Here at New Wave Fishing Academy we aim to help everyone become more successful anglers through education and by showing how to be more effective on the water. Being successful on the water day in and day out is a challenging endeavour but tournament fishing is a whole other beast! Not only do you need to have the skills to catch fish but you need to know the water & fish so well that you can adapt to the behaviours of the day, are limited by time and starting location, and need to make great decisions throughout the day if you hope to be competitive.
May 7th saw the annual Top 50 Pike Series event come to Parry Sound for a day of chasing Georgian Bay giants! The event typically takes place on opening weekend meaning that anglers rarely have any chance to pre-fish or prepare for the event. This year it was held on the first Sunday of the season (May 7) but this left 6 days of potential practice for anglers willing to get out there. The week leading up to the event was quite cold and water temperatures were hovering in the mid to high 40's in most bays but the 2 days prior were wind free & hot! Despite the good looking weather for tournament day the bite was still challenging and pike had not quite gotten out of the cold water slumber. Of the 50 boats that entered 7 did not measure a single fish and another 5 did not bring in a limit, only 11 teams caught a fish over the 86 cm mark as is allowed in Zone 14 (Each angler is allowed one fish over and one under or two under 86 cm). Despite the tough conditions someone is always able to get the fish to bite and ends up at the top of the leaderboard. This year, as has many years in the past, the honour goes to local anglers Clint Hurd & Mike Desforges. We were fortunate to catch up with them after the event to get an exclusive interview. Hear what they had to say below:
One assumption that onlookers to the sport tend to have is that the winners were crushing big fish all day. This is often not the case but since only 4 fish are needed to bring in its impossible to tell how a day really went if those 4 fish are all of quality. One good decision can take you from no fish to a limit in a handful of casts with no one being any wiser. That being said it would be great to know were you on fish all day upgrading as the day went on or was there a certain period when activity was high that got you the needed bites?
So far this season we have found the fishing to be very slow and so we expected that going into the tournament. Usually, in order to trigger a good bite the water temperatures need to stay in the mid 50’s (Fahrenheit) for a week or more. Leading into the tournament the highest water temperatures we saw was 56 degrees on the last day of practice. The water temperature was slowly increasing from Thursday to the end of day Saturday, going from 47 to 56 in some areas. While this is a good start to get the fish out of their winter funk its still too early for that big increase in activity we all want.
So to answer the question, yes, we did find the fishing slow. We would pick up a few fish in each area we hit and ending up with around 15 fish all day. Two of biggest fish we caught was during the down pour of rain . I love the rain in the spring while fishing ,it is usually warmer than the surface temperature of the water and in most cases triggers a short feeding frenzy.
In basically every sport there is the idea of having home field advantage. In fishing we have seen this be both a blessing and a curse. On bodies of water like Georgian Bay where you can travel far different areas can have completely different conditions and fish activity levels. Being anglers that have fished the bay your whole lives does this make tournament fishing here easier or do you struggle to decide which area is the best to spend your time in and then have doubts if the other areas could have been better?
Going into the tournament we had a good idea which areas were going to be best based on the water temperature and quality of fish we saw in practice. Unfortunately, some of these areas overlap with ones our friends like to target so we opted not to go to those spots and go to plan B. These spots didn't produce any giants but did have decent unders in them (Each angler is allowed one fish under 86 cm and one over or two under 86 cm). In this tournament format a fish close to but not over 86 cm is just as valuable as catching a 40” (100+ cm) fish
Based on the results of the tournament the conditions were obviously tough yet you managed to put together an impressive bag for weigh in. In these conditions & knowing the bay as well as you do was it a tough decision between running quickly through all your spots in hopes of finding active fish or working a few areas thoroughly to get the bites you needed?
We did a lot of running around in hopes of finding quality fish (40"+) that may have moved in to some of the warmer bays over the last few days. When we are in an area that we know well we usually work it pretty quick to find the active fish. When you get into a good area and the fish are biting it doesn’t take long to catch them. If the bite is slow and you really have to slow down it doesn’t suit our style of fishing so we tend to move on unless the fish shows some interest with an aggressive follow or swipes at your bait.
Everybody knows (or they will now) that suspending jerkbaits are a deadly weapon for putting spring pike in the boat. While we were on the water during the event every boat we ran in to was throwing them. These baits are small (usually 4-6") yet pike, especially big pike, can and do eat baits up to 16" or more. Do you experiment with bigger baits in the spring or tend to keep with the general trend of small baits in the spring big baits in the fall?
We follow the old saying “match the hatch" and tend to stick with baits less than 8” using a mixture of jerk baits and soft plastics . When you get into a good area it is usually an experiment right off the start with a few different presentations. We let the fish tell us in each area what they want and try to stick with that theory as we enter each new spot.
It’s fun when the fish are on and you dial in the bait right away. I love those days, it makes fishing easy and fun. Unfortunately this year we really had to work for the bites we got. We also got lucky and only missed one bite during the tournament; that doesn’t happen often. On a normal day you would miss a half dozen.
Fishing has changed exponentially in the past few years with the release of live imaging technologies from Garmin, Lowrance, & Humminbird. Traditionally in the spring, pike are active and shallow so sonar is not necessarily needed to succeed but in tough conditions like we had the big fish tend to disappear. Was live imaging a factor in your success in this event and how has it changed the way you approach targeting these fish?
Within the first 10 minutes of using livescope I had shut it down and resorted to using the old school methods of just looking around with polarized glasses. I find the livescope very useful when I’m fishing more than 10 feet of water; the clarity is better and the ability to separate the fish from the structure greatly increases. Usually in the spring you are fishing less than 10 feet of water and I have a bit of a height advantage which changes the angle I look into the water at, cutting down surface glare and allowing me to see a fair distance away on sunny days.
So there it is; some insights to being successful in tournament fishing from the champs themselves. We would like to thank Clint for taking the time to speak with us and answer some questions to help us all understand what goes into tournament success. Congrats on another win and best of luck with the rest of the season!
The next few weeks are bound to see the fish activity increase as temperatures continue to warm. This can be one of the best times of the year for both numbers and size of fish so we encourage you all to get out on the water if you have the chance. To experience a day of fishing on the water with us be sure to check out our YouTube channel at the link below:
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