Day One of the 2001 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship was the wrong time for defending champions Denis Barnard and Clint Barton to have one of their worst outings on Rainy Lake.
The local duo weighed in just 5.50 pounds Thursday to sit in 110th place of the three-day tournament—well behind surprise first-round leaders Doug and Zack McBride of Devlin, who topped the 130-team field with a whopping 19.76 pounds.
“The easiest way to put it is when you hook a bass, you have to be able to keep it on and we weren’t able to do that today,” Barnard told the crowd under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.
“It was just one of those days.”
“It’s very disappointing,” agreed Barton. “In all the years of [competing in the FFCBC], this is the first time we’ve come in without five fish. That’s how frustrating it was.
“We’re done. Even if we have two 20-pound bags, we wouldn’t be there [among the leaders Saturday].”
But two other local teams gave the crowd something to cheer about. The McBrides (Team #104) wowed everybody with their 19.76-pound haul, which earned them $1,000 for having the heaviest weight of the day.
Meanwhile, Steve and Kent Ballan of Fort Frances (Team #86) were a close second with a 19.26-pound bag. But they earned $1,000 for weighing in the big fish of the day (4.58 pounds).
Rounding out the top five were Gene Boyer and Larry Hullett (#28) with 17.90 pounds, perennial contenders Al and James Lindner of Brainerd (#3) at 17.54 pounds, and the husband-wife duo of Genvie and Michele Grafham of Keewatin (#61) at 17.20.
Ray Ducharme and Ted Beck, another local team, were sixth with 16.86 pounds.
Zack McBride, 16, credited their success to jumping on fish early, which allowed them to be more selective as check-in time neared.
“It was a good start. We had five fish before 10 o’clock, which gave us time to do some calling after lunch,” he remarked.
Doug McBride’s best FFCBC finish was 20th in 1998 with Bill Bird. But he and his son made a vast improvement from their debut last year, when they managed just 3.72 pounds on day one en route to finishing 93rd overall.
Asked whether he and dad will carry the mantle of local heroes, Zack McBride laughed it off and stressed there’s still plenty of fishing left to do.
“We’re sure going to try. We had a good day and hopefully we’ll have some good ones this weekend,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, the Ballans said they stayed composed when the wind picked up, having to rely heavily on their trolling motor throughout the day.
“It didn’t go right at first. We didn’t get our five fish until about noon. This morning, we lost four or five big ones,” said Steve Ballan. “We just stuck with it and stayed with our game plan.”
Scott Cook and Jerry Millar (Team #11) also got into the money yesterday, earning $250 for winning the “hidden weight” contest by reeling in 14.30 pounds—0.07 more than the selected number.
Two of the bigger ovations of the afternoon went to Emo’s young anglers, Eric and Matt Veldhuisen (Team #133), who brought in 14.68 pounds, and the self-proclaimed “Underdawgs,” Trevor Clinker and Jason Cain (#113), who weighed 15.44 pounds to sit in 14th place overall after the first day.
The number of high seeds in the top 20 didn’t surprise veteran Al Lindner, who had troubles of his own until finding a good spot late in the afternoon, where he and nephew, James, snagged 10 fish consecutively to end up in fourth overall.
“There’s so many good fisherman out there,” he noted. “A lot of guys will pull in the good weight even on a tough bite.”
Jim Moynagh and Joe Thrun (Team #2), who finished second last year after winning in 1998 and 1999, came onto the stage with 15.04 pounds yesterday, good for 22nd place overall heading into action this morning.
“We’re not really happy with the weight,” said Thrun, who admitted he and his partner came into the FFCBC after a two-week fishing layoff. “But generally the weights are down so it may not be as bad as we expected.”
Former two-time winner Norm Lindsay, teamed up with Jess Swenson, finished with 13.76 pounds, while Dave Lindsay, now partnered with Colin Gluting, came in with 11.04.
Former champ Gary Lake and partner Mark Allen reeled in 11.18 pounds to sit in 62nd place overall.
Cos and Cory Costa (#33), this year’s Kid-Pro winners, came to the docks 10 minutes late and were penalized 2.50 pounds. They finished with a total weight of just 0.36.
Three teams came back skunked.
Day Two weigh-in began at 3:30 p.m. Friday, with the final weigh-in tomorrow getting underway at 3 p.m. under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.