By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The 2021 Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open Bass Tournament is one for the books.
Organizers managed to pull off the popular event, featuring 81 entries, while following COVID-19 safety protocols to the letter.
The event was shelved in 2020 because of the pandemic, said co-chair Tom Beaton, giving organizers time to come up with a safe way of doing it.
“Due to COVID, we had to cancel last year,” Beaton said Sunday. “We had two years to plan and we worked closely with Chatham-Kent Public Health to make it happen.”
Changes involved holding the event at a private home on the water, no spectators were allowed, and the number of volunteers was capped at 25, instead of the usual 75.
Anglers pulled up to the private dock and passed their live catch over to volunteers for the weigh-in without leaving their boats. They were then tasked with heading back out to release the fish away from shore.
Another big change in 2021 was the fact there were no American entries, due to border restrictions.
Luckily the fish were still biting, allowing the team of Steve Voros of Springfield, and Nick Cousvis of Brooklin to split the top prize of $9,600 with a combined bass weight of 46.06 pounds.
This year’s event saw an increase in the weight of fish, as it was the first year a single fish topped the six-pound mark. Jason Clay of St. Catharines won that category after landing a bass weighing 6.59 pounds. He took home a purse of $1,000.
The overall second place win went to Erick Hodgins of Windsor and Mark Piche of Tecumseh who had a two-day catch of 43.93 pounds.
Third went to Bill Valberg of Lighthouse Cove and Chad Wentzell of St. Thomas with a combined weight of 43.85 pounds.
Winners are determined by the combined weight of fish, including both large and small mouth bass, caught over the course of the two-day tournament.
Beaton said organizers may bump up to 90 entries next year, as there is a long wait list of people who want to participate in the tournament.
Beaton co-chairs the event with Carol Ann Belanger.
The tournament is normally held at the Mitchell’s Bay Marina.