Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to have Bill Hilts, Jr., outdoor sports specialist for Niagara USA, as our first guest blogger. Bill is passionate about the great outdoor activities in our area and writes about an important event coming up next week.
The Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament Series is proceeding in a positive direction as the counties of Niagara, Orleans and Oswego continue to move forward after taking on a new format in 2012. Those changes created a Trophy (five fish) and Classic (12 fish) options, rolled into one event. This year, Niagara and Orleans teams will be given a choice – to sign into either option or both at the same time. As always, 100 percent of the entry fee money will be earmarked for each respective category.
As we concluded the events in 2011, it was evident that we needed to make some changes…and it was always about what was the best for the teams – bigger and better. There was a serious question as to whether or not Oswego and Wayne counties would continue in the series, primarily due to time constraints of tournament directors. Both Dave Turner and Chris Kenyon were serious about tendering resignations and ALL of the events needed more volunteer support. From a competitive level, the numbers of amateur teams were dropping off, with more taking the competitive leap into the Professional Division. The poster child/team was Dave Antenori and Screamer, winning the Lake Ontario Challenge Cup – a former Amateur Division competitor – in 2011.
When 2012 rolled around, all the tournaments struggled with local support. In the end, both Wayne and Oswego tournament directors bowed out from running an event in 2013. While Niagara and Orleans counties kept the momentum going, Oswego saw a local volunteer committee come together to make it happen. They will be running a Pro-Am tournament in their traditional July dates under the old format. Oswego will be part of the Lakewide Classic Box Challenge Cup this year, but with slightly different rules than they had last year.
One of the big bones of contention when these changes were made was enhancing the tournament payouts, making it appealing for someone who has one good day of fishing. The result was that the money seemed to be too spread out in 2012 so this year we will be back to recognizing the best two-day total instead of daily results. We are excited to continue with these new format changes as adopted by the directors and endorsed by the volunteer committees. Here’s a few of those changes:
- The Niagara and Orleans tournaments will all offer a two-tiered competition. The first tier is the Recreational Open Division, offering two single days of fishing which can be entered separately. It will be your best three fish, no observer, low entry fee and minimum rules. These Open Division contests are the “farm clubs” of tournament fishing and they have been growing. Each day is treated as a separate event and it’s more than 100 percent payback with cash and prizes combined. The entry deadline is May 27 (Memorial Day) at 5 p.m. Sign up at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott or the Niagara Tourism Visitors Center in Niagara Falls.
- The second tier is the combined structure for Pro and Am teams, offering teams the opportunity to cash in for Trophy or short boxes (five fish) and Classic or long boxes (12 fish maximum). This would unite the Divisions and creating a level playing field – with an option to fish in one or the other … or both. The intent will be to pay out cash prizes for the top 10 in each category over the two days of fishing. Not counting big fish prizes, teams will have the opportunity to cash in on some 20 prize-winning checks. The scoring system will still be ten points a fish and a point per pound. Entry fee will be based on what division your team chooses to compete in– Trophy, Classic or both. By entering all teams qualify for their respective cups (West cup or the Overall Classic Box Challenge Cup). The short and long box concept will be carried throughout both West end events, giving teams the opportunity to earn additional prizes. Of particular note is the opportunity in the Classic Box West Cup to earn some significant bucks if you compete in both Niagara and Orleans contests.
Once again, team points will be earned for both short box and long box each day, as well as for the tournament overall. In other words, all teams will be allotted divisional cup points based on where you rank in the entire field Day One, Day Two and your final standing in the field for that event. The points will be added together to determine your combined divisional total. All Trophy and Classic Division teams will be issued points respective of the division in which you entered. These cup totals will continue to expand through every day of both events. Recognition and reward will be given after the two West end events, and for the overall total of all three events in the Classic Division.
The website is www.lakeontarioproam.net. It should answer any other questions you may have. We look forward to another exciting tournament season on Lake Ontario with the Pro-Am’s. The Niagara event out of Wilson and Olcott is June 1-2; the Orleans County event is June 8-9; and the Oswego event is July 13-14, using a slightly different format than the Niagara and Orleans contests.
From a local perspective, some exciting things are starting to happen such as the Olcott Business Association setting up a tent in Krull Park to promote to the competing teams. A local Boy Scout Troop will be cooking up chickens for sale on Saturday, June 1 in the park. It’s important that the local community take a vested interest in the tournament to help make this bigger and better. After all, this is the home of the Ultimate Fishing Town from 2012! This is setting things up perfectly for next year’s event – the 30th Annual Niagara County Pro-Am. Stay tuned … and stop on out to the weigh-in between noon and 3 p.m. at the Lion’s Club Pavilion of Krull Park in the north section along the lake. You’ll see some impressive catches!
Don’t forget that the Don Johannes and Pete DeAngelo memorial events will be held on Friday, May 31 out of the ports of Wilson and Olcott. Sign up by 7 a.m. on the morning of the event at The Slippery Sinker or the Boat Doctors. Cost is $100 per boat for a one fish-three fish contest similar to the Recreational Open. Good luck!