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So You Want to Try Tournament Fishing?

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So You Want to Try Tournament Fishing?

• Credit: Bob Izumi

Many anglers find the competitive aspect of tournament fishing very exciting—and sometimes addictive



Over the course of my career I have had plenty of folks ask me how to get started in tournament fishing. To give you a little bit of history on my tournament fishing, my father, the late Joe Izumi, started, organized, and ran the first bass tournament in Canada 46-years ago on Rondeau Bay on the north shore of Lake Erie. That was my first competitive bass tournament, even though as kids we used to fish the Rondeau Rod and Gun Fishing Derby every year. It was pretty much a fun event that was organized for the kids, but even when we were little, we treated it like it was a full-fledged tournament.

Our dad used to always say, “Keep your line in the water; you’ll never catch anything if your bait’s not in the water.”

Well, fast forward to now and it’s pretty clear that my dad really instilled the competitive aspect of tournament fishing in me; to this day it is my addiction. After all of these years of being in the fishing business, I still absolutely love bass tournaments.

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There are a number of tournaments in the province of Ontario every year. There are walleye tournaments, pike tournaments and an abundance of bass tournaments that are available to fish.

I will say that tournament fishing isn’t for everybody, but for me it’s definitely an adrenaline rush. Basically, you’re fishing against the clock with a limited amount of time to produce fish. You might have an eight or nine-hour day to produce a five-fish limit that are all kept alive to be weighed in. There could be anywhere from 25 boats in the tournament to 200 boats in a bigger event. There are tournaments right across the province, from Kenora to Cornwall and all points in between.

One of the things I suggest to a lot of anglers who want to try their hand at competitive fishing is to enter as a non-boater or amateur in a tournament. In the case of the Canadian Open, which is put on by the CSFL, it’s a draw for partner format where you’ll be paired with a professional tournament angler. You’ll go in his or her boat and you’ll fish as a team, with your combined biggest fve-fish limit counting towards your score. It’s a three-day event where you’ll fish with a different pro every day of the event. It is definitely the fast track way of learning what competitive angling is all about, and it’s one of the easiest and best ways to immerse yourself in tournament fishing to see if it’s something that you’d like to do moving forward.

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Another way of getting involved in tournament angling is to join a local bass club. There are bass clubs all over the province that are affiliated either with FLW or B.A.S.S., as well as some independent fishing clubs. Many of these clubs hold tournaments in the region where most of their members are. This is a good way to get to know other like-minded anglers, and also to test the waters in tournament fishing.

You wouldn’t believe how many pros who are competing in bass tournaments today fished as amateurs years ago and drew me as their partner for the day. I could name a bunch of them who fished one of their first tournaments with me by entering the Canadian Open back in the late 80s, 90s, and through the 2000s. A lot of these anglers now are beating me in the events! There’s no question they were fast learners.

Tournaments in Ontario

There are dozens and dozens of local and regional tournaments in Ontario. Some are small, with only a handful of entrants, and some are much larger with fields of up to 200 boats. If you want to try your hand at competitive fishing, it’s just a matter of picking the species you want to fish for, selecting the area of the province you’d like to fish in, and contacting the tournament organization. To get you started, here’s a list of some of the more well-known organizations who run fishing tournaments in Ontario. 

I can remember fishing with former NHL player Bryan Marchment in the Canadian Open on Lake Erie out of Port Colborne years ago. We were having a tough day before we finally got into a school of smallmouth, where we started catching fish on every cast. At one point I looked back at Bryan and he was shaking as he was unhooking a fish.

I said, “So, what do you think of this tournament fishing?”

He answered, “You know, it’s incredible.”

We both agreed at that time that it was the most awesome adrenaline rush you could ever get fishing, especially knowing that some of the fish you’re catching are going to make a huge difference in how you’re going to finish in the event. 

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Bryan once said, “You know, one thing about tournament fishing is, you guys get up super early in the morning and you’re still working on your tackle and your boats late at night with very little sleep. In the NHL we train hard and we play hard but, for the most part, training is only so many hours during the day. We get to have a nap before the games if we want, we travel in luxury, we have trainers and equipment handlers, and we have people who look after all aspects of our business. But you guys have to do everything yourselves when you’re fishing these tournaments. The hours on the water and the conditions that you’re faced with, weather-wise, are just gruelling. I think it’s harder than playing in the NHL.”

I’ll never forget Bryan saying that to me. Having said that, I’m not sure tournament fishing is for everybody, but it’s definitely my true addiction in the world of fishing. And it’s something that I’ll do for as long as I can. 

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