The 12th-annual “Castin’ for Cash” bass tournament took place this past weekend and it was another successful event. Put on by Bill and Nell Godin, who own Lake Despair Lodge, this has become a very popular event with area anglers. It’s a fun chain of lakes to fish and the atmosphere at the resort is always great. Some familiar faces ended up on top of the leaderboard come Saturday afternoon as the husband-and-wife team of Wayne and Pat Howard whupped everybody to become two-time winners of this tournament. Their two-day total of 28.75 pounds was a pound-and-a-half more than what Caleb Colwell and I brought in to finish second. The Howards also brought in the big bass on Day 2 at 4.45 pounds to anchor their catch. The big fish on Day 1 was caught by Tyson Romyn and Matt Redford, which weighed in at 4.73 pounds. This was the third or fourth year in a row that these guys have won the big fish award on one of the tournament days! They know where the big ones live, I guess! Overall, the weights were down a bit from what they’ve been the past few years, but it was clear to many anglers fishing the tournament that there are plenty of big bass living in this chain of lakes. We spent a couple of days practising for the tournament— and it was the best fishing I’ve ever seen on these lakes. We found schools of big smallmouths in Despair, Footprint, and Jackfish. In fact, my partner, Caleb, fishing this event for the first time, even said he thought it was as good as Rainy Lake during the pre-fish. Things got tougher for everybody during the tournament itself, however. We saw several big fish each day but just had a tough time getting them to actually bite. One of the things that I think really factored into this was that there is a ton of food in these lakes. You see endless schools of perch and shiners, there still were some mayfly shells floating around, and my livewell was absolutely loaded with crayfish that bass were puking up. So these bass are well-fed and that might be part of the problem in making them bite. We caught our fish on topwater baits, small X-Rap jerkbaits and Northland marabou jigs. My good friend, Paul Visser, and partner, Neil Cooper, landed the biggest catch of the tournament on Day 1, weighing 16.09 pounds. But they had a rough second day and couldn’t manage to get any bass in the boat. They were both great sports about it, however, and brought all of their kids in the boat with them and went through the topfive boat parade with smiles on their faces. In a competitive tournament situation, not catching any fish obviously is disappointing but they handled it like champs. The reality is that if you fish tournaments enough, you will be faced with these types of situations so my hat’s off, guys! The action slides north to Shoal Lake this weekend for the annual Big Bass Classic, which has been going on for more than 20 years now. I expect the fishing to be top-notch on Shoal Lake this weekend if the nice weather continues through the weekend like it’s supposed to. Anglers who have not yet signed up can do so Saturday morning before blast-off at 8 a.m.