While significant populations of bass exist in such provinces as British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec, by far, Ontario represents the hub of bass fishing in Canada. Regardless of where they live, Canadian bass anglers want to stake their claim on the future of tournament fishing in North America and a few months of ice will not stand in their way.
Thus far, Mike Desforges is the only Canadian to win a B.A.S.S. or FLW Outdoors event, as well as a BASS Open Points Championship. Charles Sim, Chris Johnson, Greg Roth, Curtis Richardson, Rob Webster and Bob Izumi are among the many plying their trade across the FLW Outdoors and BASS circuits in the hopes of winning not only their first event, but eventual births in their respective championships as well.
The learning curve is immense as US waters offer variables unbeknownst to Canadians such as fishing the spawn, tides, different feeding habits, unique structure or lake thereof, but also the immense fishing pressure that US waters receive.
Ask any Canadian who their angling heroes are and quite synonymously, the Linder Family, Rick Clunn, Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Larry Nixon, Kevin Van Dam and Skeet Reese are among the names that ring true. Canadian legend, Bob Izumi, an angler who cut his teeth on the tournament scene in southern Ontario at the early age of 15, is also included in those mentions.
The “Real Fishing” brand was created by Izumi more than 28 years ago, currently the longest standing fishing show in Canada, to fuel his addiction for competitive fishing. Izumi is well-respected for his ability to win at least one tournament in each of the last five decades, almost 100 in total.
He has earned five top 10 finishes with FLW Outdoors as well as winning the Canadian Pro Bass Classic, three Canadian Opens, Swoba Classic and two Quinte Series Classics. Despite such achievements, Izumi confessed he really want to win a US tournament before he dies.
Tournament fishing in Canada means you’ll ultimately have to make the critical decision: smallmouth or largemouth bass. Over the past 20 years, smallmouth have staked their claim on weigh scales across the country. Last year, FLW Outdoors competitor Charles Sim and his partner, Nigel Touhey brought five Lake St. Francis smallies to the scale weighing in at 30.35 pounds, a new Canadian record, despite being a predominantly largemouth region in Ontario.
Lake Simcoe, Lake Erie and Lake St. Claire have also come within ounces of breaking the 30-pound benchmark. Smallmouth gurus such as Simon Frost, Dave Chong, Joey Muszinski and Barry Graves often find themselves atop the standings while premier largemouth anglers like Jarrod Dean, Doug Brownridge, Chris Giles and Jimmy Dodd are no stranger to the podium either.
Smallmouth aficionados are a breed unto their own with special rods and reels, secret baits, high-end electronics and strategically rigged boats. Derek Strub recently took home the coveted $40,000 purse for the Kingston Canadian Open of Fishing for three days of hard work utilizing a walleye boat to fish in 6- to 8-foot waves on Lake Ontario.
“There’s nothing like it when you are catching big fish in a tournament,” Strub said. “It’s just the greatest high you can get.”
There is an acute obsession exemplified by Canadian anglers about their tackle that borders on insanity. Anglers are fanatical about gaining an edge which gave birth to a niche tackle market for bass anglers in Canada. Custom poured baits by Bass Magnet Lures, Strike Zone, Lunkerhunt and Set the Hook have enjoyed much success as well as the cult like status of Punisher Flipping Jigs.
The Canadian Sport Fishing League, Top Bass, Pro Bass Quebec, Renegade Bass Tour and Quinte Fishing Series are among the many circuits to choose from. While high stakes tournaments like Kenora Bass International and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship have enjoyed years of success, the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open, Berkley B1 Canadian Open and the Kingston Canadian Open of bass fishing are gaining a cult like followings. There are just as many bass clubs representing both BASS Federation Nation and FLW Outdoors TBF chapters.
Tournament fishing in Canada was built on the backs of pioneers like Big Jim McLaughlin, Rocky Crawford, Hector Peach, the Izumi Brothers and Bruce and Denny Leeson. Let’s not forget to pay our due respect to the late Hank Gibson as the first Canadian to ever qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
The new age of angler gives respect to the past, but is ready to move on to the future. That future means dominating not only in Canada but finally leaving their mark on the FLW Outdoors and BASS circuits.
No matter where you fish or why, second is never going to be good enough, even when you’ve done your best.
“This really is the most humbling sport out there,” Sim said. “I’ve had complete bomb days, followed by some of the greatest days on the water. I just want to push to the highest level I can, and be the best I can.”
That’s what the top echelon of Canadian bass anglers all want.