Rain doesn’t dampen tourney success

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Bass boats make their way on Saturday to weigh their catch in the 9th annual Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open. John Kopcok of Maidstone and T.J. McLarty of Belle River were the top winners. Over the two days of angling Friday and Saturday, the combined weight of their 10-fish catch was 40.71 pounds. They took home more than $25,000 in money and prizes for cinching the title.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Lake St. Clair wasn’t the only thing that was wet during the 9th annual Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open (CTMBO).

For the first time since the event’s inception, heavy rain drenched anglers and volunteers alike on the tournament’s second day, making for some unique challenges.

But the hiccup didn’t stop them.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a wet-weigh-in at the tournament,” said co-organizer Carol Ann Belanger. “Our anglers have shown true professionalism. We’ve very, very proud of them and of all our volunteers.”

The 2023 edition of the CTMBO saw a total of 95 pairs take part in the popular bass tournament that draws anglers from as far away as Kentucky and New York. It’s now recognized as the largest bass tourney among Canadian bass tournament circuit and recently became an official qualifier in the Ranger Cup Series.

For anglers registered in the Ranger Cup program, the Mitchell’s Bay event provides an opportunity to win an additional $8,000 in prize money.

Spread out over four days, the tournament’s events began in blistering heat and ended in heavy rain. Fishing took place on July 7 and 8, with officials saying the last day proved to be difficult.

Ontario anglers Steve Voros of Springfield and Nick Cousvis of Brooklin show off their catch Saturday at the Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open. The pair was the top winner in the tourney two years ago.

Big waves and intermittent downpours marked the final day, making it necessary to set up the weigh-in station two hours early to accommodate anglers who felt they needed to come to shore.

“A number of boats did come in early,” said co-organizer Tom Beaton. “But the majority toughed it out and came back according to their schedules.”

Two Essex County anglers, John Kopcok of Maidstone, and T.J. McLarty of Belle River, were the overall winners with the combined weight of their 10 fish coming in at 40.71 pounds. The pair edged out Mark Thomson and Lynda Slater of Guelph, who had a two-day total of 40.50 lbs.

Mike Chaborek of Windsor was one of the people tasked with overseeing the live catch anglers turn in after the weigh-in. All the fish are carefully handled, placed in tanks, and then taken back out into Lake St. Clair by boat where they are released.

Day one big fish winners were Paul Burrato, of Amherstburg, and Jason Garvey of Windsor, for 6 lbs. earning them a $1,000 prize, while Thomas Johnson of London and Terry Wilson of Tillsonburg captured a $2,000 prize for the big fish on day two at 6.34 lbs, for the tourney’s over all big fish title.

Respected anglers Steve Clapper, a member of the United State National Fresh Water Fish Hall of Fame, and elite angler Wayne Izumi, both say the CTMBO is one of the best tournaments they have ever participated in.

The 2023 tournament marked the full post-pandemic return of the event, drawing plenty of onlookers despite the weather.

Beaton said organizers are already working on next year’s 10th anniversary event, which promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Weighmaster Jeff Couture, right, and helper Randy Bechard look after the critical job of weighing the live catch.

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