Bass tournament season set to get underway

For anglers around the region who enjoy competitive bass fishing, the season gets underway this coming weekend. The season for bass is catch and release until July 1 across the Sunset Country region so there are no tournaments during the spring. There could have been a tournament this past weekend but I did not hear of any.

This weekend the annual Shoal Lake Bass Classic is taking place Saturday and Sunday. This tournament has been happening since the early 90’s, making it one of the longest running in the area. Back in the day this event used to get over 80 teams each year but with more tournaments going on today, a lot of people pick and choose a few that they want to do.

Shoal Lake is always an adventure. It’s a bit of a drive from Kenora to get out there, the lake was never really mapped in the past, though pretty good mapping now exists for much of the lake. The fishing has always been good, it’s quiet and very scenic. I think I fished the tournament for the first time when I was around 13 years old, with Harley Hanson, our neighbour at our family camp. I used to get so excited for this tournament that I would often get sick the night before the tournament.

Over the years I’ve had a few different partners including Chris Savage and Karl Engstrom, who I fished it with for the past several years. It’s where I’ve spent a lot of my time in early July over the years.
This weekend we should see around 50 teams fishing, so still plenty to have a good tournament. The entry fee is $500 and anglers can still sign up on Saturday morning.

Also taking place this weekend is the Kenora Walleye Open, which is happening on Lake of the Woods, Saturday and Sunday. The walleye fishing has been good on the big lake this year and if I didn’t love the fishing and the people out at Shoal Lake so much, I’d have fun fishing that event as well. It looks like there are still a few spots open for this tournament on their website.

There are bass events just about every weekend through early October with the next couple happening in two weeks. The two-day Bronzeback Classic will happen on Lake of the Woods July 22 and 23. The same weekend the three-day Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships will take place on Rainy Lake, July 20 to 22.

The Bronzeback has a full field signed up for this year’s tournament while the FFCBC still has some spots open for anglers looking to have fun on Rainy Lake. I have fished the FFCBC since 2000 and have been fortunate that I’ve never had to miss it over the years. It is always one of the highlights of my summer.
Rainy is one of my favourite places to fish. The smallmouths seem to get a little bit bigger down there and the lake is quieter that Lake of the Woods. I have fished with my friend John Peterson from Bemidji, Minnesota in this tournament since 2007 and we are signed up to do it again this year.

In addition to a few other local tournaments, I have three Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments left on the schedule. They are all northern smallmouth tournaments, at Lake St. Clair, Michigan in late July, then the last two will take place over the last two weeks of August out at Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River in New York.

Good luck to all of the anglers competing in tournaments over the next few weeks.

Jeff and Shelby Gustafson with a nice catch of smallmouth and largemouth bass from
a past tournament at Shoal Lake. – Submitted photo