Known amongst friends as the fish whisperer, Jesse Whalen (also known as Fishin' with Ginger) has had a passion for fishing for as long as he can remember.
Now the Cambridge fisherman has made it to the final round of the CFN Fish Off tournament, after coming in second place in the semifinals with his partner Ben Pugh.
Whalen and Pugh scored 68 points in the semifinals, catching 30 different species of fish before beating out 260 teams for second place.
Now Whalen is one week into the final round of the two-week competition, which ends on Aug. 8 and will air on the Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network.
The Cambridge Times spoke with the fisherman about the key to his competitive edge, and the community he's built in the fishing world.
Q: Tell me about your experience with the first round of the CFN Fish Off and placing second in the competition?
Jesse: Myself and my partner Ben, we participated in the CFN tournament, which is a four-week long, multi-species Canada-wide fishing tournament. It's a four-point system tournament, so the biggest fish get four points. So every species you catch is game within the water. Ben had some issues with his dog passing away, so I did a vast majority of the tournament solo on my own. There are 260-plus participant teams in the tournament, and we placed second with 68 points and 30 species.
We were the (outsiders) because this was our first time participating in this tournament, and there were frequent flyers who have won the tournament before or come very high up and we knocked them right out of the ballpark with how well we did.
Q: What's the key to catching big fish?
Jesse: Confidence, research and time. I read a lot of ecological reports in the area. I read a lot of info about individual species, their habitats, behaviors and diet to pinpoint what the fish are eating, where they are living and how they are moving. It helps me when I'm on the water to be able to figure out where to look and what tools to use.
Q: What's your favourite place to fish?
Jesse: I'm very much a creek and river person, and I like the tranquility of not running into too many people. I like Grand River.
Q: What's the hardest species to catch?
Jesse: Muskie and steelheads, those are two fun fish
Q: How did you get into fishing?
Jesse: I've been fishing since I was two or three years old. My family is from Newfoundland, so they've been fishing in Newfoundland for a long time. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are going fishing. It's something I feel like I was born with. Sometimes you can do the research, but it also comes down to being born with it.
People call me the fish whisperer a lot. I used to just sit in my bedroom and practise different fishing knots. So even if I wasn't fishing, I was always trying to look into fishing and learn more things.
Q: What's on your mind going into the final round of this fishing tournament?
Jesse: It's a dream come true. I really want to make a name for myself, and let people know the skills and let people know who I am. It's nerve-racking, there's a lot of anxiety behind it. It's really awesome to see a lot of people behind me cheering me on.
Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times