Organizers of the 2019 Mitchell’s Bay Open say despite Friday’s scorching temperatures, this year’s event went off without a hitch.
Tom Beaton, co-chair of the event, said participating anglers raved about how it is organized.
“All our anglers think it is one of the premier events. They told us when they fish other tournaments, they tell the organizers to go to Mitchell’s Bay to see how to put on a tournament,” he said.
Catering to the anglers’ needs, with an army of volunteers to help, is the key. The fishing folk have a pre-tournament dinner on the Thursday evening, and hit the water early Friday morning.
And they do it armed with ice, courtesy of the tournament.
“Every year, we give away 2,000 bags of ice to keep the (live) wells cool in the boats and in the live release boat,” Beaton said.
Other tournaments can leave it up to the participating anglers for getting their own ice.
Keeping the wells cool on a hot day helps minimize fish mortality.
Even with all the ice, Beaton admitted Friday’s conditions saw an uptick in the number of fish that didn’t survive the event. He didn’t have exact numbers at press time, but there was a higher fish mortality rate than normal.
Saturday’s weather delivered a return to more traditional levels.
Organizers of the event pride themselves in returning as many fish as possible to Lake St. Clair.
The team of John Kopocok and Derrick Soulliere from Windsor took top spot, which earned them $9,600 in prize money plus a 25 HP Evinrude outboard motor.
They won with more than 43 pounds of fish over the two days. Each day, boats can weigh their five biggest fish.
Last year, top weight was 50.71 lbs. Beaton said the water levels played a major role in fishing this year.
“It was tougher fishing than last year. Guys covered a lot of territory. High water changed the entire lake,” he said.
A familiar face, and voice, helped out with the kids fishing element of the tournament this year.
Beaton said Fred Pletsch, a veteran sports hockey commentator who lives in Michigan, volunteered to assist this year.
Each year, 20 children are taken out to fish on Saturday in Mitchell’s Bay, and go home keeping the rod, reel and tackle they use.
“He handled the kids’ event on the stage,” Beaton said, explaining the kids got the treat of coming up on the weigh-in stage before the anglers returned. “Everybody in the crowd was laughing at his interviews with the kids. It was great.”
The crowd on Saturday was bigger than in the past, something the organizers strived for this year. Beaton estimated more than 600 people attended.
“We had a great crowd Saturday for the weigh in. Giving away a $600 paddleboard did attract some extra spectators,” he said. “Even the food booths sold out of food. That was a good sign of what was going on in the crowd.”
As for what 2020 will bring, Beaton said organizers are taking a couple of weeks off before starting the planning for next year.