With 104 of the best angling teams entered in this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship—one thing was for certain.
It would take three consecutive days of impressive catches to capture the title as the top team—and the $21,000 first-place prize that went along with that prestigious honour.
Organizers had boldly predicted the winning duo would need to haul in a three-day catch in the neighborhood of 50 pounds, and Dave and Norm Lindsay of Sioux Narrows did just that—smashing the previous tournament record with a whopping three-day total of 51.32 pounds.
Last year’s champs, Gary Lake and Randy Amenrud, who won it all with a 46.13-pound total, finished eighth this year to earn $2,900.
The Lindsays, who also won the inaugural tournament in 1995 with a 41.95-pound total, led the pack from the outset, bringing in 18.34 pounds Friday—despite the fact the start was delayed for two hours and 15 minutes because lingering fog severely hampered visibility on the lake.
Still, their lead was just a mere half-a-pound ahead of Vic Alberts and Jeff Poperechny, whose 17.70-pound weight was highlighted by the day’s big catch of 4.86 pounds—earning them $1,000.
But the pair failed to bring in a similar weight Saturday, struggling to catch just 4.62 pounds that sent them tumbling down to 45th place. They eventually placed 54th overall.
It was a different story for the duo of Jim Moynagh and Joe Thrun, both of Minnesota. After placing 22nd after Friday’s weigh-in, the pair vaulted to ninth after Saturday and then right up to second Sunday with a final day catch of 16.84 pounds.
They finished with a 47.74-pound total, more than three pounds behind the Lindsays but good enough for the $12,000 prize.
Finishing third were Joe Freedy and John Guzej, both from Winnipeg, who caught 46.82 pounds of bass over three days to take home $8,000. They were followed by Scott Cook and Jerry Millar, also from Winnipeg, with 46.70 pounds that earned them a $6,000 cheque.
Kurt Johnson and Pat Jeffries of Minnesota finished fifth (46.46 pounds) to win $4,000.
John and Reuben Gibbons of Morson were sixth (45.68 pounds), earning $3,600. But they also won an extra $1,000 as the top Rendezvous Trail team (encompassing an area from east of Quetico to Rainy River and north to Nestor Falls).
Rounding out the top 10 were Ron and Billy Lindner of Brainerd, Mn. (45.35 pounds), Frank and Terry McClymont of Kenora (45.06), and Larry Bolig and Jim Merthan of Minnesota (45.04).
“We knew it would take three good days of fishing to win [the tournament]," said Dave Lindsay. ”There’s a lot of good teams here.
“The key is staying consistent,” he added.
And consistency is exactly what the Lindsays had over the weekend, reeling in a 16.68-pound catch Saturday before icing the victory with a 16.30-pound haul Sunday.
It was a welcome return to the winner’s circle for the brothers, who had finished seventh here last year. They also were coming off a win at the Shoal Lake bass tournament in Manitoba.
The Lindsays also thrilled the capacity crowd under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina for Sunday’s final weigh-in by announcing they were donating $1,000 of their winnings to the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club.
So why has the tournament-winning catch increased so significantly over the three years?
“Everybody is starting to learn the structure of the lake more and they’re starting to develop patterns,” Dave Lindsay explained, adding his team spent six days pre-fishing the lake prior to the tournament.
“The local anglers have done so well because they live in the area, and have more of a chance to spend time on the lake,” he noted.
And as the anglers grow more familiar with Rainy Lake, records will continue to be shattered along the way. Mike Salvador and Ken Wright, for instance, brought in an incredible 20.26 pounds Saturday for the heaviest one-day catch, highlighted by a then record-setting 5.18-pound bass.
But that latter record lasted less than a day when the team of Vic Davis and Barry Woods weighed in a bass Sunday that tipped the scales at 5.44 pounds.
Norm French and John Maffei won $1,000 for being the most improved team while the duo of Doug McBride and Bill Bird took home $1,000 as the early bird draw winners.
The youngest team in the tournament, Trevor Clinker and Jason Cain, won $500 as the winners of the People’s Choice award during the parade of boats last Wednesday.
Participation winners, worth $250 each, were the teams of Denis Barnard/Clint Barton and Dale LaBelle/Karl Howells.