Monday, September 17, 2012

2012 Classic Champions Report: How Garnier and Lafleur Won it.

2012 CSFL Classic Champs!
Pete Garnier, Andy from CSFL and Rob LaFleur
The 2012 CSFL Classic is in the books. Pete Garnier and Rob Lefleur caught 53.35 pounds of smallmouth on famed Rice Lake to claim the championship. Battling for three days of competition is a culmination of a strong practice, team work, good decision making and maybe a little bit of luck. IBASSIN tracked down Pete and Rob to obtain the full story of their impressive win.

Well first of all, congratulations on the terrific win! Having been fishing for decades, a win of this calibre must be rewarding. “It’s a great feeling! Certainly something I am proud of and one I won’t soon forget. The onslaught of texts, emails, and phone calls has been really been humbling.” Reflects Pete. “Makes you feel like the years of hard work and determination have all been worthwhile for sure.”

Working through the entire week leading up to the tournament, Pete and Rob put in hours of pre-fishing. Rob had to miss the first few days but Pete spent it hunting for largemouth. The mindset was to wait for Rob to arrive before they targeted smallmouth.

“If you look back over the years, smallmouth bass have always played a significant role on Rice, maybe even more so in the last 10-years. In our minds, it is easier to catch four to six pound smallies on Rice than it is to largemouth.” Declares Rob and Pete.

Having a clear practice game plan, Pete focused his efforts on largemouths. “Typically at this time of year, Rice lake produces a phenomenal algae bloom which forms a thick 4” to 6” layer of “green-pea” looking slick on the surface. When this occurs largemouth and smallmouth can be had on fast moving horizontal baits like spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits. I totally anticipated to find these conditions and looked forward to that style of fishing and was shocked that the lake had not setup like that when I arrived on the Sunday prior to the tournament for my first day of practice.” Explains Garnier.

Having no luck fishing deeper weedbed, Pete continued to roam around the lake for a productive area. Unable to find largemouth deep, he decided to try lily pads and weed choked shallow areas. Almost immediately, he began connecting with bass. Many of them in the three pound range. A die-hard frog fisherman, Pete knew many areas that had similar cover as the ones that produced.

Weather is always tricky to judge. Anglers battled rain, cold,
wind and fog. 
Shallow largemouth is a strength for this pair but the weather forecast was bleak for the tournament. Heavy rains, wind and dropping temps would surely alter the mood of the shallow bass. Having found something gave them confidence but smallmouth needed to be examined more closely.

 Rob arrived and the hunt for smallmouth commenced.

The behavior of baitfish played a significant role. Using the Hummingbird side scan, they found of their smallmouth spots to be teaming with baitfish. “We found large schools of small shiners. We found a couple of particularly large schools seemingly ‘locked’ on the structure. Explains Rob. This became fundamental to their whole tournament.

Using side imaging earlier in the year they marked a couple of spots with either large boulders or where flat limestone was exposed along the bottom. Both areas teamed with bait making made them even more productive.

 “Rob popped a 5’er on the first spot and a 5.5 on the second…that is all we needed to see.” Recalls Pete. “Interestingly, we marked a single big fish on the side imaging Humminbird, scrolled over with the cursor, zoomed in and dropped a waypoint on those two fish. We circled around approaching on the trolling motor and bagged them both. Rather than burn any more fish we used the side imaging to graph as many similar looking spots as we could.”

Rod says, “Really, it was a combination of historical winning bags and the lack of available deepwater largemouth and that reinforced our early decision to concentrate on smallies.”


Day 1:  17.65 lbs

Day 2:  20.55 lbs

Day 3:  15.15 lbs

Total:   53.35 lbs


Friday was crisp, clear with very little wind. The water temperature dropped a bit but only by a few degrees. Instantly, these guys were on them. The first smallmouth was 2 ½ pounds so followed by several 3 pounders. After those initial fish the action became feverish. As the action was red hot, other competitors started arriving close to their magic spot but kept their distance.  “I have to mention several teams… (who) showed their true colours and in no way made any attempt to move in, overcrowd, or push us off our spot throughout the event. Chris Giles, Jimmy Dodd, Lynn and Chris Johnston, Wayne Misselbrook, and Dave Kennedy, along with others were great. It’s a true testament of the character of these intense competitors.” Acknowledges Garnier

With a pair of 4-pounders and a some solid 3’s in the well, and with no other boats threatening to invade their area they ventured off and check the other spot where the baitfish were locked,. We they arrived, the bass and baitfish were there. Catching another seven more bass and culling the smaller 3 ½ smallmouth they noticed Blake Rankie and Sean Mclaughlin (the eventual second place finishers) fishing their 3rd prime location.

With around 18 pounds in the boat they decided their day was good enough and headed back to the weigh-in.

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