Busy weekend on the water

It was a busy weekend on the water across Northwest Ontario as beautiful weather combined with the long weekend seemed to bring everybody to the lake.
The Lake Despair “Castin’ for Cash” tournament took place on Friday and Saturday while the second-annual Kenora Walleye Open took place on Lake of the Woods Saturday and Sunday, so anglers looking to compete in a tournament had some options.
My friend, Sean McAughey, and I traveled down to Lake Despair on Thursday last week to partake in the bass tournament there.
I have been fishing the tournament for over ten years now and while I have missed it a few times during that span it is one of my favourite weekends of the year.
We stay in one of Bill and Nell Godin’s (the tournament organizers) cabins at Lake Despair Lodge and it’s about as relaxing of a place as you will ever find.
It is a great group of anglers that participate in this tournament every year so the social aspect of the weekend makes it a lot of fun.
Sean and I made it down in time to take a ride around the lake for a couple hours on Thursday afternoon before the rules meeting.
We tried a couple of new spots that I hadn’t ever fished before and a few places that were good years ago. We caught a few small bass but nothing that we would head back to in the tournament.
Our strategy would be to fish memories from years past. This can be good and bad in tournament fishing.
While many of the same spots produce on this lake from year to year, one thing I have learned is that nothing beats prefishing and finding where the hot areas are before the tournament starts.
We failed to do that this year and it showed in our Day One results. We managed to only catch five bass all day and weighed in 10.90 pounds, which left us in 24th place after Day One.
It was one of the toughest days that I have had out there in years!
The weather was nicer on Day Two and I expected to fishing to be a little bit better.
We started off slow but by mid-morning the water temperatures were rising and we started to see a lot more bass swimming around in the big weed beds that we were fishing.
As the day wore on, we caught quite a few nice fish and eventually ended up with 15.75 pounds, which was much better than Day One.
We ended up in seventh place overall so it was not too bad.
Last year’s champs Bryan Gustafson and Brian White dominated again and won the tournament for a third time. They brought in 16-pound limits each day so congratulations to them!
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Up in Kenora, the walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods looked like it was on fire as plenty of big fish crossed the scales at the walleye tournament.
Two of my good fishing buddies from Kenora, Dave Bennett and Dean Howard, won the tournament with a two-day total of 27 pounds.
The format for this event is that teams can bring in one big fish each day over 23 inches and three walleyes under 18 inches, so there is some strategy to it for sure.
The key to winning is catching a big fish each day.
Bennett and Howard weighed in nine and seven pound fish on each respective day so those are very solid fish.
They won by a slim margin over Phil Killeen and his grandson, Carson Allaire.
These guys skyrocketed up the leaderboard on Day Two thanks to a giant 11-pound walleye on Day Two that anchored their 16-pound limit. That is a monster fish!
The tournament scene continues this weekend with the annual Shoal Lake Bass Classic on Saturday and Sunday.
This tournament has been going on since the early ’90s and is always a fun weekend.
It is one of my favourite lakes to fish so I’m looking forward to spending a few days out there this week.
Anglers are welcome to sign up on Saturday morning for this one and the blast off is at 8 a.m. each day.