Best bets for KBI

This week’s column is coming to you from the road as I travel south to Wheeler Lake in Alabama to compete in the Forrest Wood Cup, the championship event of the FLW Tour.
My Dad is with me this week so while he is driving I can to pound away on a keyboard!
This coming weekend will mark the first time since 1993, when I was ten years old, that I am going to miss the Kenora Bass International. The week of the KBI has been one of the highlights of the year for me for many years, for the chance to spend a week on Lake of the Woods, the opportunity to see friends that return every year to compete in the tournament and for the chance to win some pretty good money.
Since I won’t be fishing the tournament this year I am going to share my thoughts on where some of the best catches might come from and who might catch them.
Over the past few years the trend for doing well has been traveling down to the south end of the lake. For the past three years the winning catches have all come from the south side of the Aulneau Peninsula, a function of less fishing pressure and it just being a good part of the lake right now.
In 2013 and 2015 the winners were fishing for smallmouths in the Rainy River area and in 2014, Bryan Gustafson and Jamie Bruce caught enough big largemouths to get the job done.
If I were fishing the tournament this year I would probably spend some time looking around in the Rainy River area because it seems like if the smallmouths are biting down there they are the biggest fish in the lake.
The thing is, you are looking a 70 mile boat ride to get there, across big water, so the weather and time are factors.
Another factor in doing this is you are going to burn hundreds of dollars in gas each day so you had better make sure you have some good spots to get to.
Traditionally, the west arm of the lake or the Sioux Narrows area produce the winning catches because teams can mix largemouths and smallmouths together to come up with the 16 pound plus catches each day that it takes to win.
My feeling is the west arm of the lake is going through a lull right now and that it would be really hard to win out there.
Sioux Narrows has potential, especially because there are going to be fewer boats there than there usually is as more anglers head south in the other direction. Less fishing pressure could really open it up for local Sioux Narrows hammers like Brian McNanney and Matt Rydberg or Jess Swenson and Mike Reid.
The hottest angler in the region right now is Jay Samsal.
After winning the Dryden Walleye Masters tournament back in June with Scott Dingwall, he won the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship last week with Troy Norman. That is over $50,000 in winnings in two events!
He and Troy are teaming up again next week and I would consider them a big threat.
Jamie Bruce and Bryan Gustafson will focus on largemouths more than any other team and if they can find them, they could be untouchable.
The Rainy River crew, including former tournament winners Bill Godin and Leroy Wilson and last years champs Jon O’Connor and Byron Sharp are sure to have more company this year so it will be interesting to see how they do.
One thing that is for sure is that it will be another great event, one that is important to the economy in Kenora. All the best to all of the teams competing this year, I will be following along from down in Alabama.
While I’m going to miss fishing the tournament, I’m excited to have to opportunity to fish in the Forrest Wood Cup, one of the biggest events in bass fishing.
The tournament that I am fishing on Wheeler Lake is running the same days as the KBI with weigh-ins taking place later in the afternoon each day.
I have the opportunity to fish against 50 other anglers for $300,000 so I’ll take all the luck I can get!
You can follow along each day at
Good luck to all the anglers fishing in the KBI this year!