You definitely can say they saved the best for last.
Needing a haul of 11.56 pounds on the final day in order to overtake Zack McBride and Mike Wilson, the duo of Don Copenace and Greg Swire did just that—tipping the scales with 12.45 pounds to claim the 18th-annual “Castin For Cash” tournament hosted by Lake Despair Lodge on Friday and Saturday.
It was the first title for the pair at the tourney since 2004 and they were elated after their two-day haul of 29.19 pounds was enough to top the 60-team field and take home $5,000 in earnings.
“I got a hell of a partner," Swire enthused about Copenace. ”It was just a great weekend and we hope to do it again, and we will be back.
“It's been since 2004 since we've won this deal,” Swire added.
“We look at that trophy on a daily basis but, yeah, we took some time off.”
Copenace and Swire had the biggest bag of Day 1 (16.74 pounds) to hold a narrow lead over McBride and Wilson (16.22) who finished in second place with a total of 28.29 pounds.
The father-son duo of Darrin and Kobi Ward snagged the biggest fish on Friday with a four-pound lunker en route to placing 32nd overall.
Brian Gustafson and Brian White wowed the crowd with the biggest bag on Saturday, with their haul of 14.64 pounds landing them in the “hot seat” before the top-five boat parade began.
The duo, who were back-to-back champs in 2015 and '16, ended up settling for third place with a two-day total of 26.53 pounds.
Cory Curtis and Chase Curtis were in third after Day 1 but slipped to fourth place after a haul of 10.11 on Saturday to finish with a total of 25.83 pounds.
The Emo team of Dallas Mosbeck and his nephew, Cam, rounded out the top five (25.60).
Grant Swire and Jay Kelly were sixth (24.10), followed by Norman Wood and Robert Chabot (23.78) in seventh and Ryan McDowall and Mike Badiuk of Devlin in eighth (22.24).
The father-son duo of John and Emerson Evans placed ninth (20.63), with Nick Kaun and Cole Godbout rounding out the top 10 (19.05).
After claiming the title last year, the Fort Frances duo of Donovan Cousineau and Dave Chambers had a much tougher outing this time around.
The pair were unable to crack the top 10 as their two-day total of 17.77 pounds had them finish 15th.
“We lost two fish on the first day that would have helped us quite a bit,” Chambers said.
“Today [Saturday] was a grind,” he added.
"I don't know if we would have pulled it out but we tried our best and it is what it is.
“I want to give a big thanks to the Manns for having us again, they're always awesome,” Chambers noted.
“[I also] want to thank my girlfriend for helping out all week because we've been crazy busy.”
This year's field was up from the 52 teams that participated last year, which pleased lodge owner and tournament co-organizer Nell Godin.
She also noted the tournament has become sort of a family affair over the years.
“It's so nice to see all the youth come out and all the women that are coming out fishing,” Godin enthused.
"That's really great to see.
“And now, this was our 18th-annual tournament and a lot of the youth that were fishing with their grandfathers or their dads now have their own teams,” she added.
“Like, Ray Watson, I think, is on his fourth grandchild and his other ones all have their own team,” Godin noted.
“It's a good family fun thing and it's a good tournament for the youth to get started,” she reasoned.
Godin also was pleased with how Mother Nature co-operated over the two days.
“Fishing was a little tough but there was no issues whatsoever at the tournament,” she remarked.
"It was really good. We didn't have to worry about thunder, lightning, rain, nothing like that.
“It was good,” Godin reiterated.