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FLW Canada 1st place finish on Rice Lake!

flw canada 1st place finish on rice lakeflw canada 1st place finish on rice lakeflw canada 1st place finish on rice lakeflw canada 1st place finish on rice lakeflw canada 1st place finish on rice lake
Well what can I say, I'm still in disbelief about what transpired over the weekend. I can't truly express in words how much that win meant to Bryan and I. We've spent thousands of hours out on Rice Lake over the course of our fishing lives trying to learn and understand how to catch giant smallmouth out there. I mean this when I say it, I truly believe Rice Lake smallmouth are some of the hardest to find and catch in the country. Dealing with moody fish in dirty water can be so discouraging. My first tournament out there I placed last with just shy of 9lbs.

Well with anything as you put your time in and want something bad enough, eventually things start to reveal themselves and it becomes a little easier. The past couple seasons, Bryan ad I have been able to put together a solid set of over 5 tournament days where we have brought in 20lbs and over between CSFL and FLW now.
Going into the event I knew it would take at least 42-43lbs to win and I knew we would be around those fish during the event. I really didn't expect we would win with 44lbs a 22lb average over two days. Bryan and I have never broken 22lbs before so we were so pumped about that….anyway here is how our event went down for us:

Day 1: We arrive at our first area to find a lot of guys fishing our favorite spots. In fact Vandermeer and Slute were in my favorite area and boy did they wreck em while Bryan and I were forced to just watch. Actually I couldn't watch…Bryan just gave me the play by play while I became humbler by the second haha. While they loaded the boat quickly Bryan and I couldn't buy a bite a few hundred yards away. We began running our spots and fortunately had a couple spots that people weren't fishing. Around 10:30 with no decent fish in the box we roll up on an area and in back to back casts we land two fish over 4lbs. The bite quickly shut down after those fish so we ran around hitting other spots for a bit before coming back to that same spot and hit another fish in the 4lb range. At 11:30 we hit a spot that has been good to us in the past and within 5 minutes we had two twin giants both over 5lbs in the box. We were going to continue fishing when Bryan says to me that the one we just landed doesn't look to healthy. With a good bag over 21lbs we decide its best to head back and weigh in our 4 largest fish over 4 lbs to be safe. Those fish are so old and special, we didn't want to risk the fish's life. We weighed in our 4 biggest around 12:30pm weighing 18.77lbs before heading back out with our smallest fish in the 3.75lb range looking to upgrade it. We knew our weight was really good in the 22lb range so we decided that we would rest our good spots for the next day. As the saying goes you can't win on day one, you can only loose it. We ran a bunch of old water we used to fish and were lucky to upgrade that last fish before 4 by a few ounces. We finished day 1 with 22.49lbs and a half pound lead going into day 2.

Day 2: Although we slept well the night before this day didn't go down as planned. We were in the second blast off flight and when we arrived to our first spot it was being pounded on by locals and other tournament anglers. I've actually never seen so many anglers in one area out there in my life. No joke I counted 11 boats in an area that con only fish 3-4 at most. At that point I knew that pressure would shut the bite down and our game plan changed immediately. We decided B quality spots were going to be the difference for us. We actually did well catching 3 good fish in the first few hours all over 4lbs until the bite just shut down. We were thinking we have 4 hours to get two more that the tourney win was well within reach. Problem was we knew our competitors had caught them in the am and 4 hours left in the day quickly turned into 3, then 2, then 1 and we couldn't buy a bite. Nobody will ever understand how easy you begin to spin out when that kind of money is on the line and you know you're blowing it. I found myself questioning how I was casting and reeling in my bait haha. We were doing things that just weren't natural like going to spots we never checked and fishing baits we would never otherwise throw. I clearly remember telling myself to pull it together and fish how we normally fish. So In the last 50 minutes of the day Bryan suggests we hit one last spot that has been good to us in the past and I figured what the heck, Bryan earned the call since we was the guy catching them that day. It's important to always go with the gut of the guy who's feeling it. Well I still don't know why or how but as soon as we touched down on the last spot Bryan and I looked at each other and we both agreed it was going to happen. The energy that went through my body was indescribable. I went from being incredibly down ready to cry to feeling amazing. Not 5 casts in Bryan is in and it's a giant. We land that fish and we're both fired up. A quick cull and we're one bite away from a giant bag. I turn to Bryan and I said to him there is no way I'm going in without contributing to our bag. All 4 good fish were Bryan's and I wasn't going to let him down. I specifically remember taking a cast and saying to myself it was the $16K cast…My bait wasn't in the water more than 3 seconds and I get smoked. I set and out leaps the biggest Smallie of the day. It was the most intense fight I've ever experienced. On that cast I had gone over Bryan's line so I was fighting the fish and was tangled in Bryan's line the entire fight. Thankfully Bryan netted the giant and we went nuts! We gave each other a massive hug before culling that 2.5lbr we had in the box. We knew we still had some time so with 5 minutes left I hook into another giant and we land it. We quickly cull one of the smaller 4 lbrs and ran back with minutes to spare. It was an incredible finish made for TV. One I'll never forget. The ups and downs were out of this world!

When we got back to the weigh in we knew the other guys got them too and it would be close. Once the final weight appeared I went nuts and still don't remember what happened once we won. I hope someone out there has video of it.

The crazy thing was fish were supper spooked and pressured by guys during pre-fish and we needed to break out all the old tricks to get these fish to bite. We used a drop shot, tube, spinnerbait, and a jerkbait all weekend. Your standard Smallie stuff and just made the most of every bite. It really just came down to who landed their fish. I know Jeff and Chris who came is second lost two giants and that probably cost them the win. Let's just say I'm super grateful we kept ours pegged because those guys are two of the best in the country with nothing to prove. Also want to thank them and Scott Berrey / Steve Wisniewski for being amazing competitors with so much class! Those guys crushed em and any of us could have taken the win. I don't want to forget and want to thank FLW Canada for bringing such a great series to us. They have certainly brought an exciting series to Canada worth fishing and it's now up to us anglers to support it. Last but not least want to thank my parent for giving me the opportunity to go fishing, my wife for her amazing support and anglers like Bryan Low for stomping on them Day 2 and keeping us in it, Steve Delyea for being a huge mentor to me, and Blake Rankie who helped point me in the right direction when I was starting out on Rice. Also want to congratulate Cooper Gallant and Danny McGarry for their incredible 7th place finish. These guys aren't even 18 years old yet! I need to rack up some wins soon because these two are the next Johnston Brothers. Anyway, I can't wait for the Championship on Big Rideau in September. It's going to be a blast!

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