Outdoor Action Ontario

The Long Road to the Classic – A conversation with Charles Sim

Canada’s Number 1 Bass Angler sits down with Outdoor Action Ontario’s Ben Martin to discuss his quest towards competing in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic.  (Photo credits – Charles Sim)

By Ben Martin

In any sport, to rise to the elite ranks usually signifies a specific drive – a type of talent that allows an individual to rise to the top, as the Crème de la Crème always does.

In Canadian Bass angling today there is no bigger name than Charles Sim, a mountain of a man with a heart of gold and smile that can warm a room, who just also happens to be one of the most-feared competitors on the Ontario bass-fishing tournament scene today.

Over years of tournament fishing, he has risen steadily to the top.

Now, Charles is about to show some of the most elite Angling competitors in the entire World (and millions of fans) just what’s he is made of by becoming only the second Canadian (and first-ever Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation member) to compete in the Bassmaster Classic, taking place in March.

For the author, watching Charles’ meteoric rise to the top ranks of North American angling has been quite an experience. I joined the club-level ranks of tournament bass fishing in 2014, my first full year with the Ottawa Valley South Bassmasters (OVSB.) This club is a chapter of Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation, which falls under the US-based B.A.S.S. organization, the hosting and organizational body of the Bassmaster Classic.

At my first B.A.S.S. meeting in late 2013 Charles was already a well-established name in Ontario bass-circles and beyond. The room was abuzz as Club members shared stories of the recent deer hunt, early ice-fishing exploits and other outdoor tales. Suddenly the room hushed to whispers of “ooooh, there’s Charles”, “yup there’s Simmer” and other expressions as Charles Sim entered the room. When I introduced myself to him after the meeting, my brief hesitations of nervousness were wiped away by Charles’ welcoming nature.

Since then, Charles has been a mentor to me, and to countless others in the sport of Angling over the years. As a true Ambassador of the sport, he is always open to sharing knowledge with others, and he believes that while on the water you can actually learning something from anyone, even a co-angler who doesn’t own a boat!

The other interesting fact that stood out from OAO’s chat with Charles is that this indeed was a long road for him to travel, to reach to what is commonly known as the “Superbowl of Bass-fishing” – the Bassmaster Classic (http://www.bassmaster.com/classic.)

In fact, Charles’ official journey to the Classic began in the Qualifier portion held on Big Rideau Lake (Ontario) in 2014, and culminated with a big win on the Ouachita River in Monroe, Louisiana in late 2015. However, he traces the roots of his success all the way back to his early days of club fishing.

Now, he is preparing for the ultimate battle with the biggest names in competitive bass-fishing. Charles sat down with OAO to discuss his quest for success at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic (Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 4-6.) and we are pleased to share the transcript with our followers:

Outdoor Action Ontario (OAO): Charles, we’re sitting here in Ottawa in the middle of January and the talk of the BASS Nation is about an angler from Ottawa Valley South Bassmasters, Charles Sim, the first Canadian in over 20 years and the first ever Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation member to be heading to the 2016 Bassmaster Classic to compete. How excited are you right now?

Charles Sim (CS): Actually, I get a little pique of excitement every time I hear it described like that. I get emotional ups and downs ranging from nervousness to the fear of failure, to the thrill of representing my fellow Canadian anglers and fans.

I have received so many notes and emails from people across North America wishing me well. That really adds to the excitement, knowing that so many people are following me on this adventure.

OAO: Those feelings you mentioned are the very same that you hear professional athletes at the highest level discuss when they are going into a high level of competition, and as you know the Bassmaster Classic has been called the “Superbowl of Bass-fishing”. Do you take any comfort knowing that your fellow competitors at the Classic may be feeling some of those same feelings you are having right now?

CS: Yes, I totally do. A lot of the veterans are accustomed to those pressures, of course. I’ve been doing research and watching footage of the 2013 Classic (that was also down in Tulsa) and hearing some of those competitors talk about those types of emotions like being nervous, helps alleviate some of those feelings for me, actually.

As well, I’ve come in contact with a few of the other competitors and having seen how they are dealing with things, they are dealing with the same range of emotions as I. When it comes down to it – we’re all just Anglers, we’re all the same.

I always used to wonder, when I was in the boat going through the ups and downs and frustration and joy of just a regular day of club-level tournament fishing, and wondering if the guys who competed in the top echelons felt the way I did in those moments. And in fact, they do – as I came to find out.

OAO: You and I have actually met personally through tournament fishing and we both compete in the same club – the Ottawa Valley South Bassmasters. It’s an amazing organization, I’m a co-angler and you are a boating member. You’re at this incredibly high level in Bass angling, and I’m just starting my tournament career.

You will hear people like me say that someone like you is a big inspiration to them. I think you understand that, and I think you’ve also been there yourself before. Can you share some thoughts with us about when you started your tournament angling career?

CS: I joined my first bass-fishing club when I moved to Ottawa, Ontario in 1999. I wasn’t much of a bass fisherman. I wasn’t geared up for it, I didn’t understand it. I found out about these clubs where you can compete as a non-boater (co-angler) and have the opportunity to get on a boat with different anglers. Not having a boat at the time, I thought this was just the opportunity for me.

My first tournament I hooked up with another angler who was in his first year as a boater.

We went out the week before the Tournament to pre-fish and caught some fish –but to my surprise my partner, after un-hooking the first fish – placed it in the live-well. I asked why he did that, I was pretty sure you usually let your fish go. He said he wanted to catch some fish for his neighbour to eat! He caught and kept 5 bass that day!

Being my first experience I didn’t want to really complain but come tournament day, we didn’t catch our limit of fish throughout the entire day. I was pretty sure it was our pre-fishing strategy and I kind of threw it in my boaters face that we should have let those fish go the week before from our spots as opposed to keeping them.

OAO: So obviously we all know about pre-fishing, those of us who tournament fish, and that is a pretty outrageous story considering –

CS: Of course, obviously you don’t kill the very fish you are trying to catch – it was quite silly looking back at it now and with everything I know. Still, I spent my first two seasons as a non-boater just soaking everything up like a sponge – even the negatives were taken as learning experiences. I absorbed as much info as I could. Then I fished a big tournament in the US, a tournament down in Tennessee as a non-boater and I actually got to fish with some of the biggest names in fishing at the time.

I finally realized, these elite-level pros are the exact same as myself, as you, as the people reading this who like to fish – they just put more time money and effort into their angling. So, I came home and in May of 2001 bought my first boat and stepped up in my club as a boater, and that was the start of it all, really.

OAO: Charles, a lot of people look at fishing as a way to escape the stress of day to day life. Still, you are competing at the highest levels possible when it comes to angling. I’m curious if it is still as fun as it used to be when you were just “fun-fishing” or does the stress of it perhaps become a factor given you fish at such a high level?

CS: Well, first I try to live my life stress-free. I try not to let things that may bother another really effect me that way, so I’m fortunate in that I don’t really need fishing as that sort of “getaway” as opposed to just fun recreation.

That being said, I definitely get stressed at higher-level events – more when I’m doing poorly. Emotions can swing so much over the course of a natural day on the water. You can go from stress or anger from not doing well, to getting into a few good fish and it completely changes your outlook back to being more positive.

My stress in fishing just comes from struggling to figure the day out, or losing fish.
OAO: Along those lines, has there ever been a point in your angling career where you thought to yourself “Maybe I need to step back from tournament fishing”?

CS: Definitely. It’s an expensive, trying sport when you put your full effort into it and don’t get the results you want. There has been probably 2 or 3 years where September or October rolls around, and I’m just done – I’m emotionally drained, I’m financially drained and I started to think “Why I do this – why do I put this effort into all of this”?

Then, usually a few months of winter goes by and I get psyched and pumped for the return of open water, and then I’m all ready to roll again (laughter.)

OAO: Funny, I know that feeling (laughter.)

OAO: Looking back over your career, there have been a lot of advancements involving rods, reels, baits and electronics. What are some gear and electronics trends that have played a role in your personal angling development, and where do you see your personal experiences with equipment playing a role at the Bassmaster Classic?

CS: There have definitely been a lot of trends over bait selection over the years. When I first started I was a “Flapping Shad” guy – a paddle-tailed jerk-bait. I transitioned to a jig, and from that to the craw-styled baits I use now. As my fishing style has evolved, so has my baits of choice, along with my basic expectations of my time on the water. The Jig replaced the flapping shad because it got me bigger fish. The Craw replaced the Jig because it caught me more fish in certain situations.

hummingbird-side-image-charles-slim

Top Bass angler Charles Sim will be utilizing Humminbird’s Side Imaging and Auto Chart Live abilities to target big fish at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic (Photo credit – Charles Sim)

In terms of one of the most important factors for me, and for so many other anglers, was when Side imaging came out from Humminbird.

It really stepped up my personal fishing game, and I think everybody else’s too. It allowed you to break down a body of water so much quicker from how we used to. If I were to chart a stair-step of my success as an Angler, it would be getting a boat, to getting digital mapping for charts for my boat, but then definitely it went up another massive step when we had access to side imaging.

For Ontario smallmouth fishing, it allowed me to find the “spot on a spot” on flats and humps and find those trophy fish needed to win tournaments.

Now, with Auto Chart Live from Humminbird, I can go onto a body of water where depth charts and maps don’t exist or are unavailable, and spend some time driving around on my boat and built the digital chart I need to break down any body of water faster.

For more information on Auto Chart Live see here: http://www.humminbird.com/Category/Technology/AutoChart-Live/#id_AutoChartLive

OAO: That’s obviously going to be extremely important for you as you prepare to head down to Grand Lake in Tulsa Oklahoma for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. Of course you are already preparing but can you share some of your methods with us about how you prepare for such a big event? Have you been studying those maps?

CS: I’ve been all over the maps – there are some very good ones available. When I was down there (in Tulsa), I was using my side-imaging to find brush piles, there are a lot of brush piles placed on this waterway planted by locals.

Also just as important is to find the current breaks from channel swings and other structure factors that might come into play over the course of a few days of tournament fishing. This is important as the lake itself doesn’t really have a lot of vegetation so these other structure and cover-types become vital to identify in the pre-fish period.

OAO: It’s interesting to discuss the different types of waterways. Your so-called home waters in and around Eastern Ontario and upstate New York where you mainly fish are so different from a body of water such as Grand Lake, and the other reservoir systems we see across the US.

Still, you have your own strong points you utilize in terms of the techniques that have brought you such success here, so are you going to be “exporting” down some skills or are you looking at this from a fresh point of view and saying “I really need to change the game to meet and beat expectations here”?

CS: I’m definitely bringing the skills I have, and certain bait preferences, but I’m always learning. Even now, I’m looking at what I will do to adjust for the Classic. The adjustments will be important. I think it will be a pre-spawn situation at the Classic so I want to use a jerk-bait.

Here in the Ottawa Valley during the early part of the bass fishing season, I might be working that jerk-bait as fast as possible. It’s almost a power-jerk situation, with a spinning rod and braided line. Now, that jerk-bait may come into play down at the Classic, but the trend on those waters would be to come at it from almost a finesse-method.

It will be slower movements, a general trend to fluorocarbon vs. braided line, and also to go with a lighter line – as light as 6 pound test.

There’s also a lot of dragging football head style jigs. In my home waters we are more about flipping into weed beds and other precise structural targets. Down there because it’s a big reservoir, they just drag current break-lines. I doubt there will be anybody drop-shotting down there but I will have one rigged up.

I pride myself on being as versatile as possible and learning as much on the road as possible. It’s going to be a combination of what I know plus what I can adjust to.

OAO: Now, when you were talking about your Jerk-bait rig, it really sounds like you are going for a combination of sensitivity and power. Can you enlighten us on the combo you might employ in that circumstance, for example?

CS: I’m going from power-jerking with a spinning rod to more finesse jerking. Shimano has some amazing equipment and I’m excited to throw that jerk-bait on a Zodias rod, probably a 6’10” to a 7 foot rod. I’m going to pair it with the Shimano Aldebaran size 51, which was just introduced last year.

Charles Sim will pair the Shimano Aldebaran with Shimano’s Zodias rod line to give the strength and sensitivity to power fish from a finesse perspective at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. (Photo credit – Charles Sim)

Charles Sim will pair the Shimano Aldebaran with Shimano’s Zodias rod line to give the strength and sensitivity to power fish from a finesse perspective at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. (Photo credit – Charles Sim)

I think the rod is going to be powerful enough to handle getting the heavy fish to the boat while giving me sensitivity and the ability to handle the lighter lines I will be using.

The Aldebaran reel is so lightweight but a real winch at the same time. I think both will be important for me at the Bassmaster Classic.

Editor’s Note: You can find more information on these products here: http://fish.shimano.com/content/sac-fish/en/home/products/fishing-reels/baitcast/aldebaran.html
http://fish.shimano.com/content/sac-fish/en/home/products/fishing-rods/spinning/zodias-casting.html

OAO: Excellent. Now when I first came into tournament fishing, you were very much an important figure within the club I belong to, in terms of the way you have mentored the people just coming into the club, to help encourage their own evolution within the sport. You also have said you feel you can learn from others, and I feel any good angler would feel that same way.

Given your role as a mentor, and considering that you have went from being a tournament rookie and non-boater all the way to the highest level possible in Bass fishing; what advice can you offer to “Joe Average” who might be curious about tournament or club fishing but not sure where to start?

CS: Just regarding the role of being a Mentor to others, I really enjoy that. I have had people ask me, with as high as I compete in tournament fishing, why I still even get involved at the smaller club level?

To be honest, it’s because that is where I started, as a co-angler all those years ago. I love the club environment, I love meeting the new people and fellow competitors, and I truly embrace it as an opportunity. I feel it’s a way to give back to the club and to teach people like yourself who are “up and coming”, it’s so important that a non-boater can learn something from me or another boater. I also learn from my co-anglers.
In fact, a few years ago I was struggling through a stretch. On a particular club tournament one day, my co-angler pulled out a 7-inch worm – a presentation I hadn’t utilized in quite some time. We ended up catching our limit and cashing a cheque. The worm came back into my arsenal on one of my rods on-deck. You can learn from anyone in this sport.

If you can join a club in your area as a non-boater and embrace it as an educational experience, you can benefit hugely from it.

There are also many “Pro-Am” events. Look for those where you work with the boater to catch a 5-fish limit (as opposed to fishing for your own separate limits from the same boat.)

If you go into these events with eyes wide open, and understand you don’t need to duplicate everything but just learn something – you can find success on the water too, no matter where you are.

OAO: Charles, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts with us.

You can follow Charles and all of his angling exploits here: http://www.charlessim.com/index_2.cfm

Outdoor Action Ontario’s Ben Martin was pleased to sit down with Charles Sim in Ottawa, Ontario. OAO would like to thank Charles for taking the time to share his unique angling perspective with us.

OAO and all our followers wish Charles luck at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic.

For more information relating to some of the quality products used by Charles Sim on the water, see here:

http://www.humminbird.com/Freshwater/Lifestyle/ONIX-Series/

http://fish.shimano.com/

 

 

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