Singing the praises of Mitchell’s Bay Open bass tournament

Derrick Soulliere, left, and John Kopcok display some of their catch that earned them the 2019 Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open bass tournament on Saturday.

MITCHELL’S BAY – Two Belle River anglers were able to withstand the heat to grind out a win at the sixth annual Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open bass tournament by a slim margin Saturday.
John Kopcok and Derrick Soulierre won the $9,600 cash prize and a $5,000 25-horsepower Evinrude Tiller outboard motor, donated by Maple City Marine and Evinrude, by hauling in 42.99 pounds of bass. They also added another $1,000 when Kopcok landed the tournament’s largest fish at 5.76 pounds.
Erick Hodgins and Mark Piche finished a close second with 42.92 pounds, earning $5,440, while Cole Bailey and Sam Rankin took third with 42.66 pounds to claim a prize of $3,520.
Kopcok, a regular on the National Walleye Tour, has fished the Mitchell’s Bay Open since it began, but this was Soulierre’s first time fishing the tournament.
Kopcok, who hadn’t finished in the money during his previous outings, said having a lot of patience was the key to winning.
“You gotta stick it out and grind. … The fish are there. It just depends what time they bite,” he said. “If you’re impatient, you’re not going do good. I’ve learned that over the years fishing the National Walleye Tour, you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to stick it out.”

Angling legend Steve Clapper, of Ohio, says the Canadian Tire Mitchell’s Bay Open bass tournament is the best one he’s fished during his 50 years as a professional. He is seen here Saturday holding up a few of the bass he hauled in during the tournament held Friday and Saturday on Lake St. Clair. Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

Soulliere said they struggled a lot.
“What we came up with … it didn’t come until late (in the day),” he said.

He said they watched people come in to spots they were previously fishing and catch fish where they couldn’t get any.
“We just got lucky,” Soulliere said. “We made an adjustment at the end of the day, and found the fish and that’s what won it.”
When asked if he might start entering more bass tournaments after this win, Kopcok joked he might try to “get used to the bugs and the heat.”
“He’s a heck of a bass fisherman,” Soulliere said.
Kopcok has enjoyed the tournament for the people and the great competition. “These guys come out here to win, just like us. That’s why we’re here,” he said.
For the past three years, the event has attracted angling legend Steve Clapper of Ohio, who was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2016.
“It’s the best-run tournament I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in the biggest ones that are on in the (U.S.),” said Clapper, 71, who has been a fishing pro for the past 50 years.
He told some friends in Michigan they wouldn’t believe how good the tournament is, so they entered it this year.
“They came to me … and said, ‘You weren’t lying,’” Clapper said.
He praised the effort of the Mitchell’s Bay community and the volunteers involved for doing a “fabulous job.”
Tournament co-chair Tom Beaton announced during the final weigh-in Saturday that the tournament had nearly filled up for 2020 by the time the fisherman’s dinner ended Thursday night.

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