Top Ontario fishing tournaments
They go head-to-head with their fellow anglers, casting and jigging from the decks of dedicated bass and walleye boats with all the bells and whistles.
The chance to win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes is an obvious attraction but participants will say it’s more about spending several days in a row sharing the experience of angling some of Ontario’s most beautiful and productive waters.
It’s a time to gather with like-minded anglers and totally immerse themselves in all things fishing while enjoying all that an Ontario fishing tournament has to offer.
Reasons to fish in a tournament
Signing up for a tournament equals lots of time on the water.
Anglers who commit to a tournament have an excuse to spend several days of uninterrupted fishing.
In advance of tournaments, participants generally pre-fish for a day or two, or even longer, to become familiar with the water and find prospective areas that hold big fish. This provides serious time on the water doing nothing but working on their angling game.
Tournaments can be a huge learning experience.
Joining a group of keen anglers competing on the same body of water, the perceptive angler is presented with a real opportunity to learn from each other.
‘The fish are not biting’ is not a valid excuse for catching few or no fish. In a tournament situation that assertion evaporates when others in the field come in with live wells of big fish. Participants realize that the fish were indeed biting, just not where they were fishing or on the methods they were using.
Whether finishing in the top, the middle or bottom of the fleet, there are always valuable lessons to glean from the experience of fishing a tournament.
There are tournaments for virtually every species, but bass and walleye are the most prevalent.
Typically, tournaments range from one to three-day events with a team of two anglers catching and weighing-in their largest fish of the day.
Ontario fishing regulations are strictly adhered to, so anglers are limited in how many fish they can weigh in per day and are often limited in the number that can be weighed in over a specific size, depending on the regulations for the waters.
This is especially true for walleye. In many Ontario waters, a team can weigh-in their top six walleye of the day but only two can be larger than 46 centimetres. Bass events generally allow teams to weigh-in their top five fish.
Virtually every bass and walleye event is based on the catch and release of every fish caught in order to maintain Ontario’s high-quality fisheries.
All boats must be equipped with an aerated live well and there are rules to encourage the gentle handling of fish to help ensure their successful release.
There are also many tournaments that take it a step farther, requiring tournament participants to photograph fish on a standardized measuring board before they are released. Winners are determined by the total length of their largest fish.
For serious anglers who want to hone their skills and explore beautiful waters for several days in a row with the chance for cash and prizes, it’s hard to ask for a better recipe than an Ontario tournament.
Here are some of Ontario’s top fishing tournament series and angling events.
This series of one and two-day bass events is held on the beautiful cottage country waters of the Kawartha Lakes like Scugog, Sturgeon and Rice as well as the Bay of Quinte.
Payout is based on the number of teams registered for each of 12 events which can vary from 50 to a maximum of 100 teams. The Shootout Fishing League series culminates in championship tournament in September.
A series of five bass tournaments along the St. Lawrence River run out of the communities of Morrisburg, Trenton, Gananoque, Cornwall and Cardinal.
The Bait Fuel Tour (BFT) is billed as an elite professional bass fishing series with each event limited to 65 boats with a final tournament limited to the top 40 teams from the summer’s previous events. The BFT promises exceptional bass fishing within the islands, bays, current and structure of this section of the St. Lawrence.
One hundred teams converge on Big Rideau Lake in June and again in October to angle for smallmouth and largemouth bass in the productive waters of this part of the Rideau River system.
Big Bass Megabucks pays money for the three largest bass caught each hour, with updates posted to Facebook throughout the tournaments. Run out of CC’s on the Rideau Restaurant, these popular events sell out quickly every year.
One hundred teams launch into the Niagara River at the Chippewa boat launch to fish this one-day bass tournament. The entire expanse of Lake Erie is open but Canadian Tire Lake Erie Open angler should have a rough weather plan in their back pockets because wind and waves have been known to limit participants to the more protected waters of the Niagara River.
This series of two walleye tournaments practice a catch-record-release concept in which fish are entered based on their length. Participants must download the FishDonkey App and photograph their catch on an approved measuring board before fish are released. This reduces the stress walleye experience by being kept in a live well and handled during weigh-in.
This event differs from many other tournaments in that the spring tournament is a full two days long with anglers allowed to fish from 12:00 a.m. Saturday morning to 11:59 p.m. Sunday night.
The fall tournament is a full four weeks long with prizes awarded for the three longest walleye per week as well as the three longest walleye overall.
With more than 20 annual events, the Competitive Sport Fishing League (CSFL) is a leading Ontario tournament series offering diverse events that cater to every level of angler from experienced professionals to amateurs. There are series as well as stand-alone one-day and multi-day events for bass, walleye and other species operating under the CSFL umbrella.
The organization is also affiliated with major fishing series in the United States offering anglers the opportunity to advance to large events south of the border.
Since its inception in 1997, the CSFL has been an advocate for the safe handling of fish during events as well as for protecting Ontario’s natural resources by working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ontario Parks and various universities and colleges.
This series of five tournaments is held on a different set of lakes each season.
Excellent bass waters like Lake St. Clair, Lake Nipissing, the Kawarthas, and Lake Simcoe provide a test of angling skill as well as the physical condition of individual anglers paddling fully equipped fishing kayaks.
Ontario kayak Bass Trail events use a catch, record and release process where anglers photograph their catch on an approved measuring board to enter the cumulative length of their five longest bass.
Giant Lake Nipissing is home to four single-day qualifying tournaments followed by a two-day “Classic” in September. The Nipissing Bass Series limits participants to 35 teams per event with the entire length and breadth of Lake Nipissing at their disposal.
Some of Ontario’s best walleye fishing is found in the lakes and rivers of Northern Ontario. The Northern Ontario Walleye Trail (NOWT) consists of seven events based out of the communities of Dubreuilville, Geraldton, Longlac, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Mattagami First Nations.
Participants in NOWT events can expect great fishing, well-run events and small-town hospitality.
Sprawling Lake Wabigoon entertains 125 teams during this two-day event based out of the town of Dryden. This relatively shallow lake is loaded with islands and shoals and a known producer of numbers of big walleye. Dryden walleye Masters has been a Northwestern Ontario tournament staple for over 30 years.
Billed as the “Funnest Bass Tournament in the Canoeing Capital of Canada”, the Atikokan Bass Classic has been running since 1987. There have been changes in tournament lakes since its inception but in recent years anglers have been launching into the island-studded waters of giant Marmion Lake to target fat smallmouth.
This three-day event is run out of Sioux Narrows on gigantic Lake of the Woods and promises virtually endless opportunities for the 120 boat field that disperses from the narrows in search of largemouth and smallmouth bass. The tournament is known for generous daily cash prizes in addition to overall tournament prizes. Add the spectacular beauty of Lake of the Woods and Bassin For Bucks is a popular event that sells out every year.
The great walleye fishing of Lake of the Woods is the backbone of the Kenora Walleye Open. Anglers can choose to venture far within the labyrinth of productive walleye waters or stick close to the community of Kenora. Either way, big walleye and spectacular scenery are the common denominators.
Northwestern Ontario’s Rainy Lake is known as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the province and the home of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship for more than 25 years. With a wealth of bays, inlets and narrows stemming from several main basins, 125 teams have no problem finding productive waters throughout this three-day event.
One of the original bass events on Lake of the Woods, the Kenora Bass International (KBI) will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2023. The KBI is run out of the waterfront town of Kenora at the north end of the lake but the entire Canadian waters of this massive lake are available to anglers during this popular three-day event.
Last updated: September 27, 2023