It was an up and down week at the Canadian Open full of satisfaction, anguish and excitement. After leaving the FLW Costa where my motor and trolling motor broke down I was sure I would have to back out. This is not the kind of tournament you want to fish with no practice. Eastern Lake Ontario is full of different structures, bottom composition, currents and flats and the big fish and good bite can change overnight. But thanks to Paul at Top Gun who lent me a bottom end for my motor, Rockyís Tackle who fixed my Minn Kota, and my Friend Paul Legacey I was able to get in a day of practice and at least find some fish close to Kingston.

The Kingston Canadian Open is not the big money event of the year but it might be the most prestigious. The pro-am format means you team up with someone for a single weight but as a pro you are fishing for yourself and making the decisions. Most of the best sticks show up so the competition is top notch. It can be a grueling 3 days on big water with weather playing a strategic role. Big winds mean limited travel and often the equalizer. The young guns with the best eyes, most stamina, risk tolerance have an advantage. This year we were absent Chris and Corey Johnston as they made their way to the Ranger Cup and $500k prize. This left Darren Izumi and Cal Climpson as the ones to watch along with a field of veterans and Lake Ontario specialists.
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My Tournament

With one day practice in a boat not quite suited for rough water, Paul Legacy and I used his boat to find fish out of the elements during practice in 20 kph winds. There are actually a lot of big fish close to Kingston or in the St. Lawrence where you can hide and fish in calm waters. What I really needed to know is what the big fish were relating to. Was it a better deep water bite, would there still be fish shallow, or was it late enough in the season where they had gone to the sand flats.

Day 1

I never sleep much before a tournament. I routinely get up around 4:30 but I always seem to be worried about sleeping in. My partner for the day was Tim Hunter from Kingston. Tim is a good angler and that always helps since his fish are my fish. We had a plan that included a 5 spot rotation starting with a spot someone might show up at. I was hoping for a deep bite early then hit the mid depths then shallows as the day progressed. Check in time was 4:00 pm so we had plenty of time to catch good fish even if there wasnít a lot of fish in the areas. All you need is 5 big fish per day and try not to lose to many.

At 7:00 am we blasted off in 24th position and headed for the first spot. It didnít take long before Tim hooked the first fish to break the ice. For some reason it always seems to solidify your plan when you catch a fish on your first spot. It gives you a little confidence that you made the right choice. Just when we got comfortable that we were going to get a quick limit we ran out of biting fish. We headed for the next spot and came up empty. We tried different baits but when my Gulp Fry on a drop shot doesnít get touched Iím pretty confident Iím in the wrong place.

In late July the lake normally gets pretty slimy on the bottom. This forces you into a drop shot rather than cleaning a tube every cast. Deep water drop shot is also the safest bite and rarely do I lose a fish. You hook them right in the peak and it isnít coming out. They can jump all they want, surge over and over, and even bottom grind but normally they end up in the net.

We are now 2 hours in to the day and we have 3.5 pounds in the livewell. Certainly not in panic mode but the morning bite is coming to an end and now we have to work for fish. The 3rd spot was a mid depth flat with sand and gravel and some scraggly weed. This is typically an early fall habitat when the crayfish are molting and the first and second spawn of goby are about 2 to 3 inches. Bass prefer those smaller goby and pin them on the bottom. If you catch a bass with red lips you know it is pinning crayfish and goby or digging them out of the gravel. We arrived at the spot and I have some old marks with a couple of rocks and some weed. There was a very strong east wind so there was little boat control so you simply try to aim your drift. About 20 minutes later my rod loads and up shoots a 5.80 fish which turn out to be big fish of the day worth $520. The thing about catching a big fish is, in a sea of 4 pounders a 6 can win the tournament. Now we had two fish and the bite was dead.

By noon the sum is hot and the wind is lighter. It was time for skinny and sight fishing. I had a place that can produce some big fish but they are very spooky. I use a wacky black Bass Magnet Quiver Stick and a 2.5 inch Berkley Power tube. You position yourself for a long shallow drift avoiding the trolling motor. Fish will come to the boat and hang around and they will eat with the right presentation. Normally this is letting the bait sink to the bottom, peeling out line and drifting away. If you touch the trolling motor they are gone. It took 30 minutes to boat the first fish after seeing 6 or 7 big black fish that we couldnít get to bite. Now we have 3 fish and about 14 pounds. By 1:30 we still have 3 fish but we pick up another one close to 5 pounds. It took until 3:00 before we had a limit but we still have a bag killer, a 3 pound fish. We try a couple of areas on the way back with no luck or small fish.

Itís 3:40 and time to head in. I have one more stop on the way back. We get set up and over the deep structure and mark fish. We drop baits and for 10 minutes they simply would not bite. Just before I pull up the trolling motor Tim says fish on! This fish must have known we were late as it would not come to the boat. We finally get it in and cull the last fish and race for the check in making it with 30 seconds left. At one pound per minute penalty you should not be late.
After weigh-in we were in 3rd with 21.75 pounds behind Cal Climpson with 23.50 and Paul with 22.40. Tim and I had such a great day with ups and downs and all the elements that make great memories and friendships.

Tim Hunter and I after 21.73 weight on day 1
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Day 2

Another carbon copy day and again I have a good partner in Ben Covell another local and young guy with good eyes LOL. We both like site fishing and since I knew there was still big fish on my flat we decided to spend most of the day just grinding it out for 5 fish. Again the wind was bad and hard to control the boat. We were an hour before Ben spots a fish and hooks it on a drop shot. It wasnít huge but a nice fat 4+ pounder to start. It was an hour later when he spotted a fish for me and I dropped a tube down and drifted away until I felt weight. If we could catch a fish per hour we could put together a good bag. But ultimately patience got the best of me and I had to run.

We checked out 3 or 4 spots with no luck and if we did find fish they wouldnít bite. Itís 12:30 and its rough on the lake but we decide the long run to the outer islands might be worth it. With 4 ft waves its an hour away. After a bumpy ride we arrive at a hump that normally holds fish with a north wind so Iím hoping they are there with a NE wind. We set up and Ben drops a Gulp minnow down and bang it loads. He mussels in a nice 4+ pound fish. On his next drop he hooks another. Now it looks like we made the right move. I also put on a Gulp minnow and hook a fish only to break off. We were marking a lot of fish but our bite was dying as the wave got bigger. We had a limit but one of the fish was 3 pounds, another bag killer. Itís 2:30 and we have an hour run back. We pack up and after about an hour we are at the final spot. Again the clock is ticking and with 15 minutes left I hook a nice cull fish and we head in. We get in way too early! We though we had over 21 pounds but the scale showed 19.55 and that dropped us to 5th. Another great day and partner with all the ups an downs that make a tournament day.

Ben and I after day 2
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Day 3
My final day partner was a lady avid angler Corina Dover from Trenton. She was so nervous as we discussed the game plan. We blast off fifth and head straight for the hump we fished the day before. We marked fish but we were not getting bit. It was an hour before I landed a tagged fish over 5 pounds. The tagging program is headed by Dr. Bruce Tuff of Queens University is the largest program in North America. It is designed to find migration patterns, growth rates, mortality rates from tournaments and to design best practices among other valuable life cycle information. The fish I caught could be from several tournaments. Tournament organizers take the tag and report all of the valuable information like length, weight, and health. Unfortunately, this fish eventually died in my live well.

Corina and I toured the islands fishing several places and catching some small fish. Since I didnít prefish the area I had no idea what was happening. I just watched the sonar and dropped on old marks.The big bite was dead and despite being over many fish in various locations we simply couldnít get bit. At noon we had 2 fish. We were about to leave a spot when Corina points to a fish on the sonar. I drop a bait and boat another nice fish. But catching deep fish was like pulling teeth. We decided to head shallow to an old spot I had from an FLW tournament. It took 40 minutes to get there but now we were out of the wind and in 3 ft of water site fishing. I spot a fish, drop a bait bang a nice black fish is boated. These shallow fish on very hot days go crazy. You canít keep them in the water and they hard to net.

With 40 minutes left in the day and 30 minutes back to the launch I blind cast a wacky Quiver Stick and it loads before it sinks an inch. Another crazy fish that was tough to net but we now had 5 nice fish. Just before we leave we see a monster hanging around with a couple of carp. I toss a bait but it was too accurate and I hit the fish. We pack up and try to run the troughs on the way back through 3 ft waves. We made it back way too early. We had to start icing the fish and getting ready for the drive to the K-Rock Center for the weigh-in. It was going to be a long time to drive 3 km through long weekend traffic so the fish must be in well aerated cool water to preserve their health. I already had one dead fish another I had tongue hooked and it was dying. These would be the only 2 dead fish I have had in 2 years.

We have a pretty good bag but there was no way we could win now being almost 5 pounds behind. The ceremonies and stage was set up like the Bassmaster Classic. There was a great crowd and JP DeRose was the mcee with Big Jim as the color commentator. We had to line up outside so we had no idea what everyone was weighing. All the pageantry of the classic. We were the fifth last boat as we were driven up to the stage sitting in the boat. The presentation was great and when we bagged the fish and took them to the scales our 18.55 was the forth best of the day. Joe Fonzi of Buffalo had the big bag at 25.65. Our 2nd place was short lived as Cal Climpson added 17.60 to his weight but was quickly bumped by his father Paul Climpson with 19.50 pounds.

Corina and I after day 3
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The Champ Ė Congrats to Steve Voros

Steve Voros always seems to be near the top of the leader board in many major tournaments. He was hanging around the top of the leader board for the first 2 days and his consistency eventually beat the field. The fishing was tough for all 3 days yet he managed to put it together all three days. Steve will walk away with $12,000.00 and hid name on the Canadian Open Trophy.
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Thanks to the CSFL and the whole Pollatta family, the City of Kingston, and all the sponsors for an incredible tournament once again. Big thanks to Yvonne Brown for capturing the essence of the event and to all my co-anglers for more fun than you can imagine and some great memories.

Most images courtesy of Yvonne Brown of Fishing 101 for Woman. Check all the great images at Yvonne Brown Facebook

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