Busy weekend for fishing tournaments

The bass tournament season in Northwestern Ontario got busy this past weekend with events taking place at Shoal Lake and Lake Despair.
Musky anglers also got to try their luck at the second-annual Lake of the Woods Musky Bowl held at Wiley Point Lodge.
Other than a quick storm or two, and some moderate wind on Saturday, the weather was pretty nice all weekend, making it quite enjoyable to be in the boat. It was for me, at least!
After spending as much time as I have down in the southern U.S. in the summer, I can appreciate the weather we have here in Northwestern Ontario because it gets so hot down there.
At the annual “Castin’ for Cash” tournament hosted by Lake Despair Lodge, a pair of up-and-coming anglers smoked the rest of the field en route to their first tournament win together.
The Fort Frances duo of Dave Chambers and Donovan Cousineau had a two-day total of 29.40 pounds, giving them a pound-and-a-half cushion over second-place finishers Larry Foss and Joel Pagnac of International Falls.
The Fort Frances father-and-son team of Darrin and Kobi Ward rounded out the top three.
Meanwhile, another pair of young anglers got their first tournament win out at Shoal Lake on Sunday when Winnipeg angler Ian Waterer and Kenora’s Jayden Symonds captured the trophy with a two-day total of 32.18 pounds.
My partner, Karl Engstrom, and I had a good weekend at Shoal Lake–ending up with a second-place finish after leading the tournament following Day 1. Our total of 31.60 pounds gave us a solid finish and we made a few bucks.
For me, it felt good to finally have a good tournament after the slump I’ve been in since March with the U.S. tournaments that I’ve been fishing.
We weighed in eight smallmouths and two largemouths over the course of the tournament. Most of the smallmouths we caught were taken on a Jackall SK-Pop Grande topwater popper while the largemouths we caught by flipping soft plastics in shallow bulrushes.
Both of the bass tournaments had around 60 teams participating. The Shoal Lake one has been going on now for more than 25 years and while the tournament does not attract as many teams as it did years ago, and the fishing may not be quite as good as it used to be, Shoal Lake still is a beautiful lake.
As well, the organizers do a great job making this derby happen every year.
I have fished the Lake Despair tournament for the past 10 years and missed it this year for the second time, but it is right up there on the top of my list for fun tournaments to fish. The chain of lakes is fun to run around on, and Bill and Nell Godin make sure everybody has a great time at Lake Despair Lodge!
Hopefully these tournaments will fall on different weekends next year so I can fish in both of them!
Wiley Point Lodge on Lake of the Woods hosted the second-annual Musky Bowl and for the second year in a row, Jess Swenson and his daughters won the tournament and its $5,000 first-place prize.
Anglers catch, measure, and release the muskies that they catch and the team with the most inches of fish wins.
Jess fished with each of his two daughters (Reese one day and Emily the other). It’s pretty awesome when you consider they are both not even teenagers yet and they are beating some of the most notorious musky anglers and guides on the lake!
Congratulations to all of the winners over the weekend. The tournament scene takes a break next week before the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and the Bronzeback Classic in Kenora get underway the following weekend.

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Busy weekend for fishing tournaments

Jeff Gustafson

This past weekend was a busy one across Sunset Country for anglers competing in fishing tournaments as four were taking place.
LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp on Rainy Lake hosted a one-day bass tournament on Saturday, and there was a two-day musky tournament in Nestor Falls, a two-day bass tournament at Shoal Lake, and the two-day Rainy River Walleye Tournament in Rainy River.
My good pal, Dennis Favreau, and I have fished the Shoal Lake Last Chance tournament together since 2001 so we have a lot of history fishing that event and have been fortunate to win it a few times.
There probably is no other lake that I enjoy fishing tournaments on more than Shoal Lake. It’s a good tournament lake as far as there being a lot of water to fish, as well as the option to target both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
We spent a couple of days practising for this tournament and hoped we could rely on some historically good spots, as well as mix in a few new ones that we might find, to give us some good fish over the weekend.
It’s amazing how things change from year to year because none of the spots that we caught fish off of last year produced any good bass this year. We focused on the same areas and caught quite a few fish, but not enough big ones to make a run at winning.
In the end, our 16-pound catches each day landed us in sixth spot. Still, it was a fun weekend and we really had a good time.
Jay Samsal and Scott Dingwall, meanwhile, continued their hot streak from this summer and won the tournament with a mixed bag of smallmouths and largemouths that came in at nearly 36 pounds for two days.
They have won several tournaments this summer and have the momentum really going on their side.
I fish with both of these guys quite a bit and they are as good as anyone I’ve ever jumped in the boat with, so it’s not surprising to me. My hat is off to them.
The teenager team of Brandon Scott and Mitchell Moncrief almost pulled off winning the tournament before ending up fourth—their first time fishing the event. They also had the big fish of the tournament—a 5.50-pound largemouth on Day 1.
Great job, boys!
In Nestor Falls, Dave Bennett continued the hot streak he has had this summer, winning the annual Musky Cup with partner Darcy Finlan.
This two-day event has teams measure and release their two best muskies each day. Bennett and Finlan were the only team to boat two muskies each day, earning themselves a $5,000 payday.
Mike Reid and Shawn Puddester of Sioux Narrows were second.
LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp, meanwhile, has hosted a one-day, three-fish bass tournament for the past several years and once again it had another great turnout. The Fort Frances team of Jason Cain and Dan Tucker brought in three smallmouths for 12.66 pounds to earn the win.
That is more than a four-pound average, which is not surprising for Rainy as it has so many four-pound-plus smallmouths in it.
And down in Rainy River, local anglers Jim Hall and Joey Bonhomme captured the 18th-annual RRWT for the first time—finishing the two-day event, 84-team event with a 16.69-pound total to earn the $15,000 top prize.
This coming weekend will feature a couple of more options for bass tournament anglers. There is a two-day event out of Whitefish Bay in Sioux Narrows on Saturday and Sunday and a one-day tournament in Atikokan on Sunday.
Anglers can sign up in the morning for the Whitefish Bay tournament, with tournament hours running from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. each day.
The weather forecast this weekend looks great so I’m looking forward to seeing everybody out on the water!