1000 Island Open 2016

The final tournament for Easter Lake Ontario and most lucrative team event in the province blasted off from Ed Huck Marine in Rockport at 7:00 a.m. on August 4th 2016. The 1000 Island Open organised by Renegade Bass and sponsored by Hookset Marketing boosts the largest purse in the country The best teams and lake/ river specialists show up for a piece of the pie and a chance to win a new $65,000.00 Ranger boat. This tournament is organised like no other with no detail left unmanaged. If you need an example of what makes a great tournament this is it. The fishery which is next to none, the distribution and amount of the prize, the execution of the daily procedures, the excellent live release fish care, and even the detail for safety. It has it all in this 3-day marathon of fishing at its best.

This year the event took place during one of the most difficult times of the year for smallmouth fishing. Mid summer during the hottest summer on record following 2 major events on the same water are not the best times for catching a lot of fish. But with endless water to fish and the best in the sport fishing there was bound to be some heavy weights. At blast-off some headed as far east as the dams would allow and the rest headed west to the lake or the 1000 Islands along the way. There might be 100 Islands but there are a million humps and shoals and many hold fish.

Itís a long day on the water as check-in is at 4:00 a.m. giving an extra hour for travel time. At the height of holiday season the extra time is well appreciated as the long trip back from the lake is an obstacle course weaving through the endless stream of big cruisers with wakes bigger than some of the worst waves the lake can produce. You can spend as much time in the air as on the water if you are travelling too fast and fish care is paramount so limiting the amount of banging around in the live-well is key to avoiding dead fish penalties and fish mortality.

At the end of the first day many of the names expected to be at the top of the leader board weighed in big bags. Dereck Strub and Mike Desforges followed by Bob and Darren Izumi, Curtis Richardson and Brad Arnott along with 10 others weighed in over 20 pounds. The top weight of the day came from a team that has won everything both north and south of the border on these waters, Strub and Desforges with 25.66 lbs.
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My First Day

My original partner Bob Formosa could not make the event due to a family emergency. So the spot was filled by good friend Paul Legacy. Paul and I met during the first Canadian Open in Kingston 6 years ago. We had a blast when teamed up on day one and we have been having fun ever since.
We blasted 31st and headed for the lake to a rotation of spots that looked good in the one day of practice we had. It is a 50 minute ride to the first spot and visions of catching 5 big fish early quickly came to an end when we arrived and tried to deploy the trolling motor. It was broken at the bracket but after 20 minutes of toying with it we managed to get it in the water and start fishing. The fish were not as big and didnít come as fast as they did in my dreams but we did manage 3 nice fish before spending another 10 minutes trying to get the trolling motor out of the water. We were in 4 ft. waves and I was sure one of us was going for a swim. I had already dumped Paul in the water at the dock during practice so we had practiced that as well LOL.
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We knew if we were to be anywhere close to the lead we would need a couple of big fish. In a sea of 4 pound fish 5ís and 6ís are everything so the next 2 hours were spent where big fish roam. Paul would throw a jerk bait and when we found a couple of big dark shoppers following the bait I would place a tube in front of them. But this time the biggest fish hit the jerk bait and Paul boated a 6.32 pound smallie which eventually was the big fish of the tournament. Following this fish was another fish close to 6 pounds which took my 2.5 inch Berkley tube and these fish put us over 20 pounds by noon. We found a spot years ago that had big largemouth and when we arrived it took one spinnerbait cast to get a 4.40 bucket to add to the livewell. I lost another just as big. I said to Paul these green fish are as dumb as an oak tree so we would come back and get it tomorrow. Even if we have a smallie of the same size I would take the largemouth. Smallmouth are so temperamental in the heat and need constant care. Fresh water and ice all day long are the key as well as not banging them around from spot to spot. Largemouth will live through anything.

Now we are faced with another dilemma. We had 2 hours left to fish but it was howling out with big waves and the cruiser traffic would be sick on the river. Out trolling motor would break off if we banged it too much and we had a fish that was not looking good. We decided to make the slow cruise back. An hour and 30 minutes later we arrive. One of the deep fish we caught didnít make it and that cost us Ĺ pound as we weighed in 21.37 and were in 7th place.

Day 2

There was a small wind warning and this is just below the level that would shut off the lake. It was going to be nasty out on the lake but it was the only place we and many others knew where we could get good fish. We also had another problem in that our trolling motor was hanging on by a thread so like any mechanically inclined Canadian would do, we duct taped it on and used a prop made of swimming pool noodles and a cooler. We hoped it would last the day then maybe if we made the cut which was half the field 37 boats, we could get it fixed for the final day.

We took our time heading to the lake and with all the cruisers sleeping in past 7:00 we made good time. Now all we had to do was figure out how to get the trolling motor down. We eventually did. The two of us must have looked stupid bouncing around in 5 ft. waves while one pushed a spring loaded leaver and the other dropped the motor avoiding going for a swim. The south wind allowed us to run the troughs to the spot but standing up in the boat was another matter. We caught one deep fish and left.
Catching deep fish on hot rough days calls for some preparation to keep them healthy. The first thing you need to do is ice the water so it is even cooler than it would be from the depth they are caught. Really warm water shocks them and cool water settles them down. Next you have to fill your live well to the top. When I say fill I mean fill it right to the top by plugging your overflow port. When the live well is filled to the top the fish wonít bounce around and hit the sides of the well over and over. Next you have to allow a lot of time for travel so your boat isnít bouncing around and bounding. When you get to your next spot you have to replace the water and ice again. After the tournament you should clean your live well with bleach. The constant build-up of fish slim, their protective coating can become toxic if left in the heat for a long time.

Our next spot is a flat with all the elements early fall big fish like. The perfect habitat is sand, weed and big ricks. The over ripe weeds provide oxygen and cover for bait fish. Molting crayfish and smaller goby hide in the weeds or nestle into the cooler sand. Light gravel is also an option. By mid summer most of the rock shoals are exhausted of food. Fish still visit them looking for a meal but they spend much less time there. This is also true with deep rock humps. During the first part of summer these deep humps hold and generate a lot of food. But by late summer all of the food is gone and the same humps that load up with fish just a few weeks ago are now baron. Big bass move off to the flats surrounding these structures. They could be there early morning but when the sun is high most have left. Even the ones that are there have already finished feeding and it can be a frustrating day trying to get bit.

Paul and I managed to find over 17 pounds of sporadic fish before heading in 2 hours early again. We needed our duct tape motor for the last day if we made the cut. When the weigh-in started there was a lot of fatigued and frustrated anglers who battled to big water. Many of the leaders came up short as the fish that were there yesterday moved or wonít bite as early fall fish do. The window of opportunity shrinks to an hour or so in the morning and again in late afternoon. Some of the best lake specialists suffered from too many spot paralysis and choose the wrong spots at the wrong time. The extended heat wave has accelerated the season so the lake is fishing like early fall instead of mid summer.

The leader board was changing as Derek Strub and Mike Desforges had a rough day as did most of the other leaders that ran to the big lake and headed south. Those that turned east in the morning were rewarded as river fish tend to stay longer in the same places as the current of the river provides more oxygen and easy food as big fish just sit in the current and wait for delivery.

The new leader was touring pro Curtis Richardson who weighed in a whooping 25.71 pounds. Largemouth specialist and 2015 Canadian Open winner Lenny Devos made a big move by abandoning smallmouth and weighing in over 20 pounds of green ones. Charles Simms one of two Canadians to ever fish the Bassmaster Classic along with partner Nigel Touhey also made a big move fishing the river where you canít go any further.
Every day after fish were weighed, Queens University would tag fish and fizz and deep caught fish. They also use dead fish for research so none go to waste.

Day 3 and the Cut

If you managed to make the top 36 teams you fish the last day and are also added to a list that can win a new Ranger boat. For those that were left the forecast had finally changed. The winds would lay down for the first couple of hours and this would allow everybody to fish where they wanted for at least half the day. At 4 a.m. the sky was brilliant and clear and the air was a little cooler. You could feel the fish were going to be on and big weights were waiting. It was going to be a busier day in the river as the weekend was here and everyone with a boat would be on the water including all the big tour boats. This is one day that the waves on the lake were going to be tame compared to the mess in the river.

Paul and I had a plan to fish deep early then go shallower as the day progressed. During extended heat waves fish metabolisms eventually go crazy and they have to eat. Since there is limited easy food deep the shoreline is the place to be as the food supply replenishes faster. We started off the day in 40 ft and caught one fish about 5 pounds. Then the bottom went blank. This was the trigger to go shallow. We headed in to 3 ft of water and from the first cast we just pounded them. Ever second cast was met with a cranked up smallie just buzzing from the heat. We could catch them on Cutter jerk baits but after a while they took too long to remove from the net. So we used small tubes and 4 inch quiver sticks and for an hour it was one fish after another. By 8:45 we had over 20 pounds. But as fast as the bite started it shut down. When this happens its like some smallie texted everyone to say breakfast was over, get out of the mess hall.

We knew we need a good weight to move up so we would spend the next 4 hours just looking for a big fish. This is a tedious approach but it is what you have to do to catch fish over 6 pounds. You have to find a fertile area where you can sight fish. We site fished so much I havenít blinked for 3 days. Those big black shoppers travelling in pairs are few and far between. In mid afternoon when it gets hot and the sun is high they will come to the boat out of curiosity, but they are a tough bite. Sometimes they will follow you for a long time. They like clear water if the general environment is clear. If an area is murky you need to move to clear water. The way I normally catch them is when they leave. I cast a tube in the direction they are going and let it sink to the bottom. Then I just peel line out so the bait doesnít move. Normally they are a long way from the boat when they bite. I have a Fenwick World Class rod and I can feel a fish staring at my bait. Even when the line is slack I can feel the first tic. Then I take up the slack and reel into weight, never hard setting the hook until there is a lot of weight.
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We never did see one of those big dark tourists so we had plan ďBí to go back and get the big green one I lost the day before. But it was starting to howl and we would get just one chance. I pulled up to the spot and stayed on the trolling motor so Paul could fan and area with a spinnerbait. The second cast met the fish and we boated a 4.5 pound largemouth. Next it was off to deeper sand grass and by 2:00 pm we had our bag and would need 2 hours to get back through the maze of cruisers. We would have to stop 4 times to refresh the water and add ice.

When we finally got back with every screw in the boat and our bodies loose we started asking everyone waiting how the day went. Most said it wasnít a great day despite being able to travel anywhere. We weighed in with the number you were given according to your cumulative 2 day weights. We were #14 but only a pound out of top 10 and our weight of 22.18 temporarily lifted us to 3rd. We knew we were not going to stay there as some good weights were coming in. At this point Neil Farlow and Tom Streek were on the hot seat after a great final day weight. Before the tournament started I actually thought they could win it and now they were close.

One by one the final weights hit the stage and some were very low. Larry Mazur and Joe Fonzi took the lead with 71.10 pounds which ended Neil and Tomís chances. The final team of Curtis Richardson and Brad Arrnot came to the stage and blew the field away with 25.75 pounds and a total of over 75 pounds, a new tournament record. Curtis had a couple of spots that had been producing big fish and he made the best of it. It was a well deserved win and the team received over $12,000.00 for their efforts.
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One of the many great things about this tournament is the depth of the payout. Second place receives $10,000.00, 3rd place $8000.00, and this pattern continues to 10th place before dropping to $2500.00 and then $2000.00. Even 30th place gets $1000.00. The big fish payouts are spread over 2 places per day although since Paul and I had big fish of the tournament we wish there was only one payout.

In many tournaments once the cheques have been handed out the event is over. No more pageantry or celebration. Everyone is tired after a long day. But in the 1000 Island Open the best is saved for last. A new Ranger boat worth $65,000.00 is given to the team that picks the right keys and the motor starts. This can be very exciting when its your team turning the key. But the winner was not a team but an individual that was forced to fish by himself. Dennis Carnahan not only finished 18th by himself, he also won the Ranger. Seeing the look on someoneís face when they win a new boat is priceless unless your Chris Johnston or Bob Izumi who have won a field full already.

As for Paul and I we had an incredible time and won $3900.00 to boot. You know you had a great time when you are already planning next year.
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A huge thanks to Renegade Bass, Hookset Marketing, JP DeRose and BIG Jim for the excellent mcee job. JP will produce another excellent show to be aired on WFN later this year. Thanks to Dr. Bruce Tuff and Queens University for their continuing efforts and research to help us understand the health and size of the bass population. Their tagging program has already produced some amazing results. For more information, go to the Tuffs Lad Facebook page. Thanks to Pure Fishing Fenwick Pfluger for your support and to all the other wonderful sponsors of Time on the Water Canada. Thanks to my good friends Paul and Wanda Legacey for yet another great stay. Your hospitality is unbelievable. See you next year.

Bob has been on the water for 23 straight day after 3 major tournaments. My bet is he is due for a nap!

Lenny Devos and Kevin VanAsseldonk had an up and down tournament but managed 2 20+ pound bags of largemouth

Imagine being on the best bass fishery in the world in a new Ranger 522 with Anais Chavez. I think Brian won before he left the dock. Then he gets paid for it.
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Mike and Sue Watson are from Lake Erie so big water is nothing new for them. But they actually figured out the river fish and finished 7th.
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Frank Clark and Rob Laframbroise were in the hunt until the fish disappeared on the last day.

After a spectacular first day Mike Desforges and Derek Strub had a rough middle day but still managed a nice cheque.
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That key just wont turn but third place is nothing to sneeze at for Neil Farlow and Tom Streek
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The inspiration for the 1000 Island Open came from Robert Greenberg who teamed up with Chris Lawson for another top 20 finish
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Catching crazy pumped up smallies all day by yourself is enough stress but when the key turned for 18th placed Dennis Carnahan it made it all worth while.
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