I love it when I do an interview and the angler’s passion and enthusiasm for fishing radiate through their words. My interview with Mat Stirling is a great example of this. Try reading this without feeling this guy’s love of fishing. It won’t happen. Mat is a great example of everything our sport is about. Keep reading, and I know you will agree.
How long have you been fishing? Who were your first influences in fishing and what did they teach you?
It almost feels like I’ve been fishing my whole life, but I really started fishing about twenty four years ago now at our old family cottage on the Broad River in the township of Seguin Ontario about 15 minutes south of Parry Sound. My first influences in fishing would definitely be my father, and step mother, although they were by no means hardcore anglers, they knew enough to get my passion going.
Some of my best childhood memories come from the days, and nights spent up at the cottage on the boat, or sitting on the dock with the two of them and my sister learning how to tie knots, bait hooks, handle fish, and simply just enjoy being outdoors. The biggest thing my parents have taught me about fishing is that its not always about how many fish get caught, or how big they are, its about more than that, fishing is about getting out and having fun, meeting new people, and creating memories with friends and family. To me fishing is more than just a sport or past time its a lifestyle.
What do you consider your top 3 favorite Ontario?
This one is defiantly a tough one as Ontario has so many amazing bodies of water, with great fisheries to offer anglers of all skill levels, but with that being said I can think of a few that constantly keep me coming back for more. My absolute favorite lake to fish here in Ontario though goes to Horseshoe Lake located in the township of Seguin. A group of old high school friends and myself first started going up to Horseshoe Lake in 2002 to relax, and celebrate the beginning of summer.
That first time I got out there on the lake I was hooked, a lot of the locals had told us the fishing was poor, and that the lake was empty, but we didn’t shy away from it, in fact it drove me to do some searching of my own. I can still remember pulling up to that first dock like it was yesterday, we were all still quite young at the time and were using peddle boats and canoes, armed with our rods and a few packs of worms. I remember my friends getting their lines wet before I had even set mine up and hooking into rockbass after rockbass. Finally all rigged up I tossed my line right to the edge of the dock and let it fall straight to the bottom, it wasn’t even a minute that passed when boom, hooked up, and no this was not a rockbass, my first fish to come out of Horseshoe Lake was a good old five pound largemouth.
I think Horseshoe Lake has become so special to me and kept me coming back for more year after year isn’t just because the amazing fishery, but because I hold a strong physical, and emotional connection to the area as this lake is located just five minutes away from our old family cottage where I grew up fishing, its hard to explain but when I’m up there it just feels like home.
My next favorite body of water to fish here in Ontario would have to be Lake Simcoe. Lake Simcoe is located about an hour and a half away from my home town making it easy to drive out, fish, then drive back all in a day, which I tend to do quite often over the course of the year.
Simcoe has a variety of species to offer anglers of all skill sets, and in my opinion has one of the best Smallmouth Bass and Perch fisheries in Ontario. Lake Simcoe is a special place for me not only because it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I live, but because it’s has so many different species to offer and always presents a challenge. The lake is a big lake, it turns into more of a hunt than a lot of the smaller lakes I have fished, keeping me on my toes, and thinking on my feet every time I’m out there.
Now lets go up north east to Perth Ontario. This season I fished competitively in the SFL Live Release Bass Tournament Series, in doing this series my partner Trevor Matfin and I got to experience fishing five lakes neither of us have ever been on, or even heard of until this year. During this series we fished a few we liked but the one that popped out to me was Mississippi Lake. The first day my partner and I were out there it was like magic, every spot we hit we would land a bass in the three pound range, then follow it up with a northern pike pressing ten it was like a fishery I had never seen before.
Now like I was saying a lot of the lakes we fished near Ottawa this season were amazing, great fisheries, beautiful landscape, and welcoming anglers and locals, but what makes Mississippi Lake so special not only to me, but my partner as well would definitely be that this lake was so full of many tournament highs and lows, it was the tournament we finally got dialed in on. We both grew up fishing lakes in Southern Ontario so to fish Mississippi Lake we both had to make several adjustments to our styles and techniques. I remember the morning of the tournament like it was a bad nightmare, we pulled up on a spot we located during prefish that was loaded with Smallmouth and within the first 30 mins managed to lose an easy twenty pound bag. We pulled off the spot to give it a break and re adjust our game plan and downsize our baits figuring the fish were just missing the hook. When we returned to that spot I hooked into a 4.31 lb Smallie and a 3.5 pound smallie on the next cast, when that four pounder was landed I was full of adrenaline and excitement I actually tackled my partner in the boat and got a little over excited as we finally broke through our Ottawa region big fish curse. The 4.31 pound smallie didn’t win big fish for the day, but for us it was a moral victory and we cant wait to go back for more.
Smallmouth or largemouth, which is your favorite to catch and why?
Pound for pound smallmouth are hands down my favorite bass to catch. The reason I like to catch smallmouth over largemouth is, smallmouth to me are a little harder to locate and stay on, putting my knowledge and skills to the test a little more frequently.
Favorite lure to catch smallmouth and what are the techniques you use to fish that lure?
Haha, this is a good question Chris, everyone who really knows me, knows I used to live and die by the Coffee Scented Strike King Rage Craw, on a quarter ounce, or half ounce, weedless swim jig. Now I say used to because, even though the Rage Craws have caught some big fish for me from time to time, and still do, I was finding my number of hook ups to be down a little lower than I’d like them to be.
Fishing competitively on lakes my partner and I had never been on, let alone even heard of this season, left the two of us searching for different baits, and techniques that would work for us up there. After trying a lot of different lures and fishing techniques, I think its safe to say that my new go to is a simple quarter ounce, or half ounce shaky head jig, rigged up with either a Strike King KVD Dream Shot, or a three inch Berkley Twitchtail Minnow.
This combination we found to be one of the most successful methods for catching size and numbers of smallmouth bass not only up in the Ottawa area, but it has been working everywhere for us lately. The best part is its so simple to hook up and use. I tie mine directly on to my main line, now you can also use it with braid and run a fluorocarbon leader, or you can be a little different like me, I will tie it directly onto my main line,the reason being is because with this technique I like to use a medium action rod with believe it or not eight pound mono as a main line. Running mono can be risky as it stretches easy causing soft hooksets, or a fishermans worst nightmare the breakoff, but with that being said when it comes down to what type of line you decide to run its all really about personal preference and what you feel comfortable with.
Using the electronics on the boat I usually look for the transition points and contour lines in the lake. When I find one that looks good to fish I will locate the deeper side of the transition, contour, or structure and throw the shaky head a little ahead of the boat, I’d say about twenty five feet or so towards the shallow portion of the area I’m fishing and work it back slowly adding a double twitch of the wrist and letting it sit every few seconds but you can’t forget to have the double twitch…lol…its the key to making more fish strike I swear by it. This technique has definitely been the most reliable, and successful, for me so far this season.
How do you define a great day on the water?
A great day on the water is defined by a twenty five pound bag of bass during a tournament of course Chris haha…but no on a much more serious note, a great day on the water is any day on the water. In my opinion, you shouldn’t have to rely on catching the fish for it to be considered a great day, you should be happy just being out on the water. If you don’t feel this way whether your competing, or not, your doing it all wrong. Just remember the number one rule in fishing is have fun.
You can spend a day fishing with any one person in the world. Who would it be?
If I could pick any one person to fish with in the world whose alive right now, I’d definitely pick the guy who really fueled my passion for catching giant Northern Ontario bass, Karl Kalonka. Its funny how I started following Karl, I was tagged in a post on his Facebook page by one of my friends for a contest he was having at the time for some free rage craws and a shirt, so I entered and actually ended up winning. I checked out his TV show Extreme angler TV on YouTube and immediately got hooked, I have been following him and watching his videos ever since. The reason I’d choose to get out there with Karl is because one thing I like to do is learn, and if anyone knows a few tricks about catching these giants here in Ontario its defiantly him.
What is Loon Crew Angling?
Loon Crew Angling has become a pretty big group of talented, multi-species anglers from across Ontario who like to just fish and have fun with it. All the anglers involved and associated with Loon Crew have a pretty extreme passion for the sport of fishing. Loon Crew is not a company, or a brand, its what we all call a fishing family consisting of around 8 of us I believe now, Trevor Matfin, Jordan Matfin, Derek Matfin, Devon Pastoric, Keith Duster, Jordyn Rochon, John Shepard, and myself, were a bunch of anglers who are all really dedicated to promoting fishing and representing the sport in a positive way. We like to be able to share the things we know and have learned about the sport over the years with other anglers, and people just getting started out, so we put together a great group of guys, and started a Facebook group up where other anglers can see, and follow what were all doing and share with us what they have been up to, its a cool page where we all get interactive with our followers trading tips,
There are more and more apps out on the market for fishing. What do you like about Drophook fishing App and how are you using it?
There sure are a lot of fishing apps available on the market now, it really is crazy how much technology has advanced over the last few years. To be honest Chris I was never really into doing the whole fishing app thing online, and never really thought about using one until this year, I would always post all my catches on Facebook, its so out of control I just call it my Fishbook account now haha. I was introduced to the Drophook Fishing App by a few good friends of mine who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year on Twitter Jason and Kelly. Kell and Jay are a few of Loon Crews biggest fans and thought that I would enjoy using it seeing as I fish a ton. They talked a lot of good things not only about the app but the people behind it Darryn Dalton and Randi Berry who by the way are two of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of talking to, and working with, you guys rock.
So I downloaded it to my phone and have been using it ever since. The Drophook team did a fantastic job setting up a very fun, user friendly app where anglers can share their fishing pictures and stories with other anglers, it’s a ton of fun, you can log your catches, compete in online fishing tournaments, share your pictures with the other users, and a ton more. The thing I like the most about the Drophook Fishing App though definitely has to be the fact that its so simple to use. I use Drophook to stay connected with other anglers and friends, log my catches and keep track of species and sizes, and to just mess around and have some fun after all thats what fishing is about having fun right.
How about Fear Fishing? You rep their very cool fishing gear. What do you like about this company?
Ahhh yes, FearFishing Apparel very seldom do I ever leave the house without it anymore, wait who am I kidding I never leave the house without a hat, hoodie, or t-shirt of theirs on me anymore. They just make some really comfortable and simple but stylish clothing they do a great job at making clothing not only designed for the anglers but the everyday person.
FearFishing is run by Ian West a Bass Tournament Angler and WebCast host who has a passion for fishing in Ontario like none other. This guy is dedicated and works hard with his team; to list a few, Marley Hornyak, Rich Faragher, Amber Philip, and Mark Hunter to bring both educational and entertaining fishing videos, YouTube webcasts and a ton of other stuff to their fans and followers, these guys do nothing but promote fishing in a positive way and make it fun for everyone. That’s what I like about these guys. I think that’s what really drew me into them and made me want to be a Pro Staff Member for such a great upcoming Canadian fishing company.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to almost everyone behind the scenes at FearFishing. The best part about this great group of guys is that there super friendly, open to sharing information, and help other anglers and new comers learn the ins and outs, you can literally talk to them all as if you have been friends for years, if you have questions these guys are quick to answer and don’t hold back. There were a bunch of times over the summer when we were heading into a tournament and I had personal conversations with Ian West, and Rich Faragher about how I should approach the tournament, what baits work best, and places I should focus my attention. Chris this is what fishing is about to me anglers, helping other anglers, to become better anglers. The bottom line here is what’s not to like about FearFishing, the people are all amazing, the clothing is just awesome, and the idea behind the brand is what I live for. I’m glad I can say that I’m part of such a stand up Canadian Apparel company, I think a huge thank you is in order to Ian and the team for all their support they have given to Loon Crew and myself throughout the 2016 season. I cant thank them enough!
I told you…didn’t I? Mat is not only an accomplished fisherman but clearly an evangelist for fishing. We need fisherman just like Mat to assure the future of our sport. Thank you Mat for doing what you do as well as taking the time to share with us. We will be following you and wish you all the best in your fishing!
Check out Mat for yourself by visiting his Instagram.