With most anglers grumbling under the tent the night before the derby began about the trouble they were having catching smallmouth bass while pre-fishing, Joe Thrun said he couldn’t believe they weren’t catching fish.
Thrun and his partner, Jim Moynagh, both from the Minneapolis area, enjoyed an impressive pre-fish on Rainy Lake—and continued that success right through Sunday en route to their first Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship crown and the $25,000 first prize.
Runners-up a year ago in their inaugural trip to the FFCBC, Moynagh and Thrun took the 1998 title in record-breaking fashion—weighing in a whopping 58.63 pounds over the three days to shatter last year’s mark of 51.32 pounds set by Dave and Norm Lindsay of Sioux Narrows.
The pair opened the tournament Friday by hauling in a new one-day record catch of 20.78 pounds (that was broken the next day by Joe Freedy and Wayne Wagner with a 20.88-pound total), then reeled in 17.94 pounds Saturday to sit in third place heading into the final day.
But they vaulted back into top spot with an impressive 19.90-pound stringer Sunday to nip the team of Mark Raveling-Mike Luhman, also from the States, by just .65 pounds.
Their 57.98 total earned them a $15,000 payday.
The Winnipeg duo of John Gujez and Ted Stewner, who led the field of 130 teams after two days of action, wound up in third place with a 57.42-pound total to win $10,000.
Al and James Lindner took fourth place with 55.78 pounds while Ron and Bill Lindner rounded out the top five with 55.28 pounds.
The top team from the Rendezvous Trail area (which extends from Quetico to Rainy River and north to Nestor Falls) was won for the second year in a row by John and Rueben Gibbins of Morson, who took home $1,000 for their 16th place finish (44.36 pounds).
The tournament also saw several other records smashed, including an enormous 5.94-pound smallmouth brought in Sunday by the team of Denny Nelson and Dave Smith (their lone fish of the day).
That broke the tournament record for the biggest bass set just the day before by Doug McBride and Bill Bird. McBride reeled in a nice 5.54-pound bass Saturday.
Steve Luhman and Glen Getschel of Wisconsin, who finished ninth with a 49.22-pound total, had the big fish Friday at 5.08 pounds.
They were given a standing ovation from the boisterous crowd under the big tent when they donated their $1,000 cheque to the “Cops for Cancer” fundraiser Saturday afternoon.
< *c>Finding their pattern
Thrun said the key to victory was their ability to adjust throughout the tournament and find their “pattern.” Their biggest fish was 4.68 pounds, with the rest all coming in around the four-pound mark.
“On the first day, the fish seemed to hold their spots, like they were waiting for the wind to pick up,” noted Thrun. “Then they started to pull off those spots and they were in a whole different area and we had to find them.”
Moynagh said they caught their fish in both shallow (five-six feet) and deeper (20-25 feet) water. He admitted they had a little bit of trouble Saturday but still managed to being in a good weight.
And they managed to catch just enough in the wind and rain Sunday, conditions which plagued many other teams that day. In fact, 43 boats were skunked.
“Even when it was very windy, the fish were still biting although it made it a little harder,” admitted Moynagh, adding their success came using Rapala Husky Jerk lures while fishing on the north arm.
While praising the quality of the lake, both Thrun and Moynagh said they were surprised it took more than 58 pounds to win this year’s tournament.
“It’s a feeling of relief to know we won the tournament because, in hindsight, you look at the 51 pounds that were needed last year,” Moynagh said. “But there are so many nice fish out there and good anglers.”
< *c>Winning ways
It’s been a banner season so far for the Minnesota pair, who are starting to make a name for themselves on the bass circuit.
Moynagh-Thrun came third at a “Megabucks” tournament on Old Hickory Lake and then won $100,000 (U.S.) with a second-place showing at the Forest Wood Open in Connecticut.
The duo won the same tournament—and the $200,000 (U.S.) first-place prize—at the same tournament held on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota last year.
Moynagh said he’d have to check his schedule before committing to fish in the FFCBC next year.
But Moynagh also praised the lake for its commitment to catch-and-release, adding that’s the key to keeping the fishery in a healthy state. It’s a trend definitely being noticed by the anglers who fish the tournament here.
“A lot more fish are getting bigger and bigger each year—they’re gaining about a half-a-pound each year,” said Al Lindner.
“Outstanding is the only word I can say [about the fishery],” echoed Norm Lindsay, adding he and his brother, Dave, will have to do a better job pre-fishing next year if they expect to vie for a third tournament title.
“It might take 60 pounds to win this tournament next year,” he predicted.