Rebecca Spencer was born in England, spent her OAC year in Switzerland, went to Australia and Tasmania for a six-month stint, and received an economics degree specializing in natural resources from the University of Waterloo in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.
In between, she grew up in Fort Frances. And the roots she put down were strong enough to pull her back—to the point where is she has taken on the job as chair of the fifth-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Spencer has only caught one bass—a two-pounder off the dock on her parents’ island home on Rainy Lake—but that didn’t stop her from landing the biggest job of her life.
“I thought I knew what I was getting into and I really didn’t,” she admitted. “But it’s all good. I can’t tell you one bad thing about this tournament.
“The challenge is to stay level-headed,” she noted.
Local businessman John McTaggart had been the level-headed, driving force behind the FFCBC for the past several years. Now he has stepped aside, leaving the door wide open for Spencer.
“[McTaggart] just did everything that wasn’t under someone else’s jurisdiction, and created this idea of the head of the tournament,” explained Spencer.
Actually, Spencer really only took over the task in mid-May. And McTaggart is helping her through it although she has more than enough skills to inspire confidence.
“She’s coming into it late but she’s a real quick learner. She has the total support of the board,” said Doug Cain, the tournament’s marketing director.
“[Spencer] has the view of someone who has attended it before. She has a new perspective,” he added. “By having a fresh set of eyes and ears involved, that can’t help but improve [the tournament].”
Her mom, Dr. Elaine Spencer, said Rebecca is good with people and that her energy is often contagious. Even in her youth, she was always self-motivated.
“She would always get her assignments done. She sets herself goals and meets them,” she remarked.
And she will need to draw on all her strengths very quickly as the FFCBC officially gets underway next Tuesday with the parade of boats.
“It’s a very big role. It’s my job to make sure there is order and to make sure things happen the way they are supposed to,” said Spencer.
But community involvement is key to the success of any volunteer-oriented event. As such, Spencer has taken measures to make sure all the volunteers realize they are appreciated.
“This year, we are honouring the volunteers and sponsors because it takes an enormous amount of manpower on site for the four days and we have about 350 volunteers,” she noted.
“That’s one of the reasons we moved the tournament up one day so that on the Sunday we are having a volunteer and sponsorship day so that we show our volunteers and tell them, ‘Hey you guys are valuable! This is your tournament, you have made this tournament,’” she added.
“The most important thing to us is that it is a community event that is for the entire district of people,” Spencer stressed. “I think this community is incredibly generous. The roots of angling run very deep here.”
Spencer admitted the FFCBC has become her life, and she doesn’t know what to do when there isn’t bass stuff on the agenda. Usually she spends her spare time with fiancé, Mike Webb.
She met Webb while working a summer job at Canada Customs. They are quite close but marriage doesn’t look like it’s on the horizon just yet.
“[Marriage is] not a priority to me. When we know what we want, how we want it, and when we want it. We will have some small private thing or else run away,” remarked Spencer.
Meanwhile, despite the pressure and looming deadlines, Spencer already wants to be back next year. Even now, she is planning the details of next year’s tournament—and how it will be different.
“There are so many avenues that we will look for in terms of next year. I think right now we are constrained by size, merely [in terms of] manpower.
“Next year I can start organizing it. This is a year-round job and next year is my first time doing it with the experience,” she said. “I’ll be able to concentrate on how we can make the tournament grow instead of ‘how do I just get through this.’
“I think you will probably see bigger changes in 2000. Each year this tournament gets bigger and better,” she predicted.
It looks like those roots might keep her here a little longer.