A couple of columns ago I discussed the start of the bass tournament season across the Sunset Country region. One of the busier weekends of the summer for tournament anglers happens this weekend when the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship takes place at Rainy Lake Thursday through Saturday, while the Bronzeback Classic is happening in Kenora, on Lake of the Woods, Saturday and Sunday.
Both events will see over 100 boats competing on two of our finest bodies of water. It’s an exciting weekend for the anglers who enjoy tournament competition as well as all of the friends, family and fans who come out to support these events.
I started fishing the FFCBC back in 2000 and have never missed it, fortunately. My schedule with the U.S. tournaments is different every year and I have had to miss most of the other tournaments around the region over the years. I will be on the road immediately after the tournament on Saturday night, headed for Lake St. Clair in Michigan for my next Bassmaster Elite Series tournament next week.
Over the years, some of my best summer memories have taken place on Rainy Lake and under the big tent in Fort Frances. The community has always supported the event and it’s been fun to be a part of it. The final day weigh-ins always have the best crowds as do all of the evening events throughout the weekend. In addition to the good times, I have made a lot of friends at the tournament over the years. Wouldn’t miss it for much, including several weddings I’ve had to miss because of the tournament.
The Bronzeback tournament was started over ten years ago by long time local angler Bob Stapleton. It has always been a smallmouth-only tournament and differentiated itself from other tournaments in it’s format, where all teams must include a youth or female angler. While it is still super competitive with all of the great teams that participate every year, the prize money is spread around nicely and there are always different teams in the top ten. The consistent full field every year means that the anglers enjoy the tournament and the format. Sadly, Bob Stapleton passed away late last year and will be missed by the local angling community but his legacy will live on with the Bronzeback.
Even though these events take place in late July every year, the fishing is seldom the same from year to year. Last year we were faced with high water and cool water temperatures from the late spring we had. This year, conditions are much different because the water levels are several feet lower and we had an early spring with the quick warm up.
Last year, my partner John Peterson and I finished second at the FFCBC and we caught all of our fish in shallow water, under four feet. We have done well in the past under similar conditions but this year it will be much different. I expect the weights to be higher, much like they were in 2021 and more fish will be caught on main lake structure, in deeper water. The same will likely be the case on Lake of the Woods this weekend as well.
The great thing about both of these bodies of water is that the bass fishing is excellent and anglers can catch fish in a variety of ways. Usually whoever wins figures out something a little different that other teams may have overlooked so for all of the anglers prefishing this week, try mixing in some different spots and techniques and maybe you’ll find something special. Good luck to all of the teams competing this weekend.