Ted Stewner and Al Carlson knew something was “Goofy” during pre-fishing, but there was nothing “Mickey Mouse” about their efforts when the serious fishing started.
“It was like Disneyland,” Carlson, a Kenora resident, marvelled about the fish-nabbing success he and his Winnipeg teammate had in topping 60 other teams to capture the inaugural Rainy Lake Bass Classic last weekend at La Belle’s Birch Point Camp.
The pair followed their tournament-best weight of 20.66 pounds for five fish Saturday with another strong performance Sunday to total 39.12 pounds and claim the $5,000 first prize.
The derby was Carlson’s first experience on Rainy Lake, which he raved about for its quality of fishing.
But it took a strategy-changing revelation during pre-fishing late Wednesday to put the duo on the fast-track to success.
“The lake goes against the rules,” said Carlson. “We expected the bass to be following their fall patterns, and dropping 20-30 feet deep. We wasted almost our whole first day of practice looking for them there.
“Then the last couple of hours of Wednesday, we figured out that wasn’t the case,” he added. “[On] Friday, we reeled in a 22.5-pound bag without even really fishing.”
The champs weren’t having any caviar dreams about their new-found wealth. “Now I can pay off my Visa,” laughed Carlson, while Stewner also was in the mood to eliminate some bills.
“Fishing’s getting more expensive all the time so money like this really helps,” he noted.
Bill Godin of Devlin and Karl Howells of Fort Frances improved upon their fourth-place showing Saturday to capture second spot with a 10-fish total of 37.66 pounds.
They pocketed $2,500.
MIke Graham and Daryl Begin made the biggest move among the top 10 after Day One, as the Fort Frances pair soared from ninth to third with a two-day total of 35.90 pounds to win $1,400.
Meanwhile, Tom Pearson (Fort Frances) and Eric Lessman (Devlin) used a consistent effort to take home fourth-place and $1,000 with a 35.88-pound total.
Winnipeg’s Jerry Millar and Scott Cook also were the beneficiaries of an outstanding Day Two performance to leap from 11th to fifth for a $750 payout (35.56-pound total).
Greg Stahn of Devlin and Emo’s Theo De Groot had been in second after Saturday’s weigh-in, but dropped back to sixth place Sunday with a total of 35.32 pounds to earn $500.
Corey Curtis and Wayne Howard of Emo vaulted from 18th into seventh place, winning $450, after reeling in Sunday’s best total weight of 19.02 pounds to finish with 35.14 overall.
Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Jess Swenson of Sioux Narrows and Jeff Gustafson of Kenora (33.10 pounds for $400), Roger and Dorese Harrison of Sioux Narrows (32.96 pounds for $350), and the Sioux Narrows duo of Norm Lindsay and Kari Hicks, who had been in third place after Saturday but managed only four fish Sunday to end up in 10th (32.58 pounds for $300).
The largest bass of the tournament was reeled up by Dennis and Glenn Smith, who collected $300 for having the big fish Saturday with their 5.16-pound catch.
The Harrisons earned an additional $300 for having the biggest fish Sunday (4.44 pounds).