Haliburton Bass Club a boon to HHOA 0
Anglers head out on Boshkung Lake in the early hours of July 21, 2012. They were participating in one of the Haliburton Bass Club's summer tournaments./Steve Galea, Special to the Echo
Riding in Pat Kennedy’s bass boat as the speedometer hits speeds that would earn a ticket on any road in the county, it occured to me that the path to conservation takes many routes. In this case, straight across Boshkung Lake towards a patch of pencil reeds where Kennedy hooked some largemouth bass while learning these waters a few days ago.
I joined him to fish the third tournament held on July 21 by the newly formed Haliburton Bass Club.
For a guy more at home with fly rods, canoes and tin boats powered by four-horse motors, it was a bit of a culture shock.
Bass tournaments are brash, shiny and fast.
They’re home to cutting edge electronics, specialized boats and rod lockers loaded with enough gear to fill a small tackle shop.
If Nascar married fishing, this would be the lovechild.
Whatever your thoughts on that are, these tournaments have gained popularity and are enjoyed by many very good anglers, including the 36 who comprise the Haliburton Bass Club.
The idea was born last September, Kennedy says, when he and die-hard tournament anglers Mark McMaster and John Hill talked about forming a local club that would organize small tournaments in the lakes in Haliburton County.
Each had competed in larger tournaments throughout the province and found that the big events were getting less enjoyable.
“To be competitive in those tournaments, you have to spend a lot of time pre-fishing,” says Kennedy.
“It’s a big investment in time and money that the average person doesn’t have. We thought it might be nice to scale it back a bit and make it more accessible to local anglers.”
A small tournament held last fall confirmed they were on the right track.
So Kennedy and others approached the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA) and proposed the idea of their club as part of that organization.
The HHOA would benefit with new membership and some revenue from tournaments.
The club would have a central location to call home, insurance coverage and, says Kennedy, “the knowledge that we are contributing to conservation projects in the county.”
Both groups thought it was a good deal.
By the time this season is over, the club will have held five tournaments, including two more soon to occur on Kushog and Miskwabi lakes. Kennedy says that a sixth fall tournament is also being considered.
Each boat attending those events pays an entry fee, $15 of which goes to the HHOA. By the end of the season, Kennedy projects that their contribution to the HHOA might hit $1,000.
Just as important, the club has brought in about 30 new members to the association. Not bad for an inaugural season.
Thus far, each event has attracted less than 15 boats, which is not far off from the maximum of 25 Kennedy and other organizers envision.
“That’s a good number,” he says. “It lowers our impact on lakes, allows us to fish smaller waters and limits the congestion that our tournaments have at public boat launches.”
The competitions, including the one I fished with Kennedy, are friendly but attended by fairly serious anglers.
These guys and gals are up on the latest and greatest in tournament fishing techniques and gear.
Typically, two anglers fish together and vie for monetary prizes for the first, second and third heaviest catches of five fish.
A separate prize for the biggest individual bass is also awarded. The amounts are based on the number of boats entered.
In the tournament I fished with Kennedy, let’s just say we didn’t earn any of these things.
Still, it was an eye-opener. There is pageantry in these things that almost anyone can appreciate.
And I don’t know an angler who, deep down, doesn’t possess a bit of competiveness and dreams of winning big.
What was more impressive to me, however, was the quality of the fish caught. In that tournament the winning five topped 18 pounds and the big fish was slightly less than five pounds.
Four bass that topped four pounds were also brought in and all fish caught were live-released.
There truly is nothing like a tournament to show you the fishing potential of a lake.
But the competition is only one part of it. Kennedy says he has noticed a social spin-off that he never counted on too.
“It used to be that many of these guys knew each other just enough to nod and say hi in the coffee shops, but not much more. Now I notice that when they meet, they stop to share information and talk about fishing and the next tournament. That’s kind of nice too,” he says.
He welcomes anyone to join the club and enter the tournaments.
All that’s needed is membership into the HHOA, an additional $10 Haliburton Bass Club membership, a full fishing license and all the other things required to fish for bass. Also all boats participating in the events must possess a live-well since all live fish go back.
Kennedy hopes the club will be able to provide education on angling techniques, live release of fish and other things over the winter months at the HHOA. He also hopes that more people come out to events.
“Bass fishing in Haliburton County is our best kept secret,” he says. “This club is one way to enjoy it.”
For more information call the HHOA at 705-457-9664 or visit http://haliburtonhighlandsbassclub.weebly.com.