The 21st Blind Anglers International Tournament (BAIT) took place on May 29-31, 2009 at the Nangore Resort on the Ottawa River. 26 fishers with vision loss took part, as well as myself as the first-ever non-sighted pro to participate. I also gave the key-note address after the opening dinner for the over 150 participants, pros and volunteer Lions who organize the event each year.
We used my 20-foot power catamaran outfitted with a 115 E-Tech Evinrude. The boat also featured a talking weather station, beeping auto-helm navigation system, and speaking depth sounder. Aboard the boat were Doug Catton, a local cottager in the area and navigator for the day, and Dave Furgosh, my non-sighted guest participant, as well as myself.
The day prior to the tournament, the weather looked promising. Doug and I were able to test out a number of different baits with good success during the pre-fish. However, that night, a cold front rolled in giving frost and chilly temperatures for most of the morning of the tournament. Things warmed up just about the time that weigh-in took place, and results at the scales gave proof to the challenges all faced due to the weather. About 1/3 of the teams didn’t bother to weigh in.
We finished in the middle, with pretty much all of our fish hooking up on Berkley hollow-bellied swim baits. Presentation of the baits called for painfully slow retrieves – often dragging the baits along the sandy bottom. Spinnerbaits were not producing at all, but Rapala crankbaits faired well on a slow troll. The winners of the tournament managed to boat a 13lb Northern Pike and three other smaller fish using Rapalas.
Events such as BAIT offer a unique opportunity to meet people with vision loss. I had the good fortune not only to get to know Dave, but to meet Jim Dicks, a blind fish camp owner/operator on Centennial Lake. Jim and his brother rent the camp out to fishers and hunters. Jim, in spite of his limited vision, guides anglers around the numerous islands, bays and channels on the lake. When Jim isn’t at the camp, he’s working for the Canadian department of Indian and Northern Affairs negotiating native self government treaties.
A big thanks to Doug for assisting with the navigation, transportation and numerous other tasks, and to all the Lions who worked hard over the past year to organize another successful BAIT event. Thanks too to Michael Hayes who conceived the tournament, but wasn’t able to participate for the first time due to last-minute medical challenges – Mike, all our prayers are with you.