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2009 Bass Pro Shop Simcoe Open

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Kings of Simcoe

Barry Graves &

Jason Gough

Barry & Jason 2009 BPS
Come hell or high water the who’s who of Canadian bass anglers blasted off out of the Port of Orillia on Saturday Oct 24th 2009 for this premier year-end event ... the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open presented by Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and BoaterExam.com, hosted by the Aurora Bassmasters.
The excitement started to build Friday evening before the tournament as weather warnings called for strong south winds, big seas, and rain. Some were worried that the event would be postponed or confined to Lake Couchiching. There were already concerns about the travel time out of Orillia to the typical fall big fish grounds given the late start and early finish. Many thought record class bags of smallmouth bass would be difficult to achieve considering the extended time needed to safely travel in rough water. Tournament committee member and veteran organizer Andy Pallotta explained that he would not jeopardize the safety of the anglers yet that as of Friday night, forecasts were not close to threatening the event.

At 8:00 am Dave Mercer blasted off first so he could return early to MC the event. He led the field across Lake Couchiching and through the historic Atherly Narrows leading into Lake Simcoe. Many of the one hundred boats hit the wall of waves at the end of the Narrows and turned back to fish more tranquil waters of Cooch. Behind every boat heading west was a spray of white that could be seen for miles. For some, just making it to their prime destination was a victory and with the shortened fishing day they would worry about getting back in time if they were fortunate enough to have five big bass in their well.

As luck would have it, the predictions of rain were wrong and contenders only had to deal with the constant 25 km wind from the south. At 3:30 all but a few boats were back safe. Only one boat ran out of gas, underestimating the amount of fuel used to work through big waves but no other incidents were reported... everyone was safe and sound.

Dave Mercer, back from a rough day, started the ceremonies and the weigh-in began immediately following the Canadian and American National Anthems.  There were two groups to weigh in; those with over 20 pounds who would drive by the stage with boats in tow, and those with less who would bag their fish and carry them to the station. The City of Orillia thought one hundred boats lining up on the street would cause too much congestion so they limited the number of boats being towed to the few over twenty pounds. This only added to the excitement and drama of the overall weigh-in event and angler after angler remarked how smooth the weigh-in procedures were.

bps 2009 crowd

Catching Late Fall Smallmouth:
As with every late fall event on Simcoe, catching can be hit and miss. Simcoe smallies spook easily due to ultra clear waters. An abundance of forage makes competition with the real thing a constant struggle and bites with artificial lures only can be a challenge. A common denominator among all fall smallmouth specialists, is that they know how to find fish and how to make them bite at this time of year. They work hard eliminating water, knowing full well the rewards can be awesome once they find the some of the biggest smallmouth on the planet. During the 2009 BPS Lake Simcoe Open Lake several teams did just that.
Simcoe did not disappoint with a line up of tow vehicles in the prestigious “20 pounds and up line” was much longer than expected.  The buzz began. One of the first to weigh in from that group were last year’s winners Mike and Howard Gifford who held their trophies up for the crowd after they weighed an impressive 27.80 lbs for their five heaviest bass. The weigh-in procedure would alternate between those sitting in their boats behind their trucks with 20 pounds or more and those whose boats were still in the water with less heavy bass. Big water, big smallmouth specialists Mike Desforges and Derek Strub were next but fell short with just three bass for 15.6 pounds. Gerry Heels and Wil Wegman came in with 25.40, followed by Dave Kennedy and Bob Devine with 26.45. Brian Gardy and Mike Reid weighed in with 27.20.
Finally, with just three of the 100 teams left Dave Mercer pumped up the crowd while Barry Graves and Jason Gough began to bag their fish. When the fish hit the scales at 29.00 pounds even Barry looked surprised. The Gifford’s left the stage and Jason and Barry took the hot seat. Next in line were three time champs and always in the top five, Bob Formosa and Jason Saliba. As they began to pull the fish from the livewell it looked like the 30 pound barrier would be broken but when they hit the scales at 27.80 you could hear a sigh of relief from the hot seat. Although their fish looked long and deep some hadn’t fattened up enough yet.
As the last team hit the stage everyone was expecting something big. Rob Hyatt of the North Bay Bassmasters and partner Ernie Jansen brought the fish to the scales and the final weight of the day was in at 27 pounds even, not enough to dethrone the new champs. 

Barry Graves of the York Bassmasters and Jason Gough were the champs and recipient of the largest payout in Canada in over five years, over $34,000.00 in cash and prizes. Bob Formosa and Jason Saliba took second prize of $10,000.00, the same amount that they won for the winner’s prize just three years earlier. Graves and Gough have had a spectacular year winning the season opening CSFL Casey Cup, also on Lake Simcoe and placing second in the Bassmania Western Division on Simcoe.

Award Winning Research Program
Showcasing the weigh-in was the tagging research station beside the stage where the public could witness first hand how dedicated the tournament community is in maintaining the health of the fishery. Each fish was weighed, measured, scale and spine sampled, fizzed if required, tagged and released.

Now in its fourth year the Aurora Bassmasters research project has tagged and released over 1,000 bass. To date 46 re-captured fish have been reported. In conjunction with Queens University, the MNR and directed by Wil Wegman, Conservation Director of the Ontario B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, this research has proved invaluable to better understand fish migration, growth rates, and live release rates of bass in this catch and release sports fishing environment.

Bass Pro Shops Support

Ontario’s tournament community is growing and the quality of competition and anglers is getting better every year. Still, there are few tournaments that fill to a full field capacity. The BPS Lake Simcoe Open presented by Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and BoaterExam.com and is hosted by the Aurora Bassmasters which is one of the founding clubs of the Ontario BASS Federation Nation. “It started off as the Crackle Cup in 2001with about 20 boats but when George Wallace Marketing Director and interim General Manager of Bass Pro Shops saw the potential for this event three years ago things began to change in a hurry,” said Aurora Bassmaster president Herb Quan. We have had full fields ever since BPS took over the title sponsorship and utilized their marketing expertise to attract high level sponsorship.  Today we have a dedicated organizing committee volunteering their time year round to work on this event. We are filled to capacity at 100 boats and have a waiting list of anglers wanting to get in,” said Quan.

Given the time of year one would think this to be an unlikely event to generate a waiting list. The reason for this growth is because of the many sponsors and the dedication and commitment by everyone involved. George Wallace is determined to make this event greater year by year and plans to increase the purse to $50,000.00 for first place prize in coming years. It is this kind of commitment that could generate sponsorship interest in the sport from outside the immediate industry and set the stage for a very healthy Canadian tournament fishing environment.

The entire event from start to finish was executed without a glitch. The Port of Orillia turned out to be the perfect venue providing a great weigh-in setting and ample docking because of the time of year the event was held.

About Lake Simcoe
The debate about which is the best trophy smallmouth fishery in the country will rage on forever. You only have to look at the number of teams that came up empty to know Simcoe is a tough bite during lake turnover, as only half the field including many of the country’s top anglers were blanked. Winner’s Barry Graves and Jason Gough commented that they only had eight bites all day, five of them being the right bites. Others with big bags reported fewer bites.
Simcoe in October is not a lake of numbers but more of size. Year after year tournament weights from Simcoe best all other lakes for official tournament winning bags and average size of the top ten limits. The reasons for this consistent record are not entirely clear but could be due to the number of top anglers that love to fish these trophy waters. What is known thanks to the Aurora Bassmasters Research Project is that growth rates for smallmouth bass on Simcoe are well above average. This gin on the rocks fishery is abundant with crayfish and numerous baitfish which now also includes the not so welcome round goby. On any given day in the fall Lake Simcoe could produce records and that is the reason for the Aurora Bassmaster BPS Open.   



wil&gerry 25george and andy 2009bps

bob & jason bps2009

brian Gardy & mike reid 2009 bps



How Did They Do It

Jason and Barry are the ultimate power anglers, typically covering a lot of water. What happens when conditions call for something different? Time on the Water contacted them to find out:
“We had less than 5 hours of fishing time on our spots and we only fished a couple of areas.  We caught most of the fish in 20 - 35 feet of water dragging heavy tubes (white and/or brown and green) and throwing spoons like the Luhr Jensen Crippled Herrings.  Most, if not all, of our fish were caught on 8lb Suffix Fluorocarbon.  That line is awesome.  The stuff is extremely abrasion resistant and we didn't have any fish break off because of it.  We were using R-Type Rapala baitcasting and spinning rods between 6'6" and 7'0" in length.  We spent a number of days pre fishing trying to locate the Simcoe smallies as they started schooling up and feeding.  Pre fishing was really tough and we only caught 1-2 fish a day from the Sunday to the Thursday before the tournament.  The previous week the fish were a little more active and that is when we located our fish.  We only had 8 or 9 bites during the tournament, lost one fish, and culled a couple of times.  Thanks to all of the sponsors of the event, the volunteers, CSFL crew, Aurora Bassmasters, the research crew, and anyone else we may have missed.  It was a first class event all the way,” they told us.
Angler                  Angler                  Weight lbs    Big Fish     Winnings         Extra         Total
1   BARRY GRAVES      JASON GOUGh              29                       $25,000       $ 9,300*   $34,300
2   ROBERT FORMOSA JASON SALIBA             27.8                 $10,000
3   HOWARD GIFFORD MIKE GIFFORD            27.7                   $5,000
4   MIKE REID     BRIAN GARDY                       27.2                 $2,500
5   ERNY JANZEN     ROB HYATT                       27                    $2,000
6   DAVE KENNEDY   BOB DEVINE                   26.65                 $1,500
7   GERRY HEELS    WIL WEGMAN                  25.45                 $1,000
8   MARK CAVANAUGH  MIKE GRAHAM             24.3                 $900    $1,900**
9  MARCEL & CARRIE CARTWRIGHT                 23.1                 $850
10  CURTIS ARNDT  JAY MCLURE                     22.7                  $800
11  DAVID CHONG  STEVE SPAGNOLO              22.45               $750
12  KAL VAISANEN  BILL WALKER                    21.85               $700
13  TOM COCHRANE   BILL NICHOLLS               20.65               $650
14  DAVE MACINNIS   FRANK ADAMO               18.4                 $600
15  GREG KLATT  GEORGE SCHNEIDER             17.8                 $550
16  TODD HATCH  CHAD WENTZELL                  17      6.55 lbs $500            $4,000***   $4500
17  JASON GODIN  ANTHONY BURGESS            16.65               $500
18  BARRY PRINGLE   SUE WATSON                  16.5                 $500          $1,000****
19  DEREK STRUB   MIKE DESFORGES               15.6                 $500
20  JOHN VOYLES  ROB WEBSTER                     15.5                  $500
TOTAL                                                             443.30        $130,000.00
         * Winners will receive 2 Shimano Core reels and 2 Shimano Cumara rods valued at $1,600, $5,200 Cash from the Shimano* Pay to Play and $2,500 cash for the Humminbird/Minn Kota Bonus

        ** 8th place team ran a Yamaha motor and therefore won the YamaBucks Award
      ***16th place team won Yamaha Big Fish Award with their 6.55 lb smallmouth worth $4,000
**** 18th place won the  Strike King Hidden Weight Award
  Jim Venizelakos and Nick Terpselas placed 38th but caught the only largemouth bass which weighed a mere 2.15lbs but it won the Berkley Bucket Mouth Award worth $1,000. Two places ahead of them in 36th were the team of Mike  Watson and Jim Rodney with just a 5.9 total weight – but that was good enough for the Rapala X-Spot ’36 Award worth a cool $2,000





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