Falls bass tourney a stiff test

The ninth-annual International Falls Bass Championship took place this past weekend over the border on the U.S. side of Rainy Lake and the Rainy River.
This tournament has a unique format in that it puts anglers on two different bodies of water over two days, so it’s a stiff test for anglers to catch big bass under totally different conditions each day.
Scott Dingwall and I have fished the IFBC since it started in 2005 and have been fortunate to win the event three times over the years. I missed it last year because I was fishing an FLW Tour event in Michigan, but Scott finished third with our friend from International Falls, Kalan Wagner.
I was happy to be back fishing this year because it’s always fun to get to fish on Rainy Lake, and this is a very well-organized event which is a lot of fun for all the anglers.
We spent three days pre-fishing for this tournament—one on the lake and two on the river (it traditionally has been a lot tougher for us than the lake so we wanted to get in as much time as we could out there).
The thing that makes the river so tough is that the water levels always are changing, especially during this time of year for some reason, so it’s never the same from year to year.
We have learned some good areas on the lake over the years, so it’s just a matter of breaking things down to figure out where the fish are based on the conditions and weather the day of the tournament.
Half of the field fishes the river and the other half the lake on each day of the tournament. A coin flip at the rules meeting the night before the event determines where anglers will fish each day—based on even or odd boat numbers.
We were put on the lake the first day, which we were happy with because it looked like the weather was going to be a little bit nicer on Day 1. One thing about Rainy Lake is the smallmouth bass there love sun and heat, and it pushes them up into shallow water.
Once things warmed up by mid-morning, the fishing got really good and we were able to put together a limit that weighed 17.50 pounds—one of our best ever at this tournament.
We caught most of our fish by casting small tube jigs to isolated boulders we could see along the shoreline. If there were a few weeds around the boulder, we could almost call our shot.
At the end of the weigh-in on Day 1, we were in third place. Two other teams on the lake beat us—with the Minnesota team of Mark Fisher and Dave Skallet bringing in a monstrous limit weighing 19.40 pounds to hold down first place.
Brett Meyers and Nathan Brigham of Emo, meanwhile, had five smallmouths for 17.75 pounds to sit in second.
Scott and I were worried because Brigham and Meyers typically are really strong on the river and know it as well as anybody else in the tournament, so we expected they would be tough to beat the next day.
We ended up having a solid Day 2 on the river, catching 15.20 pounds, but it was not enough to match Brigham and Meyers’ catch of 16.10 pounds. They ended up beating us by about a pound and won the tournament.
Scott and I landed in second, which we were happy with.
For more information on the IFBC, visit the tournament website at www.ifallsbass.com