THE ORIGINAL IZUMI
Before TV star Bob Izumi burst onto the fishing scene, there was his father, Joe, founder of Canada’s first-ever organized bass tournament
Standing that day on the shores of Rondeau Bay, Joe promised himself if he ever had children, he would bring them to a place like this to give them a life in the outdoors like he’d known on Vancouver Island. He could see himself standing not with a shovel or axe, but with a fishing rod. And in the fields across the bay, the same fields where he blocked beets and harvested tobacco and tomatoes for local farmers, Joe could see his future children playing in the open spaces.
After his release in 1947, Joe headed to Toronto, where he met and married Margaret Edith Oliver. They soon had two children, Wayne and Lynn, then moved to Blenheim, only a few kilometres from where Joe was interned at Eatonville. “It was a quest to give us a childhood of country living and fishing,” Lynn says of the move to Blenheim. “He’d pile us all in the car and we’d go down to Rondeau Bay and fish, or Erieau. We didn’t have a boat or anything like that. We’d catch perch or sunfish. After fishing all day, we’d go swimming. They were just very happy times.”
Soon, Joe and Margaret welcomed Georgi to the family, and finally, in 1958, Bob. A year and a half after Bob entered the world, however, Margaret, who’d been unhappy since arriving in the small town, decided she was returning to Toronto. Joe didn’t argue, but he told her he’d be keeping the children with him. She left and never returned.
Joe picked up extra jobs to pay the bills, and when the weekends came, he took his family to fish on Rondeau Bay. Each year as the children got older, he would enter them in the Rondeau Rod and Gun Club Derby, which they’d almost always win. Wayne, Lynn and Bob took turns taking home the top prize in their divisions, while Georgi also caught her share.
“We’d all come back with prizes,” says Bob. “One of the girls would always win the top female angler, my brother would win the top male angler, then I’d win it once he was too old. It was an amazing upbringing.”