in these Pro Am events and that is the competition for Co-angler Angler of the year. Mike Sloan edged out Jeff Bucks who had a substantial lead going into the event. Mike drew Landon Weiske as his pro and weighed in 18.95 pounds to overtake Jeff paired with Olivia Michaud with 5.1 pounds on the final day.

Home base and ceremonies were changed from Port Colborne to the Greater Niagara Boat Club to ensure the event two days of fishing. This would allow fishing the river only in the event of high winds. The boat club located in the Chippawa Creek has excellent facilities to accommodate the event and they were great hosts as always.

Chippawa Boat Ramp and Creek to the Niagara River.

Two days of perfect weather allowed teams to run as far as their gas tank would take them and some ventured as far as Turkey Point, 75 miles from blast off. Erie rarely disappoints but September can be a tricky month for transitioning smallmouth. One day they are on fire and the next you can hardly get bit. Quantity was not an issue as a 2 to 3 pound average is easy for anyone to catch. But as some of the lakes most experienced specialists will tell you those 2 and 3 pound fish might be all you can get to bite during the cycles of September. Fish of all sizes can be found both deep and shallow but those big shallow fish are spooky and extremely hard to catch. There are fish on almost every ridge, hump or gravel flat in deep water but even if you find big fish smaller fish can get in your way. Home water can be a huge advantage most of the time but September can be the equalizer.

The tournament drew a very high profile field from both Canada and the U.S.. But even names like Derek Strub, JP DeRose, Gaspare Costabile, and Paul Castellano of Cast Adventures http://www.castadventures.ca/ got stung on one of the two days. It’s not often you will see Paul Castellano far away from the leaderboard on Niagara or Erie. But there were teams that found bigger fish even if they had to catch 40 fish to get a 4 pound average. Darren Izumi teamed with co-angler Sue Watson on the final day weighed in an impressive bag over 25 pounds for the highest individual weight of the tournament. Darren said they caught about 20 fish and culled 5 times before achieving their weight. On the final day weigh-in Darren took the hot seat right down to the last team. Brent Way came to the stage and the fish were weigh individually. The last fish had to weigh better than 4.20 pounds or better for the win. When asked if he thought he had enough Brent said he was very nervous. The fish were then weighed all together and the .10 pound difference was enough for the win.
The series will return to Lake Erie in 2016 along with a new popular venue Bay of Quinte.

(right) Winner Brent Way with (left) Matt Fuller

Darren Izumi with Sue Watson and Mike Sloan in the hot seat

Selfy with Darren Izumi and Co-angler champ Mike Slaon

Frank Janzen with Cara Carmichael

My Day
I spent two days practicing before the tournament and found no less than 20 deep spots that were holding fish. Of those spots only two produced fish larger than 3 pounds. The deeper I went the smaller the fish. On the first day of practice the wind was blowing and the bite was on so you could test the average size. The next day of practice was dead flat and the bite just stopped with the exception of very shallow fish. Some areas still had fish on beds although most of these were just males waiting for females that would never come. Another long winter and cold spring seems to have affected fisheries everywhere. Typically a hot spell in September will drive large fish shallow one last time. I found a lot of larger fish in less than 6 feet of water so my plan was to stay shallow if it was sunny and calm. At blast-off we headed down Chippawa Creek to the Niagara to make the 14 mile run to the lake. My Co-angler for the day was Mark Porter who had fished several of the other Pro-Am events over the last two years. He had never fish Erie so the river tour was a nice touch. It is an uneventful ride down the Niagara until you approach the first bridge where the current is so strong it’s like driving in a blender for about 2 miles. Anyone that has never taken the run can get a little nervous as the boat gets pushed from side to side in the incredible current. When we did get to our first spot the same fish were there but had no interest in us. Once they seem us there was no way to get bit. We caught smaller fish after fish but only one 4 pound fish. Our weight of 15.20 was disappointing considering how many fish we caught.

Mike Porter with some fine Lake Erie smallmouth

The second day called for high winds so the target was deep fish in one of the 2 spots I found big fish. Co-angler Brian Norman and I settled on our first spot by 8:30. The first fish a 4.70 came quick followed by a very large fish that jumped as we tried to net it and it came unbuttoned. It was a very light bite that could be mistaken for goby. I noticed the fish had red and torn lips so they were pinning crayfish and goby in 30 ft. The trick to get bigger fish hooked was to feel the first tick when the fish pinned the bait, leave it slack to let the fish suck in the bait then set the hook. This worked great and we culled through 20 more fish to get 18.50 pounds. It was still a long way from the leaders but at least we were going in the right direction. Paul Castellano said the larger fish were still not schooled up. The water was cooling and this can produce big bites one on a spot one day and nothing the next as they scatter. “It really takes a little luck to stay on larger schools of big fish” said Paul. Four days of perfect weather and more fish than you can catch on almost any other fishery made it a great tournament. The further we move towards winter the better it gets on Erie so at least two more trips are scheduled. There is nothing like a November day on Erie where 50 fish days are common. Unfortunately it is a big lake and you have to pick your days as the fall winds can produce some very rough conditions.

If you are interested in fishing Lake Erie this fall the town leaves the docks in at Crystal Beach most of November. Launch and parking is free after September 30th, but only $5.00 in season. If you plan to stay overnight the Crystal Beach Motel http://www.crystalbeachmotel.com/ has reasonable rates and is boat friendly for overnight parking.