The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is definitely making a name for itself in the fishing world. And in the eyes of the anglers, it’s one of the best bass tournaments around.
But what is it that sets this derby apart from the others? According to Phil Killeen of Winnipeg, it’s not just the quest for prize money that lures anglers here.
“The money is secondary to the prestige of winning something like this,” he said Saturday afternoon.
His partner, Alex Keszler, said the promise of big bass heightened the allure, noting most tournaments considered a stringer of five weighing 18 pounds to be a big catch.
“Here, you could probably get 20,” he enthused.
And those words rang true later Saturday, and again Sunday, when anglers brought in record stringers tipping the scales at more than 20 pounds.
“It’s one of the best bass fisheries we get to go to," noted Rob Ferens of Winnipeg, who fished here with Rod Kichingman. ”I’ve caught numerous fish over four pounds here.
“To do that anywhere else is just unheard of.”
John Guzji, another Winnipeg angler who teamed up with Joe Freedy, said a three-pound average at most will win elsewhere.
“It’s always more than that here,” added Freedy.
In fact, Kichingman figured they’d have to average 15 pounds of bass each day just to stay in the prize running.
Dennis Felix of Minneapolis, partnered with Mike Mitchener, who fished the regular pro tour for some five years, stressed the beauty and uniqueness of Rainy Lake brought them back.
“The lake, of course, is really phenomenal," he said, adding there were a large number of really big fish. "Unfortunately, you’ve got to catch ’em.”
Ferens also noted the organization behind the scenes made the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship a first-class tournament.
“It’s a premiere event. The classiest one around,” agreed Kichingman.
“I think they’re doing about as well as you could do on a tournament,” added Felix.
But the highlight, according to both Guzji and Freedy, was the parade of boats held the Wednesday evening before the derby. Guzji said they like to drive through town and throw candy to the kids standing along the road to catch a glimpse of the boats.
“They’re just like bass. They jump all over them things,” he laughed, with both adding they also liked the way the town rallied around the tournament.
“What I’ve found over the past three years is that this town is, without a doubt, the friendliest, most hospitable place I’ve ever fished a tournament,” echoed Ferens.
Keszler felt it was that spirit effervescing through the community that pulled anglers back year after year.
“The town is so behind it," he said. "When you come here, you want to come back.”