Rapidly expanding Denis Bester Memorial Shootout will support two charities in 2020

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The Denis Bester Memorial Shootout exceeded expectations before the first lure hit the water this year.

Ryan Amyot, who is part of the Shootout’s organizing crew, said the event is about 10 times bigger this year than it has been in the past.

Part of that is because the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular was cancelled. For years, the Bester Memorial Shootout has served as a fishing derby within a fishing derby at that event.

“It was just a group of friends who threw a derby in his honour and it has just grown this year into filling a big void, and turning into a home-run for two local charities,” said Drew Watson. Watson’s Tackle House is one of the event’s main sponsors along with AM Group of Companies and Grey Bruce Builders.

This year, The Denis Bester Memorial Shootout is the big tent in town.

A total of 750 tickets were sold for the derby — a sold-out affair. Amyot estimated over 900 anglers are out on the waters of Georgian Bay trying to land three fish that will tip the scales good enough for the Shootout’s top prize — $1,500 cash and a Traeger Pro Series 575 Pellet Grill.


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“It’s bigger than we expected it to be, but we’re not surprised,” Amyot said.

The Shootout started Aug. 29 and will run until Sept. 5. Anglers will submit their top three fish to be weighed for prizes, but it’s a blind weigh-in so there is some strategy involved. Two of the fish have to be salmon and one can be a trout (lake, rainbow or brown trout).

There is a 10-pound minimum.

Amyot said the three-fish limit was to protect the salmon population and limit traffic at the weigh scales, and the blind weigh-in helps build-in an extra element of competition.

“We were trying to think of an idea where we would keep it competitive, but also award the good fishermen,” Amyot said. “People do not know what the next person has, and that’s where the strategy comes into play. If you’re looking at a 15 or 16-pound fish and you’re thinking I’m hearing about this size fish being caught, the weather is going to be like this the next day . . . there is just a bit of a strategy that goes into what fish you bring into weigh.”

All of the proceeds from the Denis Bester Memorial Tournament will go to support the Salvation Army Food Bank and Big Brothers Big Sisters in Owen Sound.

The fishing grounds are similar to those of the Salmon Spectacular. They stretch from the downstream side of the 10th Street Bridge on the Sydenham River and the walking bridge on the Pottawatomi River at Kelso Beach, the Sykes Street Bridge on the Big Head River in Meaford, the mouths of the rivers Beaver and Indian Brook, and inside a point 16-kilometres north of Delphi Point and then to the Cape Croker Lighthouse. Anglers fishing in a watercraft are not allowed to fish from the upstream side of the Owen Sound Harbour pier to the 10th Street Bridge on the Sydenham River.


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Bester, the Shootout’s namesake, passed away suddenly in 2018. A group of friends renamed their annual derby after him to honour his place in the local fishing scene.

“He loved fishing. If you talk to a lot of guys around town, everyone knows Denis or knows of Denis,” Amyot said. “On behalf of the Bester family, Kathy, Cate and Luke, they would like to thank everyone for participating and supporting and keeping Denis’ name alive. The reception that we have, and the amazing feedback, and to know it’s all going to a good cause.”

“I remember him as one of the initial pioneers of the salmon stocking with the Sydenham Sportsmen Association, he just was an all-around good guy,” Watson said.