Before the 15 teams in the championship flight weighed their fish Saturday, Fort Frances’ Bryan Gustafson and Jamie Bruce of Kenora brought the crowd to its feet under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.
The pair, who had won the “Castin’ for Cash” tournament at Lake Despair earlier this month, brought in a monster five-fish haul that tipped the scales at 20.36 pounds en route to capturing the Division II title—consisting of teams that were in 16th-52nd place after Day 2—at this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
“We gambled a lot during the first two days of the tournament, and we ran up and down looking to run into them [the fish],” Gustafson noted.
“We grinded out an area for all it was worth today [Saturday], and we were able to capitalize on every fish that we caught,” he added.
After opening the three-day tournament Thursday in 21st place with a 16.12-pound bag, Gustafson and Bruce only managed 13.85 pounds on Day 2, which dropped them in a tie for 23rd place with Steve and Scott Sandberg.
With the standings being wiped clean for those outside of the top 15, Gustafson and Bruce left everyone in the dust with their five fish on Saturday, which also proved to be the biggest single-day catch of the entire tournament.
“We had one decent fish that weighed about 3.5 pounds early on, but we only had about 12 pounds around 1 p.m. or so,” Bruce recalled.
“The fishing wasn’t hot and heavy, but we got the right bites,” he reasoned.
Anchoring the pair’s bag was a 4.89-pound lunker that Gustafson had reeled in, which was the biggest single bass caught during this year’s FFCBC.
“I can’t even remember when I caught that one,” Gustafson admitted.
“I think it was around noon or something like that, but it’s all a blur at this point,” he added.
“It was a fun day.”
The duo’s strong showing left the father-and-son team of John and Tim Miller well back in the Division II standings, as their 17.98-pound bag on Saturday only was good enough for second place.
“The weather wasn’t really that great, especially on the ride back, but the fishing was good,” John Miller said.
“We decided to switch it up and go to an area that had been successful for us in pre-fishing, and it worked out well for us,” noted Tim Miller.
Rounding out the top five in the Division II standings were Randy Paishk and Vernon Fair (17.69 pounds), Jared Wood and Cody Wood (17.60), and Matt Christy and James Chapman (16.75).
Meanwhile, an all-Fort Frances team came away with the Division III crown, which featured teams ranked from 53rd-89th place after Day 2.
Local anglers Sean Good and Pete Badiuk topped the standings with a 18.19-pound bag Saturday, which gave them a 1.18-pound cushion over runners-up Jordan and Jeremy Anderson.
“Today [Saturday] started out with us saying, ‘Let’s go out and have a good time fishing’ as we really had nothing to lose,” Good reasoned.
“We did a couple of different things, and we were able to get onto a spot where we caught a few fish,” he noted.
Good and Badiuk opened the tournament in 33rd place with a 15.14-pound haul Thursday, but then plunged to 58th in the standings after catching only three fish that tipped the scales at 8.98 pounds on Friday.
“The first two days were great for us, but the weather certainly wasn’t ideal on Friday after what happened on Thursday,” Badiuk said.
“The weather really never warmed up to get the water temperature just right,” he remarked.
Rounding out the top five in Division III were Les Whitefish and Clint Geyshick (16.25 pounds), Matt Dronyk and Pete Cressy (16.00), and Denis Barnard and Scott Gobeil (15.78).