5th Annual Ranger & Stratos Fishing Invitational

Once again I took part in the Ranger – Stratos Invitational Bass Tournament.  The charity fund raiser is organized each year by Orleans Boat World.  This year saw 52 teams competing on the Ottawa River out of Rockland Ontario.

Weather for the day was gray with light drizzle – perfect for Smallies.  My partner, Myles West, and I blasted off as team #32 aboard my 2012 Ranger 619 Fisherman powered with a 225 hp E-Tec from Evinrude.

We started by working weed lines along the openings of bays and picked up three quick keepers.  However, when we started throwing cranks around a stone retaining wall all heck broke loose.  A 4lb Largie was quickly followed up with numerous 3lb+ Smallies. By 10: we had culled ourselves into a fairly decent bag.

Our second largest fish of the day didn’t seem to be fairing all too well so we decided to release it back into the river.  It was a 3.5lb Smallie, but thankfully, we caught a suitable replacement.

With five hours to go, we switched up baits with the hopes of landing a real kicker.  The Ottawa River is known for some amazingly big Bass – they have to be if they want to avoid being Eaton by the numerous super-sized Musky that make this river their home.  Unfortunately, other than some amazingly large Catfish and Northern Pike, we just weren’t able to bring aboard a kicker to finish off the day.

Our weight of 14.75lbs was enough to earn Miles and I 7th place over-all and a cheque for our efforts.  19lbs took first place.  The weigh-in was orchestrated by Renegade Bass folks using Shimano’s live release system, and the BBQ and prize bags were sponsored by Ranger Boats, Evinrude, First Mate Lures, and last but certainly not least, Orleans Boat World.  Most importantly, a sizeable chunk of cash was raised for charity.

Renegade Pro-Am 2012

Each year eastern Ontario’s premier tournament Bass fishing organization, Renegade, hosts a pro-am event pairing renegade pros with potential newcomers to tournament Bass fishing.  This year’s event took place once again on Mississippi Lake just outside Carlton Place Ontario, and involved 27 teams.  I was fortunate to be partnered with Claude Bergeron, proprietor of “Bergeron School of Karate”.  We fished from my 2012 ranger 619 Fisherman.I learned a lot about the merits of slowing things down.  Claude’s a firm believer that a spot that has proven itself in the past will always produce; it’s often just a matter of waiting while maintaining a positive mental attitude.  No doubt, Claude’s level seven black belt has honed his ability to stay focused.  His approach bore fruit as we commenced culling by 11: in spite of our going without a serious bite for the first two hours.

The 225hp E-TEC ran twice that day – five minutes leaving the start, and another five getting back.  Otherwise, we spent the day moving around a large weed flat using the Minn Kota Terrova with plenty of occasions holding stationary with the Terrova’s I-Pilot anchor lock feature.  Claude himself uses a Minn Kota Talon to achieve a fixed anchored position necessary to dead-stick soft plastics at the end of long casts.

Claude is a huge proponent of fishing Senkos wacky style unweighted using octopus style hooks.  By noon that’s pretty much exactly what I was throwing too.  Instead of an octopus hook however, I elected instead to use a weedless wacky hook, but on reflection, I don’t think I was that much better off in terms of keeping weeds off my line.

Claude’s method is to make long casts into gaps between the weeds and simply wait.  He’ll give the Senko a few twitches once it’s resting on the bottom, and sometimes let it sit for as long as a minute before quickly reeling in.  We both picked up weeds on the retrieves which meant we only actually fished the spots where our baits initially landed.

Claude’s slow and systematic style of fishing has paid off on many occasions.  He and his partner finish routinely near or at the top.  It also confirms what many of us already suspect but often have difficulty putting into inaction.  It isn’t necessary to be in constant motion to find fish.  Even if the fish aren’t biting now, at some point in the day, they will feed.

Funny enough, when comparing notes at the end of the day with the other anglers, many reported catching most of their fish in the first 2-3 hours – the same time period Claude and I caught nothing.  Conversely, when Claude and I started catching Bass, the bite for many of the other competitors dropped off.

Claude and I may not have won the event that day, but what I learned was invaluable.  Slow down, and catch more fish.

Big thanks to the Renegade organization for allowing me to participate in the event, to the volunteers who assisted with launching boats and hosting the free BBQ, and to Renegade’s 2012 MC Big Jim McLaughlin for making us all feel like winners.  Shimano, Berkley, Paddle tails and Bennett’s also stepped up to the plate in big ways to reward each and every amateur – an over-all experience that’s well worth the investment.