What better way for Miles Hilton-Barber and I to start our fishing adventure than for us to participate in a fishing tournament for the blind. Doug Catton, a seasoned fisher on the Ottawa River, was our guide for the 1-day Blind Anglers International Tournament (BAIT).
My hope was that we would be fishing from my newly acquired 20-foot power catamaran, but there just wasn’t sufficient time to have the Evinrude 115hp provided by Laurentian Marine and Bombardier properly integrated into my talking electronics network. No worries though as Doug himself had a large bass boat that we knew we could count on as a backup.
The day before the Tournament the three of us went out on the Ottawa River for a pre-fish where Miles demonstrated he was no novice when it comes to hooking up with fish even though this was his first experience catching Northerns. Fishing from Doug’s 20-foot Procraft, we were able to tie into a good number of Northern Pike using Spinnerbaits, my favorite being a white 3/8oz double-willow bladed spinnerbait from Northam.
Our retrieval method for the spinnerbaits was a steady moderate speed letting the lures tick the tops of the weeds that had only just begun to grow due to the late spring. The cold water temperatures meant the Pike were still not that aggressive, and the weed cover was sparse at best.
While Doug used a baitcaster outfit, Miles and I elected to use spinning gear. my selection for the Tournament was a Shimano 2500 Spirex spinning reel on a Shimano Compre 6’,6” medium weight fast action rod loaded up with 20lb PowerPro Line. Spirex reels are perfect for this sort of continuous casting action thanks to their quick-fire trigger cast system, dual paddle handles and rear fighting drag – making these reels ideal for fishers who aren’t able to see. The Compre rod had plenty of backbone to fling good size spinnerbaits and crankbaits, and to withstand the smash-and-grab tactics employed by Pike. The PowerPro helped to transmit the feeling of the baits as they were skimmed over the tops of the low-lying weeds, and ensured excellent hook-ups with little effort.
The evening prior to the Tournament Miles and I were honored with the privilege of sitting at the head table at the BAIT dinner. I provided a short up-date on the status of the Blind Fishing Boat project to the 60+ blind fishers, 35 sighted pros volunteering their time and boats, and 50 or so Lions from across Eastern Ontario responsible for organizing the event. Following my up-date, I introduced Miles who held the audience spell-bound with his highly-engaging motivational presentation (click to listen).
The Tournament started the next day at 9: a.m. with a trickle start. Our plan was to fish bays on the North shore where Miles took first fish of the day with a decent keeper. Things were slow for the next hour or so before Doug managed to add a second keeper to the live well. We tried a number of bays and flats Doug knew about but by 1: we hadn’t managed to catch anything else that warranted adding to our 6-fish bag limit.
With two hours left I suggested we try the bay directly in front of the Nangor Resort. Again, the Pike just didn’t seem to be interested in our spinnerbaits even though the weather was consistently clear and windy. . With an hour to go I switched over to a black and green jointed crankbait that I knew from experience was good at triggering strikes from Pike that needed a little more encouragement. A slow retrieve with ample pauses and twitches allowed me to add two more keepers giving us a total weight of 8+lb. The winning team had six Pike weighing in at just over 14lbs. Two large Pike were caught – 12lb and 10.5lb – but neither of the two boats with the larger fish had anything else to show for the day other than the bruins.
Following the weigh-in and prize presentations, Doug boated us 20 miles down river where we spent the next couple hours slaying Pike in the bay next to his cottage on spinnerbaits again – who would have thought that the hot-spots would have been so few and far between?
After an excellent dinner prepared by Doug’s wonderful wife Christine, it was back to Ottawa to switch over gear for the middle phase of our 10-day fishing marathon. A big thanks to Doug for his stellar guiding and excellent assistance – his Procraft is also one sweet ride. Oh yes, if anyone happens to snag a 54” white cane under the docks at the Nangor resort, drop me a line.