Wild Northerner Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 60

Humble beginnings to fierce fishing passion

STORY NAME: Heart and soul of the Northern angler

HEADLINE: Humble beginnings to fierce fishing passion

BY SCOTT HADDOW

Wild Northerner staff

From his grandfather’s dock at camp as a kid to tournaments across the province of Ontario as an adult, angler Mat Koprash is enjoying his journey in life with a passion for fishing.

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Koprash spent time as a kid fishing from the shoes of the Goulais River at the family camp. Every chance he got, Koprash would ride his bike up and down the road the camp was on and knock on the doors of other camps and ask neighbours if he could fish from their property.

Koprash would chase northern pike in the river’s waters and jig for walleye at the mouth of it.

It was pure fun for Koprash and set him on a path with a love for fishing.

“It all started for me on that dock,” Koprash said. “It became a passion for me. It’s where I feel at home with myself. Any time I am on the water, everything relaxes for me. In that moment, it all feels good and right.”

Through his teenage years, Koprash fished regularly, but was also heavily involved in competitive baseball. At 17, his good friend, Chris Graham, got Koprash looking at fishing differently. Graham, an avid angler himself, introduced Koprash to more techniques to dial in different species. It changed a lot for Koprash and would eventually lead him towards competitive angling.

“Chris showed me what fishing could be,” the 30-year-old said. “We met while playing baseball. Chris eats, breathes and lives fishing. We did all kinds of fishing … every river between the Soo and Wawa for trout and steelhead to big water going for bass, pike and walleye. He got me thinking differently about fishing overall.”

Koprash went to post secondary institutions in Sudbury and Thunder Bay for engineering. He is now a project manager for the engineering firm McIntosh and Perry in North Bay.

Koprash always made time for fishing even though his school was at the top of his priority list. When you love fishing as much as Koprash does, you make time for it no matter what.

“In Thunder Bay, I lived on the ice. I did homework while sitting in an ice shack on the lake,” he said. “It was a blast.”

Koprash remained a hardcore recreational angler through his early 20s. At 25, Koprash was ready to ramp up his angling game. He attended a Nickel City Bassmasters Club meeting and it spiked his interest. Koprash has a competitive side in him from baseball needing to be challenged. Koprash fished his first event, on Ramsey Lake in 2012 as part of the Nickel City Bass tour. He and his partner won the event. Koprash then entered the Onaping Lake event and won it as well. He has been in tournament angling ever since. Koprash used to fish 12 to 15 tournaments a season. Now, he sticks to big pay days in southern Ontario and fishes between six and eight events each year.

“When we won that Ramsey event, I proved to myself I could be as good as other tournament fishermen,” Koprash said. “It created confidence that has carried all the way through for me. I like tournaments. It doesn’t hurt to go fishing and put a cheque in your pocket for it.”

Koprash has his sights set on the annual Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation event. The last two years he has been in contention for making Team Ontario in the qualifier event. In 2015, a dead fish cost him a spot. Last year, Koprash missed the grade by one spot, finishing 12th out of more than 200 anglers.

“I’m doing it again,” he said. “I love it.”

Koprash loves fishing bass. It is the clear winner on his list of top species to fish for by a long shot.

“There are so many different ways to catch them,” he said. “You have to find them and they force you to think and adapt. It’s a good challenge, good fight and good reward all the time.”

Koprash’s passion for fishing knows few bounds, if any. He has done fly-in trips, remote destinations by hiking and portaging or ATV, driven all through the night and slept in his truck to fish.

“I’ll sit in freezing temperatures to fish,” Koprash said. “The last week of November 2016, two friends and I drove all night from North Bay to Picton through a whiteout snowstorm to fish walleye in the Bay of Quinte. We hit the water at 7:30 a.m. and fished until 5:30 p.m. in horrible weather. We froze our asses off. We got blanked. The next day, we got up and got fish, including 28.5-inch and 29-inch walleyes. It was awesome.”

Koprash likes to brush up against his limits to get out and catch fish. Weather conditions or exhausting drives and hikes mean little to him. Koprash always has his focus on the real rewards of fishing.

“It’s worth going fishing every time and every second of it when you get that fight on the end of the rod,” he said. “If I haven’t done it yet in fishing, I’m sure I will do it.”

Humble beginnings to fierce fishing passion