The big tent with its yellow and white stripes once again will host the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship down at the Sorting Gap Marina.
Now in its 19th year, the tournament had spent the past three years at the Memorial Sports Centre. But it’s now returning to its original location.
“We’re going back to the original roots of the tournament with a smaller venue at the waterfront,” FFCBC chairman Gord Watson had noted back in January.
“It won’t be like what it was the last time that tent was up [in 2009], where there were two or three tents that separated the stage and the bar,” he explained.
“Instead, it will be under one tent, where it’ll be a little smaller but in a cozy and confined area.
“And it’ll be similar to what the layout was like at the Ice For Kids Arena,” Watson added.
“For those who have never been there, the feeling [under] the tent is one of an outside summer get-together,” he remarked.
“And that is something that you didn’t get the same atmosphere with at the arena.”
Watson said there are two main reasons why the tournament once again will be staged on the riverfront—the first being that the general consensus from the public was they wanted it back under the tent.
“[Secondly], the reason we’re going back to the waterfront is because Sunset Country Ford and Nick Beyak are supporting the community event in that way,” he noted.
“He’s the driving force to go back to the waterfront.”
The bass committee believes the move will help revitalize the tournament.
“We’re pretty excited because I think it’s going to be more contained, I think it’s going to be easier to run, and I think it’s going to be a better atmosphere,” Watson enthused.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken it back to the waterfront to make it a fun event, but it’s also a good community event,” he stressed.
The committee also is hoping those who quit attending the FFCBC when it changed locations to the arena will return this year.
“We’ve got a lot of community organizations involved, the curling club, the Chamber, the Kiwanis Club, the ‘Community Chest,” Watson noted.
“We’re allowing them the opportunity to become involved.”
Watson admitted if he had known how beneficial having other organizations involved was when he took over as FFCBC chair in the fall of 2010, he would have gotten them on board long ago.
“We’re hoping it will be more convenient because everything will be in one spot,” he continued.
“We do have a smaller venue this year,” Watson conceded. “We do have a limited number of people that we can put underneath the tent, and it is 1,250.
“So some of our events will put the maximum amount of people under the tent.”
But the change of venue also means the need for more helping hands.
“We do look for volunteers to help set up the Saturday before [the tournament] at noon,” said Watson.
“We always need volunteers,” he stressed. “We would not say no to any volunteers.”
Meanwhile, the anglers also are looking forward to the move back to the Sorting Gap.
“It has always been one of the highlights of the entire year for me,” said Jeff Gustafson of Kenora, who has fished in the FFCBC since 2000.
“It really is one the weeks of the year that I look forward to.
“Because of the tournament, I have made a lot of friends in the Fort Frances area over the years and I love Rainy Lake!” he enthused.
“In the early years that I fished the event, the party that went on down at that tent every year was the best party in Northwestern Ontario all year long,” Gustafson recalled.
“It was an awesome atmosphere and a lot of people have had a lot of good times there over the years.”
Gustafson said the arena had been an okay venue for the tournament, but the atmosphere did not compare to the tent on the river.
“I think moving back to the river will hopefully breathe some new life into the tournament,” he remarked.
“There is nothing like making that top 10 boat parade on [the] Saturday and getting your boat pulled through that tent,” Gustafson added.
“That is a big highlight for the anglers.
“I can’t wait to get down to Fort [later this week] and get the tournament going!”