Finally victorious at ‘Bassin’ tourney

Back in 1996, two of Sioux Narrows’ most passionate and successful bass anglers came up with the idea to have a tournament on the second weekend in September.
Former Kenora Bass International champions Chris Bell and Mel Giesbrecht figured it was a way to give businesses in the town an extra weekend of action late in the season, as well as showcase the excellent fishing opportunities around the Sioux Narrows area of Lake of the Woods.
They decided to have a three-day event, where teams won money for their daily performance and their aggregate totals. They also limited teams to the Whitefish Bay area of Lake of the Woods, so everyone had to fish the Sioux Narrows area.
It was an original format that’s still very popular with anglers today.
Mike Reid and I were 13 years old in 1996 but we still managed to get into the tournament. Mike grew up in Sioux Narrows and knew the lake pretty well because his father, Doug, had taken him along on many fishing and hunting trips when he was a kid.
We fished out of a 14-foot Lund with a 30 h.p. motor. We used a cooler for a livewell, which we had to bail water in and out of with a bucket.
We had fun, though. I still can remember that Day 2 of that tournament was when both of us really caught the largemouth bass bug.
We practised for a few evenings that first year, because we were still in school, and found some smallmouths on main lake islands in Whitefish Bay.
Day 1 didn’t go as well as we would have liked. But on the way in, we saw a big white pine in the water on the main channel just west of the Sioux Narrows bridge.
We pulled in and cast black worms in by the tree.
We caught two decent largemouths but had to leave to make it back to check-in on time.
The next day, we caught a limit of largemouths fishing close to Sioux Narrows. And from that point on, we have dedicated ourselves to fishing for largemouth bass in tournaments on Lake of the Woods when the opportunity presents itself.
Over the years, it has paid off for both of us—both fishing together in this tournament and against each other at other ones.
After several good finishes in this tournament, we both were really hungry to try and win it this year. We spent four days pre-fishing last week prior to the event and really made the most out of our time.
For the last five or six years, we have fished the same general area of the lake—it’s an area we both love to fish and have a lot of confidence in. But we spent two of our practice days there and had really mediocre results.
We also spent two days fishing other areas of the lake and found some better quality fish. We felt like if we just relied on our memories, which is what we usually do, we were taking a big gamble because the fish just weren’t on those spots as good as the have been in the past.
So we mixed some of our old spots with some new areas, and ended up having a great weekend.
Over the course of the three days, we weighed in a mixed bag of seven smallmouths and eight largemouths for a combined total of 55.44 pounds and finally won the tournament.
The highlight of the event for us was catching a 7.19-pound largemouth on Day 3. It was the biggest bass I’ve ever caught in Canada and the second-biggest that I’ve ever heard of in a Sunset Country tournament.
Kenora angler Darren Marcine caught a seven-pound, 10-oz. Lake of the Woods fish in 2010 at a late fall tournament in Whitefish Bay.
We were struggling on the third day and ran several miles from the main area we were fishing to hit a little spot that Mike had caught a big fish on in practice.
We had fished it each of the first two days without catching a big fish.
But on the third day we tried again—and that was where I caught the big one.
That big fish really made our catch on Day 3. It was quite the rush when we finally got it in the net after a chaotic fight that lasted about two minutes (we had to actually chase it with the trolling motor!)
It also was pretty humbling to catch such a big bass on an actual tournament day.
We have spent as much time as anyone bass fishing on Lake of the Woods over the past 15 years and I’ve never caught a fish even close to as big as this one was.
That is the reason we fish for largemouth bass, though, because there is always that surprise factor that you could catch a really big fish (in the five-pound plus range).
It’s really tough to do that with smallmouths, though their numbers are greater.
It’s not easy to catch a five-pound largemouth, but the opportunity just exists a little bit more.
Second place went to the team of Ted and Louise Stewner, who had a 50.02-pound total. They are past champions of “Bassin’ For Bucks” and contenders in all the tournaments that they fish (they won the Shoal Lake Bass Classic back in the July).
Kenora anglers Jeff Engstrom and Connor Burton rounded out the top three, bringing in solid limits all three days of the tournament for a total of 47.75 pounds.
After all these years, “Bassin’ For Bucks” still is a premier event in the region.
They usually always fill out the 120-boat maximum field, though were a few short this year only because of a couple of last minute drop-outs.
For more information on the event, visit