Kenora’s Jeff Gustafson and John Peterson of Bemidji, Mn. both have received a number of accolades during their fishing careers.
But one thing missing from their collective résumés was a victory in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
After a number of strong showings over the years, including a trifecta of third-place finishes, the tandem finally was able to hoist the FFCBC trophy Saturday as they captured the 2013 tournament title with a three-day weight of 55.42 pounds.
“This has been a goal of ours that we both set out to achieve together a number of years ago,” Peterson noted.
“It’s super hard to win this tournament,” said Gustafson.
“And when we held up that trophy, we saw the names of the teams that have won this event before, and there are a lot of really good anglers on that trophy.
“This tournament is a big part of my life, and it’s something that I think about all year long, so this is a very big deal for us,” he added.
The duo also became just the second and third anglers to pull off the “Rainy Lake double”—winning both the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and the International Falls Bass Championship.
Prior to this weekend, Dave Bennett was the only angler to accomplish that feat. He won here in 2006 with Mark Libitka, then teamed up with Mike Salvador to claim the International Falls crown two years later.
“I won in the Falls last year with my brother, Duane, and ‘Gussy’ has won over there on three occasions with Scott Dingwall,” noted Peterson.
“So that’s a nice little feather to add into our caps.”
Gustafson and Peterson kicked off their tournament with a bang Thursday—reeling in 19.17 pounds of Rainy Lake bass to finish Day 1 in first place.
On Day 2, however, the pair only were able to muster a 15.90-pound bag, which dropped them to fourth in the standings with a two-day total of 35.93 pounds.
“We were disappointed that we had slipped down a little bit,” Gustafson admitted.
“But we came into today [Saturday] knowing that we had a chance to win this tournament as there were seven or eight teams that had a shot,” he added.
“The person who is in first place heading into the last day always has a little bit of extra pressure, and we had talked with a couple of Jeff’s best buddies [and Day 2 leaders] Jay Samsal and Troy Norman and those boys didn’t sleep very well,” Peterson said.
“Their minds were working all of the time, and the pressure was on them as they wanted to maintain their spot in first place.
“For ‘Gussy’ and I, we were out of the limelight a little bit and we were able to relax while we fished, which I think helped us out a lot,” he reasoned.
Having entered the final day just 0.96 pounds out of the lead, Gustafson and Peterson got off to a very strong start early on—nabbing bass left, right, and centre during the first couple of hours Saturday morning.
But their plans nearly hit a snag when they ran into a severe case of bad luck that threatened to derail their efforts.
“After about an hour-and-a-half, we had about 19 pounds in the livewell and everything went perfect for us,” Peterson recalled.
“Then we just about train-wrecked the whole thing over the next 90 minutes as I broke three fish off and he had a couple of fish jump off of his line,” Gustafson noted.
“To be breaking the fish off like that, especially when you are using heavy tackle, is unacceptable as that is stuff that you should really have under your control,” he stressed.
“But because we had that big bag already, we just told ourselves to keep our cool and we that we were going to come back,” said Peterson.
Once the afternoon hit, things turned back in Gustafson and Peterson’s favour. They reeled in two more big bass that gave them a total weight of 20.35 pounds for the day.
“John was the one with the hot stick today [Saturday] as he caught most of the fish,” Gustafson said. “And he was able to get a 3.50-pound bass at around 1 [p.m.], which allowed us to get rid of one of our little ones.
“On our way back [to the Sorting Gap Marina], we stopped to gas up the livewell a little bit so that we could give the fish some water as it was going to be a rough ride coming home,” Gustafson added.
“We were just fishing there and killing time for about five minutes, and I caught a four-pounder that was pretty key.”
Their massive Day 3 haul, which was the second biggest bag of the entire tournament behind a 20.36-pound catch Bryan Gustafson and Jamie Bruce brought into the big tent earlier Saturday, allowed them to overtake defending champs Mark Raveling and Mike Luhman to move into first place.
From there, they withstood the challenges of Ryan Hyatt and Karl Wolff, 2011 co-champs Glenn Leroux and Trevor Zimak, and Day 2 leaders Norman and Samsal to take home the 2013 title.
“Things really have to work well for you in order to win a tournament like this one as the competition here is very fierce,” Peterson stressed.
“We had a big first-day weight, a pretty good second day, and we got a really good catch here on Day 3 to really anchor our win.”
And now that they’ve finally won the FFCBC in their seventh attempt as a team, Gustafson and Peterson plan to cherish their accomplishment for the next 12 months.
“This is something that we are really going to enjoy,” Gustafson enthused.
“We will be proud to hold that title as the event winners for the next year, and we are looking forward to coming back here to defend our title,” he added.