Tournament season to get underway

It was a long winter for area anglers, one that did not seem like it was ever going to end. But after months of waiting, a new bass tournament season is upon us in northwestern Ontario. For all of the anglers who enjoy competitive bass fishing in the Sunset Country region, the season is open for fishing year-round but it is essentially catch and release only from the start of the season to July 1 so we don’t have any spring tournaments.

The first bass tournament of the year is happening this weekend, July 2 and 3, out at Shoal Lake with the annual Bass Classic. This two day tournament has been taking place in early July since the early 90’s and is one of my favourite weekends of the summer. I love getting out to Shoal Lake whenever I can because it’s always fairly quiet out there, it is a big, beautiful lake with clear water and the fishing is excellent.

Over the years there have been several people who have taken over running the Shoal Lake tournaments, one in July and one in September, which the anglers are thankful for. These days, Bryce Kejick and his family are running things. Anyone looking for more information on the activities this weekend can check out a Facebook page called Shoal Lake Bass Classic 2022 for all the information you might need. Anglers can register before take-off on Saturday morning.

There are more tournaments happening the second weekend in July. The annual Lake Despair Castin’ For Cash is running out of Lake Despair Lodge. It’s always a fun weekend, especially if you can get into one of Bill and Nell’s cabins at the lake. Meanwhile, over at Lake of the Woods, the Kenora Walleye Open is back on the schedule again. Both tournaments are expected to have high turnouts. I would love to be at Lake Despair but I’m on the road for my next Bassmaster tournament at the St. Lawrence River later next week.

Great catches of largemouth and smallmouth bass are expected this coming weekend at the Shoal Lake Bass Classic. -Submitted photo

Throughout the rest of the season, all of the annual fishing tournaments are planning taking place on their usual weekends, including the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and the Kenora Bass International. Rainy Lake is in a worse flood situation than Lake of the Woods but I’ve been told that the water out there should continue to recede in the coming weeks. The FFCBC might have to function differently than in the past if the river is not usable because of the strong currents but we’ll report back on that situation in a few weeks.

One question that I’ve been asked frequently has been “how is the high water going to affect the fishing?” Obviously, the high water on all of our lakes this year is terrible for everyone’s docks and infrastructure but it’s not all that bad for the fishing. All of the new cover available in the water is great for bass and most species, really. It provides cover for a lot of the newly born fish and I think a lot of the forage in our lakes like crayfish, shiners and other baitfish use the cover as well, which is appealing to the fish.

The higher water also creates more current in our lakes, especially the big waterbodies like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. The current will set fish up in predictable locations, where they wait for the moving water to bring food to them. Bass, walleye and musky anglers should all use the enhanced current to their advantage this season.

Hopefully we’ll get a break from the heavy rains in the coming weeks and the water levels in our big lakes will start to fall. Just maybe we’ll get some kind of normalcy yet this summer.