What a difference a year can make when it comes to bass fishing.
After finishing in 25th spot last year, the International Falls duo of Larry Foss and Joel Pagnac rebounded in a big way as they claimed the title at the 19th-annual “Castin' For Cash” tournament hosted by Lake Despair Lodge on Friday and Saturday.
Foss and Pagnac took home the trophy and the $5,000 winners' cheque after reeling in a two-day total of 30.32 pounds.
“It was a good day, couldn't ask for a better weekend of bass fishing,” Foss enthused after they had weighed in on Saturday afternoon.
“The weather was perfect, everything went really good.”
Foss and Pagnac left the docks on Saturday morning sitting in second place after reeling in 16.73 pounds on Day 1, which included the second-biggest fish of the day—a 4.43-pound lunker.
Although they brought in less on Day 2—hauling in 13.59 pounds—it still was enough for them to knock Gord Watson and Klyde Laplante (both of the Fort) out of the hot seats.
“We came a little short from what we had yesterday, but [it's] hard to get that second day,” Foss conceded.
That set the stage for the Day 1 leaders, Mike Badiuk and Ryan McDowall of Devlin, to weigh in who left the docks on Saturday morning sitting atop the 47-team field after reeling in 16.75 pounds of bass on Friday.
That haul also included the biggest fish of the day, and the tournament, with a 4.73-pounder.
But despite that great start, the duo just didn't have enough as their Day 2 haul of 12.79 pounds left them just behind Foss and Pagnac as they settled for second place with a two-day total of 29.54 pounds.
“We had a lot of fun today, as always,” Badiuk said after he and McDowall had weighed in and just fell short on Saturday.
“Every day up here is a blast, so we're happy,” he enthused.
“I just wanna thank everybody for coming out, thanks to the volunteers, and you Bill and Nell [Godin],” McDowall added.
“You do a good job every year.”
Foss and Pagnac were elated after claiming the title, which felt even sweeter after coming so close to winning in past years but ultimately falling short.
“We've been close [to winning] a few times and we've been looking forward to this day,” Foss beamed, who finished second alongside Pagnac back in 2017.
"I had a blast. Like I said, the weather was perfect, everything went the way we hoped it would.
“Thank Bill and Nell and all the volunteers and everybody for coming,” he added.
“I just wanna say thank you all, it was a great time,” Pagnac enthused.
Watson and Laplante wound up in third place after their Day 2 haul of 13.47 pounds had temporarily vaulted them into the lead with a total of 28.55.
Chase and Cory Curtis of the Fort started in the hot seat before the top-five boat parade began on Saturday afternoon and wound up in fourth place with 27.86 pounds.
After sitting in 10th after Day 1, Doug McBride and his wife, Solly Santiago, (both of the Fort) jumped up five spots to round out the top five (25.89).
Grant Swire of Burriss and Dylan Swire of the Fort nabbed sixth (25.43), Wayne Howard of the Fort and Vern Thompson were seventh (24.61), and Jason Cain and Dan Tucker of the Fort placed eighth (24.35).
After finishing as the runners-up last year, Zack McBride and Mike Wilson of the Fort wound up ninth this time around with a two-day total of 24.21 pounds.
They also had the biggest fish on Day 2—a 3.96-pound monster.
2017 champ Donovan Cousineau of the Fort teamed up with Jackson Coran (also of the Fort) to round out the top 10 (23.38).
Last year's champs, Greg Swire of Burriss and Don “Kimbi” Copenace of Kenora placed 25th this time around with a two-day total of 17.70 pounds.
“Yeah, it was a really good day. We actually dropped our biggest fish at the dock,” Copenace revealed on Saturday.
"It was about a seven-pounder. It fell out [of the boat] and it probably would have given us about 19 pounds today.
“It was a good weekend, it wasn't the fishes' fault—they were cooperating today,” he stressed.
“We just didn't hold up our end of the bargain.”
The team of Callum and Socorro Galusha were the lone duo to get skunked on both days at this year's tourney.
Five teams also weren't able to weigh in any bass on the first day.