CLAYTON, N.Y. – Who is the smallmouth king of 1000 Islands? According to Stren Series records, that title belongs to Mike Desforges of Burlington, Ontario.
For the second year in a row at 1000 Islands, Desforges dominated the Stren Series Northern Division field with Lake Ontario smallmouths to claim another Stren Series winner’s trophy.
Those who have competed against Desforges in Canadian tournament circuits are already familiar with his winning ways. And now the smallmouth master is bringing his Great Lakes knowledge to America to line his bank account with Stren Series winnings.
For three days in row, Desforges’ daily weights topped the 20-pound mark with hefty Lake Ontario smallmouths that were caught some 35 to 45 miles away in the “big lake.” His heaviest limit came on day one when he weighed 22-14.
His three-day winning total stood at 63 pounds, 13 ounces, earning him a check for $20,147.
“It feels awesome to win again,” said Desforges, who has fished just six Stren Series events. “Being in a position to win and then blowing it is so disappointing, so finishing off with a win feels good.”
Understandably, the Canadian pro did not want to give exact locations of his best catches, but did say that a bulk of his fish came from 5 to 10 feet of water around boulder-to-sand transition areas.
“I’m really not sure what these fish are still doing in these areas,” he described. “Maybe they are guarding fry, or maybe they are still hanging around, hoping to spawn again. I really don’t know. But they were definitely defensive of their areas. It’s not that they were on beds, they were just protecting general areas and would run off any intruders that came around.”
In order to find his fish in practice, Desforges covered water with a Rapala X-Rap #10 jerkbait in ghost color.
“Whenever a big fish would come up after the jerkbait, I’d pull it away and mark the area on the GPS,” he said. “When I returned in the tournament, about half of them would eat the jerkbait, but the other half I’d have to tease into biting by casting a tube or drop-shot Trigger X scentbait around the areas.”
Desforges noted that he plans to fish more Stren Series events whenever they come up his way.
“I really like these Stren events,” he said with a smile. “I wish FLW would make a Stren Series Canadian Division; that would be a lot of fun.”
This is just Johnston’s second Stren Series event. He fished the Potomac River earlier this year as well.
“I’m pretty happy with second place,” said the 20-year old Canadian. “Mike is a tough guy to beat out here on this water. I don’t think anyone knows this water as well as him. He’s awesome.”
Johnston spent the week fishing Canadian water with a drop-shot, jerkbait and spinnerbait. His best gig was a drop-shot tipped with a Slammer goby imitation made by Strike Zone lures in Canada.
“One thing that has helped me tremendously is using braided line out here in the wind and waves,” he said. “I use Power Pro as my main line and then tie it to a fluorocarbon leader for my drop-shot, and the sensitivity is extreme when you’re bouncing around out there in the waves.”
Laframboise rooms with Desforges, so consequently the two pros were on very similar patterns, fishing shallow for scattered smallmouths just coming off beds.
“The fish were in a strange mode this week,” Laframboise said. “I did not find them schooled up out deep; it’s like they were still up shallow around spawning areas, but not really on beds. They were territorial around certain boulders, but not locked on particular nests.”
During the week the Canadian pro relied on a smelt-colored jerkbait, a spinnerbait, Senkos and tubes.
Some of the fish he caught bit the spinnerbait, which he fished on Berkley Fireline. But others would just flash on or follow the spinnerbait, causing Laframboise to pitch a tube or Senko at the fish for a second-chance bite.
Jeff Magee of Yarker, Ontario, weighed in the biggest limit of day three – 21 pounds, 12 ounces – to jump into fourth place on the final day with a three-day total of 57 pounds, 4 ounces worth $5,641.
Magee was drop-shotting and tubing in water down to 35 feet with a Berkley curl-tail finesse worm and a Berkley Powerbait tube in pumpkinseed color.
He, too, preferred braided line as his main line when drop-shotting and then tied to a fluorocarbon leader made of 12-pound-test Transition fluorocarbon.
Strub also fished out in Ontario, preferring to fish out deeper than most, targeting offshore structure in 25 to 35 feet with a drop-shot and tube.
His best drop-shot bait was a TriggerX Spadetail worm, which is a scented bait.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series Northern Division at 1000 Islands:
6th: Tom Belinda of Hollidaysburg, Pa., three-day total of 52-0, $4,432
7th: Rob Webster of Janetville, Ontario, three-day total of 50-5, $4,029
8th: Mike Neilson of Markham, Ontario, three-day total of 48-2, $3,627
9th: Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., three-day total of 44-7, $3,224
10th: Glenn Babineau of Mechanicville, N.Y., three-day total of 38-12, $2,821
The next Stren Series event in the Northern Division will be Aug. 27-29 at Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh.