Be the One – Fishing the B1 Bass Tournament

With Ben Woo’s marketing and organizing genius, the B1 Bass fishing Tournament held in La Chine Quebec now represents the largest and most prestige’s Bass tourney in Canada.  120 teams from across eastern Canada and the north-east US attended, including some of the biggest names in Bass fishing.

Lawrence standing in front of the official FLW tour live release boat

The Blind Fishing Boat was invited to participate as an exhibition team to showcase the innovative technologies   and fishing abilities of fishers with vision loss.  I asked JP Ostiguy, a well-known Bass pro, to come aboard and be my partner in the event.

JP Ostiguy and Maestro at the helm of the 20-foot power cat Talking Fishing Boat

By 5:30 a.m. the morning prior to the event I had the truck loaded and boat hitched up in my driveway.  JP pulled in shortly afterwards, and we were off to Montreal.  By 8:30 we were in the water and heading for Dorvale Island to do some pre-fishing.

There are actually three islands that split the Ottawa River just as it enters the St. Lawrence River.  The depths are quite shallow ranging in around the 12-foot mark resulting in strong current.  A good trolling motor and topped up batteries are in order if one wants to avoid being swept down river and in to the famous and incredibly dangerous La Chine rapids.  Fortunately, the Minn Kota Terrova 80 was more than up to the challenge.

I had been told earlier by some locals that there were plenty of Smallmouth Bass near the islands and this proved to be the case.  We didn’t stay long before trying a number of other spots; however, tournament rules stated we had to be out of the water by 2: that afternoon, so our pre-fish was fairly short.

After loading up the boat and grabbing a bite to eat, we headed over to the registration area.  The rules were read aloud to the participants, and there was plenty of time to wonder about to meet and say hi to new and old friends.

Lawrence and Karl Kalonka, host of Extreme Angler TV

Participants were asked to begin putting in their boats the next morning at 4:00 a.m. with the first wave of participants to blast off at 7:00 a.m.  Given that we were an exhibition team, we left last, which meant JP and I were under far less pressure than most.  We had an excellent send-off that morning by the crowd on the shore, and the weather, although grey, seemed promising.

Wayne Izumi in boat waiting to blast off

blast off

Our morning started off rough but improved quickly.  It seemed within minutes of starting to fish, JP and I managed to cross lines – not difficult given the strong current.  To top it off, while I was separating our lines, my spinnerbait got snagged on the bottom.  JP’s quick reaction prevented my rod from going overboard, but neither of us could have stopped Maestro, my guide dog, from going over himself.

I quickly broke off my line and JP manoeuvred the boat with the Terrova to intercept Maestro’s drift, as try as he might, he was no match for the current.  After pulling Maestro back aboard, I figured there was no where to go but up from here.

Lawrence casting from front deck

The water was quite stained from the rain that fell the previous two days, and the sky remained heavily overcast.  I tied on a red/green 3/8 Northam spinnerbait with painted Colorado blades, and using my Shimano Compre 6’8” x-fast spinning rod and a Spirex Quickfire reel, it wasn’t long before I had five keepers.  We had our limit by 9:30. We had another five hours to cull up, and even though we caught many more Smallies, our over-all size didn’t improve greatly.

Using a tube on a Shimano Cumara 7-foot x-fast casting rod with a new Curado E 7-1 baitcaster, I managed to boat a decent 8lb Northern Pike.  The back of this fish was incredibly thick,and the   Cumara’s amazing tactile transmitting qualities made it seem as if there was vertually zero distance between the fish and the tip of my rod.  It’s like fishing with high definition feeling.

Lawrence with 8lb Pike

Lawrence with 8lb Pike

Working the five to eight-foot drop-off was difficult given the current, but we stayed at it for quite a while as we were certain our persistence would pay off and we would manage to find a school of larger Smallies.  JP did well fishing vertically with soft plastics, and I also kept my hook-up ratio solid using a 7’foot crucial crankbait rod and a Curado E 5-1 baitcaster with a brown and orange Rapala Clack&Rap.  Not knowing the body of water, we were reluctant to leave the islands for what would obviously be a significant drive up river to other potential spots that had by now been pounded by the other 119 teams.

Our plan was to weigh in and get the boat out of the water ahead of the pack, but when we got back to the launch at 2:30 weigh-in had not yet commenced, which meant our waiting until the rest of the boats returned and weighed in.  I think I enjoyed this time on the water as much as the fishing as it was interesting to hear from others how they had faired.

B1 participants in their boats waiting to weigh in

I enjoyed the day and in spite of our small total weight we still managed to place ahead of many others.  It was also great just to be among and to meet so many great fishers.

Lawrence and Ben Woo at weigh in

After weighing in we were on our way back to the boat when I heard a woman’s voice call out my name.  Turned out my good friend Mariko Izumi was there filming and cheering on her father, Wayne.

Mariko Izumi and Lawrence talking

We had the boat back on the trailer by 7:30 and back in Ottawa that night by 10:00.  It was an excellent two days and, as usual, JP proved to be a steady and reliable friend in deed.

The B1 was my first experience on the professional Bass fishing circuit and I learned a lot.  Some good fish were caught the first day, but by far the average size were the 2.5lbs Smallies.

The largest fish of day one was a 7.2lb Largemouth.  All top ten finishers placed based on the Buckets they caught.  Day two wasn’t as rewarding with most teams weighing in limits of between 12 and 15 pounds.

I take my hat off to all those who participated in and organized the event, and want to again thank Ben Woo and Berkley for inviting me to take part.  Excellent event!