Area fishing tourney report

Three fishing tournaments took place over the weekend on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, keeping competitive anglers across Sunset Country happy before the long winter ahead.
Down on Rainy Lake, LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp put on a one-day, three-fish bass tournament on Saturday. The International Falls father-and-son team of Van and Jason Pavleck took first place with a total of 12.74 pounds.
Those are three big smallmouth bass!
Jason also won the tournament last year with partner Bill Senter.
In Nestor Falls, the fourth-annual Musky Cup tournament took place Friday and Saturday. The team of Andrew Rideout and Zac Buwalda caught their two muskies each day for a total of 179 inches to win the event.
In this tournament, teams are able to measure two muskies per day, then release them on video. Only two fish per day can be counted so teams are faced with a dilemma on what size of fish to keep, which makes things interesting.
The big fish of the event was a 48.5-incher caught by Dave Bennett and Darcy Finlan.
Meanwhile, the Shoal Lake Last Chance tournament also took place Saturday and Sunday. This event has been around for more than 20 years and always is fun to fish.
There is a shotgun start, which usually is pretty exciting. Most tournaments do a trickle start, where boats leave one at a time. At this one, however, everybody takes off at the same time.
And usually it’s 10 or 15 minutes earlier than we should be leaving, as well. All it takes is for someone to put their boat in gear and away everybody goes.
It’s fun stuff!
After a couple of good days pre-fishing, my buddy, Dennis Favreau, and I were excited to get the tournament started. We were catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass in the same areas and were seeing some nice fish.
We had a great weekend and ended up winning the tournament after catching 19.26 pounds on Day 1 and then 18.28 pounds on Day 2. We wound up weighing five smallmouths and five largemouths over the two days.
The big catch of the tournament was brought in on Day 1 by Darrin and Jack Neniska, which weighed 20.20 pounds.
The big fish, meanwhile, was a 4.70-pound largemouth caught by eventual third-place finishers Terry McClymont and Tim Strempler (second place went to Darrin Marcine and Wade Cox of Kenora).
The bass fishing has changed significantly on Shoal Lake over the past few years, likely due to the resurgence in the walleye population and a major decline in the population of smelt—a baitfish that once was plentiful in the lake.
We caught all of our fish in less than 10 feet of water this past weekend, which is normal for the largemouths but no so much for the smallmouths.
Years ago, you seldom could catch a smallmouth shallower than 15 feet on this lake in late September. So it’s interesting to see how things change.
These fish have changed their diet and just are located in different areas. It seemed like anytime we fished much deeper than 10 feet of water, all we could catch were walleye.
Over the weekend, we caught our fish on a variety of soft plastics, as well as a few on crankbaits and one good one on a topwater. It was fun fishing.
Although the tournament season is winding down, there is another bass derby this weekend at Whitefish Bay on Lake of the Woods.
This event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and teams can sign up Saturday morning before blast-off.