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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Youthful duo reels in $25,000, bragging rights at derby

Youthful duo reels in $25,000, bragging rights at derby

With the 2009 Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open trophy and $25,000 grand prize close enough to touch, Barry Graves and Jason Gough were nervous as one more team still had to weigh in their catch.

"That's a big fish," said Graves of Keswick, as the last team held their fish up to audience cheers.

The fish wasn't big enough as the last team's fish weighed in under the winners' 29-pounds of five smallmouth bass, allowing the young team to take the grand prize, beating out professional and celebrity anglers from Canada and the U. S.

"It's incredible," Graves said, as fishermen walked up to shake hands. "It's a huge tournament."

Dave Mercer of Facts of Fishing was the tournament master of ceremonies and well-known fisherman Bob Izumi from the Real Fishing Show competed.

The annual one-day tournament on Saturday held its weigh-in at the Port of Orillia for the first time this year. The tournament kicked off at 8 a. m. with 100 teams of two, with the weigh-in beginning at 3 p. m.

Many of the fishermen had difficulty on lakes Simcoe and Couchiching with more than half coming in under the five-fish limit.

"The wind was coming about 20 knots out of the south; it's been a tough day on the water," said George Wallace, Canadian market manager with Bass Pro Shops.

"The weather is typical for this time of year. Mother Nature certainly comes into play. Half the field will come in without any fish; it's a real challenge."

Graves and Gough, of Toronto, said the trick was pre-fishing to pick good locations and staying out of the wind.

"We spent about seven days out on the water pre-fishing," said Graves. "We were scouting and trying to find spots where the fish are," Graves said. "It was really windy out and the spots we picked were on the side of the lake where you didn't get as much wind."

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Bass Pro Shops hopes to keep the tournament weigh-in at the Port of Orillia in hopes of turning the event into "Canada's premier one-day fishing tournament." In the past it was held at Sibbald Point Provincial Park on the south end of Lake Simcoe.

"It's closer to a bigger population base, larger media centre and certainly an opportunity to deal with bigger businesses," Wallace said. "We're looking to the community to help us build this event into an internationally renowned bass tournament ; it has the potential."

Fish mortality is an important aspect of the catch and release event. The tournament works in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Queen's University doctors to ensure fish health and well-being, Wallace said.

"We are firm believers in providing a research element to what this tournament is all about," he said.

Orillia Perch Festival organizer Doug Bunker, who co-ordinated the event, said the event, from the city's perspecitve, is a huge benefit to the local economy.

"It's great for the town; it's quiet this time of year and they have been here all week pre-fishing, trying to find out where the fish are," he said. "It's great for the economy, they have been staying in hotels for a week and bringing lots of people into the city."

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