Having just returned from New Hampshire and my third experience as a member of Team Ontario, I can only wish I could report that I had placed higher and would be moving on to the Nationals… but alas that is not the case, ending up in 4th place on the team. Mike Desforges of Burlington ON deservedly was first on Team Ontario with a five fish limit each day and an overall weight of 32.09 pounds.
Arguably one of the finest bass anglers this country has ever seen, the quiet and studious Desforges has had an illustrious bass fishing career so far. He is the only Canadian to ever win a Bassmaster Open event in the US. He won the 2006 New Ark Open (and $100,000) on Lake Simcoe with a record setting weight of 73.35 pounds for the three day event.
Day 2 on Lake Winnipesauke just before the morning blast off. Boaters were paired with non boaters from different states each day of the three day event. Photo By Darlene Kroisenbrunner
This past summer he also won the Stren Series Northern Division event at New York's 1,000 Islands and then came back home to Canada and won the Bassmania Classic Championships (a team tournament) with partner Doug Brownridge on the Bay of Quinte. Most recently he also beat out several US anglers and won the American Bass Anglers tournament out of 1,000 Islands.
For safety reasons blastoffs in today's modern bass tournaments are always trickle starts. Long gone are the early years when a shotgun blast would mark the start of the event - seeing all the boats take off at once. Photo By Darlene Kroisenbrunner
Desforges Winning Ways in New Hampshire:
Desforges, who is no stranger to clear water and finicky smallmouth bass adapted his tackle and techniques as the tournament progressed. " I caught all my fish the first two days on a drop shot. I was drop shotting a Bass Pro Shops XPS creature bait without the legs and a straight tail worm. I used 8 pound Suffix fluorocarbon and ran about an 18 inch lead. I was fishing isolated rock on a sand flat in 25 ft of water that was leading into a cove," he revealed.
Desforges changed tactics completely however on the third and final day of the event. "On the last day I caught most of my fish on a gold and a silver Rapala X-Rap X-10. I used a 6'6" BPS Johnny Morris Signature Series spinning rod and reel combo with 10 pound Suffix fluorocarbon for it. The fish were coming out of 15 ft. of water to hit the jerk bait so the lighter floro line allowed the bait to get a bit deeper. The areas I was looking for were off of a steep sand break near the main body of the lake," he said.
We asked this methodical angler why he would even consider changing areas and techniques after two consecutive days of decent limits and a considerable lead on Team Ontario. Basically his response indicated that his bass were becoming spooked so he felt a change in areas and presentation was warranted in order to maintain his lead.
During our BFN Regional Divisional Championship tournament there was also another major tournament occurring at the same time. The BASS Federation event (FLW's version of their Eastern Divisional) was also taking place and Lake Winnipesaukee was very busy with bass anglers. Many of our spots that saw no anglers in pre-fish had several boats on them during the actual tournament. Desforges' prior US experience in similar circumstances taught him to find those obscure areas that others would likely not use. He said "From the start, what I did differently was that I stayed away from other boats".
Mike Desforges on the last day of the event with one of his five bass. Most of the bass weighed in were smallmouth although Winnipesaukee does have some big largemouth bass as well. Photo By Darlene Kroisenbrunner
He explained in more detail: "Although I had found several spots in practice, I felt the fish in Winny were very spooky so I wanted an area that wasn't receiving a lot of pressure. I had the main area I fished all to myself for the first couple of days and it was fairly large but the fish were still getting spooked just by me. By the middle of the second day, they were already becoming very difficult to catch. On the last day I abandoned my best spot all together … although there were still fish there but I just couldn't catch them anymore".
Desforges went to that new area with his trusty Rapala jerkbait and caught another decent limit that solidified his first place finish on the team and 5th overall in the tournament.
Mike Desforges being interviewed by BASS TIMES reporter John Neporadny on day one after he took an early lead on Team Ontario. Photo By Darlene Kroisenbrunner
It was the first time Desforges was part of Team Ontario and he was happy to have had the experience. "Team Ontario and the Federation Divisional were new to me and I didn't really know what to expect. It's an interesting concept and I enjoyed the week down there with my teammates. I'm looking forward to the National event and plan on trying to get down there before it goes off limits", he said. At the Nationals the top placing angler from each of the six divisions will qualify for the 2009 Bassmasters Classic, set for February 2009 in Louisiana.
2008 Team Ontario: Top row from left to right: Frank Ramsay, Garry Mansholt, Brian Curry, Dave Rochette, Paul Kroisenbrunner and Sherman Davis. Bottom row - left to right: Gerry Heels, Mark Cavanaugh, Ken Hamilton (president OBFN), Mike Desforges, Wil Wegman and Dave Richards.
Time For the Junior Bassmasters:
Following the 'adult' bass fishing event in New Hampshire, the top Junior Bassmasters from seven US states and Ontario competed in an Eastern Division qualifying event of their own. Representing Ontario was Jake Sasnowski of Bowmanville in the 15-18 age group and Mark Morrison of Barrie in the 11-14 age group. The young Morrison was beat out by Maine angler Brian Volkernick but Sasnowski brought in 8lb 8z to claim top honors in his age group. To catch his fish he also used a Rapala X-Rap after getting some advice from Mike Desforges and boater Gerry Heels. The young bass pro has now qualified for the World Junior Bassmaster Championships which will be held in conjunction with the Nationals in Kansas this November.
Ontario Junior Bassmaster and now World Junior Bassmaster Championship Contender Jake Sasnowski holds two of the four bass he caught in New Hampshire. He's flagged by Stacy Twiggs (left) Youth Director for BASS and Jon Stewart - Tournament Director.
The reward for the top 12 anglers of the event will see this year's Team Ontario compete in the 2009 Divisional right here in Ontario on our very own Lake Simcoe. Nine US states and their 12 person teams will visit our home waters to fish for a chance to compete in the Federation Nation Championship. From there the top 6 anglers from the 6 different divisions will compete in the Bassmasters Classic against 45 pros from around the world for the $500,000 top prize.