Busy weekend of local bass fishing

It was a busy weekend of bass fishing with two of the bigger tournaments of the season taking place in Kenora and Fort Frances. On Lake of the Woods, 120 teams fished in the Bronzeback Classic where Amanda Keszler and Logan Zimmerman took the win with a two day total of 35.13 pounds. I’m not sure if that is the record weight for this tournament or not but it’s right up there. Those are some nice smallmouths.

Coel Forsythe and Matthew Prefontaine were narrowly edged and took second with 35.04 pounds. Ben Gustafson and Ali Crandell took third with 34.44 pounds. Overall, the weights this year in the Bronzeback were very impressive. Fifteen pounds per day used to be the gold standard in this tournament and has won it in many years, but that would have barely got you inside the top 50 this year. That speaks to the great smallmouth fishing we have right now on Lake of the Woods. 

I spent the past week down at Rainy Lake, competing in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. My partner, John Peterson and I had a pretty good weekend, finishing up in third place with a three day total of 55.27 pounds. Bryan Gustafson and Mike Luhman, in their second year fishing together, took the win with a monster catch of 61.19 pounds. Ian Waterer and Motei Demers were second with 59.72 pounds.

We had a great week at Rainy Lake. I spent a few days prefishing before the tournament and those were some of my most enjoyable days on the water this summer. Rainy is a big lake and there are plenty of areas to hide and get away. I find it so relaxing out there and obviously the water to explore is endless. The lake isn’t busy and the fishing is good. In addition to the bass, there are also plenty of walleye and pike that you run into every day.

We didn’t find anything spectacular during our practice so we just decided we would roll the dice with running a lot of old memory spots. It worked out on day one and two but just barely. We didn’t catch a lot of big fish but we did manage to catch five really nice ones each day and were in fourth place heading into the final day. Sensing we were running out of bass to catch, we decided we would fish a different area on the final day. It was an area in the south arm where we have fished in the past but hadn’t visited all week. We were catching most of our fish in shallow bays with plenty of vegetation. When the weather warms up, you’ll often find big numbers of bass in the weed beds. So, we just ran around throwing topwaters in as many of these bays as we could and every once in a while we would catch a couple. It ended up being a really fun day, primarily throwing topwater baits to cover water.

The top two teams in this tournament dominated the rest of the field this year. It was no secret that both teams were focused on fishing deep water for bass feeding on suspended baitfish like cisco. These have proven to be the biggest bass in the system in past events but they can be hard to pin down because they follow the bait around. Where they are one day, they can be long gone the next. You hope you can intercept some of these fish when they pull up on a point, reef or hump. These guys figured out where to catch these fish and they put on a clinic for the rest of us.

Huge thank you to all of the volunteers at each tournament. These are both top-notch events that don’t happen without all of the great people who show up every year. The original organizer of the Bronzeback Classic, Bob Stapleton, passed away this past winter and will be missed by the bass fishing community in Northwest Ontario. This smallmouth-only tournament that promotes fishing with kids was his idea and it has been widely accepted with a full field participating every year.

Bryan Gustafson and Mike Luhman hold up the beautiful trophy at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.