View from the Miramichi Striper Cup
By Mark Bowser:
One thing comes to mind when I think about the month of May is always “Striped Bass,” and the road trips to the great Miramichi region to chase down these thrilling fighters. Over the last couple of years I have heard the stories of the annual and growing “Striper Cup” fishing tournament, and knew from the success of my fishing trips that it was something I just had to become part of. I watched youtube videos and talked with fishermen about their experiences. Even though I had never fished competitively, I wanted to experience this great event with so many other people like me who love to fish.
In May of 2016, I took my wife with me one morning to go chase the stripers in the Miramichi. The size and strength of this famed river system is impressive, and hard to believe when you first see it! We arrived early at the river, and noticed as I was getting my 1436 John boat with an 8HP engine ready to go into the water my wife was laughing. I turned to see what was causing her to giggle, and it was a boat traveling up the river. She said, “look at those two people in that tiny boat! They look funny out there!” It was my turn to giggle now, drawing a weird look from her. I explained that the one she was looking at was a much larger boat then we were about to head out in! She became nervous but I assured her it would be ok, and we had a great day fishing!
We spoke about our trip over the week, and discussed the great memories, and for some reason the next Saturday we were in Moncton, stopping at Bass Pro Shops to look around. We ended up getting separated in the store, so when I could not find her I called her cell phone. She answered and told me to meet her outside the store. I made my way out and found her looking over a boat. She looked at me and said “this is what you need and I want you to buy it.” She didn’t have to tell me twice! Without delay I made the purchase of a new Grizzly Tracker 1648 MVX SC with a 40HP mercury. She said it made her feel that I would be safer in the water. That was also the day I decided I would enter the 2017 Striper Cup.
I mentioned it to one of my coworkers and we agreed to team up and enter together. His teenage son Jesse who loves to fish was added as our third team member.
On the day before the tournament in 2017, I headed to the river to do a little pre-fishing. Conditions were very rough. It was a rainy, windy day and I was not out long but did manage to catch a few and get some spots in my mind. Jamie and his son Jesse showed up later in the afternoon, when we headed to the curling club for 6pm to get our team “ON THE FLY” registered. Registration took only a few minutes, and we quickly had our information package and team number. Jamie and I remarked how easy it was, very well-organized, and the long lines were taken care of in minutes. They announced all the rules and how the shot gun start would work, and we left with all the knowledge we would need.
At the start of Day 1, Saturday morning, we woke and headed to the river. After getting in the boat we headed to “Richie’s Wharf” for the boat inspection, which we found again to be a very smooth process. They tied on our inspection Ribbon so that we were identified as checked, and we were ready about 1 hour before the start. Boats were showing up in large numbers at this time. I worked my way across the river inside the start line and we took it all in, waiting for the first flare which would be for the boats over 50hp. The first flare went and the water came to life! Boats were going everywhere and it was an awesome site to see! I was excited and nervous as we waited 5 minutes for the second flare to fire for the 50hp and under!
The crack of the flare gun barked out as the flare signaled the start, and we took off full throttle. The water hadn’t settled completely from the first group so it was rough going at times, but we were soon were wide open skimming over and through the waves and wakes of the other boats we headed to our discussed destination. My boat performed well and we ended up the first there! We had a plan: to get two fish in the live well as quick as possible and then see if we could find bigger fish. I hooked and landed the first one right away, and he was about 3 lbs. We filled the live well and had our first fish onboard! Only a few minutes later Jamie hooked up, and we landed the second which was about the same size. With our two fish on board we went in search of larger replacements. We caught a lot of fish about the same size all morning in the rainy rough water.
We headed further up river, and were marking a lot of fish so we stopped to try our luck there for a while. We all we threw out our lines and we were in to them hard! I immediately hooked up and landed a 6.75lb fish it replaced one of the smaller ones in the live well. This particular fish will be one Jamie, Jesse and I will remember always. After I set the hook and started to crank, to my surprise the crank broke off in my hand! What a mess we were in, with Jamie hand-lining, me trying to be the drag and keep the tension on the barbless hook, and Jessie trying to net the fish. When it finally landed in the net it was sigh of relief, and what a mess I had to clean up! It was definitely an experience to remember! A few minutes later Jamie hooked another good fish we landed it. This one was 6.93lbs and replaced the other smaller on in the live well.
The rest of the day we caught plenty of fish, but nothing larger than we already had. We went for the weigh in, which was again a smooth process! We finished day one with 13.68lbs, and we placed in 81st. We all felt good about our success for our first tournament and did what we set out to do: catch fish have fun and learn some things.
As the second day started, we went through the same things: put the boat in went through the inspection, preparing for the start. Something felt different: we were not nervous and had some confidence! The flare cracked and lit up the sky and we were off! This time we did not hold back, but stayed on the throttle, passing boats over and through the waves. Thrilling is the only way I can describe it. It was awesome, and we found the adrenaline-filled ride was just about as much fun as catching the fish! As we found our spot, with our hearts still pounding from excitement, before I cast all I could think about is: I can’t wait until next year!
We began to fish and right away I hooked up and knew it was a good fish. I told Jamie he had better get the net and we landed: 8.55lbs… our best fish so far. We no more then got it in to the live well and cast and we were on again, this time a double-header as Jamie and I both hooked up! Landing both, my fish was smaller and as I got it in and released it, Jesse was netting his father’s fish. This one was a good one at 9.63lbs, and into the live well it went! Jesse hooked up and we landed his fish we weighed it and double checked the one I had caught earlier. Jesse’s fish was 8.12lbs so being not quite there, and we released it back to grow some more. We fished all day and caught a lot of fish in the 8lbs range but were not able to get bigger than the ones in the live well. We weighed in at 18.18lbs on the second day, a big improvement from the first day. We ended up placing 45th out of 220 boats in the tournament! We were happy with our experience and can’t wait to beat that next year!
The awards were at 6pm at the curling club and it was a great event. It was all very well organized and ran so smoothly that we were on our way home at 7:30pm! The organizers have done a great job with this tournament and I can’t help but think how good this must be for the Miramichi region! We all are excited for next year!
Thank you to the organizers of the striper cup! Jeff Wilson and the team did a great job. We will see you next year!
Oh, and special thanks to my wife for the new boat!
The youngest member of our team was only 14 years old, but he has his own youtube channel where he shared some of our experiences. He’s shared two videos of our trip, one for each day. Jesse made these videos himself and captured great footage, and you can check out some of his other interesting videos for all of us wilderness obsessed people!
His Youtube name is “Joutdoors jesse.”
If you would like to see our experience from his work, click here.
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