Before TV star Bob Izumi burst onto the fishing scene, there was his father, Joe, founder of Canada’s first-ever organized bass tournament
Eventually, Joe’s love for Rondeau and fishing grew to the point that he decided to start his own fishing tournament, founding the Rondeau Bay Bass Tournament in 1975, the first organized bass-fishing competition in Canadian history. Lynn recalls how she would help her father set the anglers off in the morning, then the two of them would eat breakfast at a nearby diner before returning for the weigh in.
Bob remembers the first year of his father’s tournament well. He was 17, and it was the event that lured him into a lifetime of competitive fishing. “What happened was, Dad made it a draw for partners, which was unheard of,” he says. “I drew a guy from Windsor the first year. We went over into the canals in Rondeau Park. I think I only caught one fish that day. At one point, it hailed, so we got out of the boat and hid under a picnic table. The adrenaline is going, you’re trying to catch fish—from that day on, I was hooked on tournaments.”
In 1977, two years after Joe’s first tournament, Bob and his childhood friend, George McTavish, bought their first bass boat together. That year, they won the tournament. Bob would go on to win more than 70 professional bass fishing competitions (and counting), including three consecutive Canadian Opens and his 1995 trifecta of the Canadian Open, the Classic Championship and the Angler of the Year title. But it was those modest beginnings, fishing for fun with his family, that planted the seeds of success.
Today, Bob and Wayne Izumi are professional anglers, while Lynn is a retired doctor in Ancaster and Georgi works as a library assistant in Hamilton. For them, Rondeau Bay still holds a special place in their hearts. When Joe first saw the bay, it held hope. It was a reason to persevere. He had dreamed of a life on the water, and in the open spaces of southwestern Ontario, and his children had that. These days, the bay remains a fishing sanctuary for families such as the Izumis.
Joe’s Rondeau Bay Bass Tournament would run for six years, only to die with him when he passed away from a heart attack on March 26, 1981. He was only 63. It’s sadly ironic that a man who gave his entire heart to his family would die in that way. He’d lived through the forced labour and hardships of internment. He’d lived through racism. He’d lived through seeing his sisters and parents ripped away, and he’d lived through his wife leaving him alone with four young children. He was no ordinary Joe.
“He was our father, our mother, our friend,” says Bob. “He did everything for us. He worked around the clock, yet he still raised us.” And to the sport of bass fishing in Canada, Joe Izumi was a true pioneer.