The long wait is finally over! Since November 30th 2010 ... along with thousands of other avid Ontario bass anglers, I have been hapless and bassless - unable to fish for the greatest fish with fins.
Opening Day June 25: Man I was pumped ... despite the strong winds and heavy rain that were forecast and materialized for much of the day. The plan was to meet my partner Gerry Heels up at the Orillia boat launch so we could prefish Simcoe for the Casey Cup tournament the next day. I carefully rigged my rods and reels the night before, packed my overnight bag, all the little extras I needed and was ready to go. Upon arrival at the launch I suddenly realized there was not just one, but a dozen things I forgot... My rods and reels! I've forgotten a lot of things before but never my freakin' rods ... Man, what a goofball!
So the opener was spent using Gerry's extra rods and looking for ... not necessarily catching, some big smallmouth bass. We fished a couple of new areas and brought some decent bass to the side of the boat before shaking them off - landing one; but not the size we needed.
A small Simcoe smallie Wil caught in the pouring rain opening morning with a Rapala X Rap
It was pouring rain and windy and another good test for my new Frabil FXE Stormsuit. Man, I can't ever recall being so dry under such a heavy rain before. Even when we were running from spot to spot, I was exceptionally dry... quite impressed so far with the suit that's for sure.
At our next stop- a long time favorite, we used Rapala X Raps and Husky Jerks to locate - again not catch (ya don't want to sting them right before a tournament) some nice bass. These were remarkably bigger bass in the 4-5 pound category ... so this would be our main area for the next day.
Casey Cup Tournament June 26: We were team number 24 and raced out of Couchiching as quickly as we could to get to our Simcoe honey hole. Unfortunately the big area we discovered yesterday that didn't have any boats on it now had almost half the boats who were ahead of us already there. Darn! We went to our GPS'd spot that Gerry had saved on his Lowrance HD unit and immediately began throwing topwaters. It was just my second cast with the Storm Chug Bug when slurp, a nice three pounder engulfed the topwater.
We continued to fish the shallow water rock pile yet all the fish were just below the 13 inch minimum. Throughout the day, our area continued to produce ... but the bass wouldn't top 2.5 pounds. Other areas we tried just didn't produce anything bigger either. We weighed in a very small limit of 12.75 lbs and it took more than twice that to win. Drop shot rigs produced well for us despite the 5-10 feet of shallow water we found our bass in. It seemed like you needed a bait worked off the bottom if you didn't want to drag up a mess of gunk or sludge as the old slimy weeds formed into a ball around your jig. Husky Jerks worked well also produced and were great at finding bass.
Almost 100 teams competed in the 2011 Casey Cup held out of Orillia’s Lake Couchiching.
Almost all teams chose to fish Simcoe however ... as this is where most of the biggest bass reside.
Lake Simcoe, June 27: Since the early 1990's I have guided someone on Lake Simcoe who has become a good friend over the years. This time however, Brian Cappe would be my guide as we would use his Ranger bass boat for some early season largemouth fishing on in Lake Simcoe. The day started bright and early and although we enjoyed the uncharacteristically calm waters, it really wasn't until the wind picked up a touch later on that the bass really turned on.
Brian with a nice Simcoe largemouth caught from the reeds.
We focussed our efforts on pencil reeds and newly ... yet late, emerging arrowhead plants. Brian's bait consisted of a wacky rigged senko that he would cast to the edge of reeds and within any open pockets. My efforts where targeted at the little nooks and crannies situated way back within the thickest part of the reed beds. To accomplish this effectively, I rigged a Trigger X Flutter Worm Texas style on a screw- in wide gap Gamakatsu hook . This allowed me to plunk the bait into places the wacky could not go and reach those more elusive bass tucked back in tight where most anglers fear to tread. It was a one - two punch that was hard to beat and although both of us had fantastic days ... I was indeed outfished by Brian.
Aurora Bassmaster Club Tournament June 28: This was our first club tourney of the year on a relatively small lake a couple of hours from our club's meeting place. My non boater was Stan Tsyar who has been with the club for a couple of years and has rapidly increased his skill level every time he's been on the water. We began the day along a shoreline that usually has a good topwater bite ... but nothing was happening here, so after catching a small largemouth we left for the opposite shore. Here our luck changed and I got a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth on Rapala Husky Jerks along a rock weed transition out from shore.
We then moved in tossing Trigger X Flutter worms and drop shots near docks. We'd pick a fish up here and there, going from one shore to the next fishing some of the best docks that the lake had to offer. I had a small limit before noon ... and although Stan still had just three fish - his were larger.
We then headed to a new bay were not only the docks continued to produce, but where the lead-in cover and deeper water adjacent to the docks was just too good to ignore. I looked out towards those deeper green cabbage plants and saw a couple of baitfish splashing. ... being forced to the surface by larger predatory fish. We moved out there in a hurry.
By this time, the wind had picked up significantly but we were still relatively protected in our bay. It was time to capitalize on the feeding fish and ideal conditions to cover water and throw spinnerbaits. Stan caught the first two and quickly had a very decent limit for this lake. Meanwhile mine were all dinks so I had to begin upgrading. Stan culled a couple of more key fish throwing his spinnerbait. At first mine was too light -so I switched to a full one ounce Terminator spinnerbait with double willow leafs that I could cast a mile. For the next couple of hours that bait caught over a dozen keeper bass and helped bump my weight up to just under 10 pounds- enough for a 5th place showing. It was a huge thrill though to see Stan weigh-in his fish that tipped the scales at just under 12 pounds ... to claim his first ever tournament victory.
Stan with two of his 5 bass that won the first Aurora Bassmaster Tournament of the 2011 season
Lake Simcoe, June 30: I have known Mike Miller ... former host of the Fish N Canada show since we were both contestants on the Last Cull in 2005- a Fishing TV reality series that took place in North Bay. Mike is now the host of Angler and Hunter TV and he called me up awhile back to see if we could make a spring whitefish show together. We tried desperately to do just that on several occasions but each time the wind was just too much to be able to jig for them effectively. Instead he decided to make a multi-species show from Simcoe, and on June 30, we focussed on smallmouth and largemouth bass. Simcoe did not disappoint us.
We found both species of bass still shallow. Drop shot worked best for the smallies whereas ... largemouth would hit spinnerbaits out in the main lake. When the wind really picked up, we headed for one of the typical weed infested largemouth rivers later in the day. Here the largies cooperated but Mike also nailed a gorgeous five pound smallie with a jig and pig under some of the heaviest cover imaginable. It was a great way to end the show ...
A recently renovated Boat Launch coupled with sturdy new docks - makes Sibbald Point Provincial Park near Sutton one of the finest access points on Lake Simcoe
Mike with one of the smaller smallies caught.