Each year for the past 23 years A4 Lion clubs in eastern Ontario organize a fishing tournament for people with vision loss. Up to 35 non-sighted participants are matched with sighted volunteers who supply their boats and fishing tackle at no cost. The 2011 BAIT tournament was hosted this year by the Chalk River and Area Lions Club on June 3, 4 and 5 out of the Nangor resort situated on the Ottawa River near Beachburg Ontario (about a two hour drive west of Ottawa). The fish of interest are Walleye and Northern Pike.
Once again I participated as a volunteer pro. With driving and boat piloting assistance provided by Scott Campbell, a tournament pro himself, and Rob Bender from the Ottawa CNIB office as our non-sighted guest, we set off in my brand new Ranger Reata 1850 equipped by Orleans Boat World with an Evinrude 175HP E-TEC outboard. There was plenty of room aboard and the rig had little trouble dealing with the stiff winds and white-caps that kicked up on several occasions.
I always enjoy spending time on the water with Scott, and getting to know Rob, who only recently moved to Ottawa, was a real pleasure. Unfortunately we weren’t able to pull off a win, especially for Rob whose wife earned a prize for largest Walleye caught that day.
With the late spring, weed growth and water temperatures in the bay were well below where they normally are at this time of year. This meant Pike were situated well in the backs of the bays in 6 to 12 inches of water. Knowing where these bays were located on the Ottawa River was half the battle and the teams with the volunteers possessing local knowledge seemed to have faired better than others. However, there’s always more than one way to catch a fish, and the smiles of the participants at the end of the day gave ample evidence that all enjoyed their day on the water.
The evening prior to tournament day included a fantastic dinner buffet and several guest speakers. The accommodations at the Nangor resort were also top-notch, as was the BBQ dinner that followed the weigh-in and presentation of awards. Even if no fish had been caught, the good food, great company and excellent accommodations would have made for a great weekend away from the city.
A big thanks to the Lions, volunteer pros, and everyone else who had a hand in putting together another excellent event. Bait and a similar blind fishing tournament in North Carolina constitute the two premier blind fishing tournaments in North America, and efforts are underway to find ways of linking the events, along with other smaller local tournaments being organized by Lions in different states and provinces. For more information about BAIT or to register or volunteer, contact Lion Michael Hayes at 613-744-6035 or 613-744-1340, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.