Kenora Walleye Open goes ahead

Since 1988, the Harbourfront in Kenora has been reserved on the second weekend in August for the Kenora Bass International. The KBI as it’s come to be known is among the biggest open, team bass tournaments in Canada, as well as one of the longest running tournaments in North America. Earlier in the year when everything was essentially shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to postpone the KBI for 2020.
The tournament is one of the biggest community events that Kenora hosts all year. It is a big week for our economy with all of the anglers visiting from out of town and spending a week at Lake of the Woods. The tournament relies on significant sponsorship support to make it function the way it does as well as money raised from alcohol sales. The same scenario is relevant to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship as well. It was determined by the tournament committee that it was not appropriate to ask for financial support this year and it was apparent that a beer garden was not going to be possible this summer. So this year’s tournament was cancelled.
Over the past several months it has been accepted that fishing is a safe sport for people to participate in because social distancing guidelines can be followed and the benefits of fishing to our mental health are significant. While it was not a bad decision to cancel any of the fishing tournaments that were scheduled this year, some tournaments have been continuing with social distancing procedures in place and it has seemed to work out okay. Limiting the number of anglers waiting to weigh in so there are not large lines, the wearing of masks and no hand shaking has made it possible to hold events that focus on the fishing without the social activities that often surround these events. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to include the social aspects that surround these tournaments that make them fun for so many.
The Kenora Walleye Open has been happening on Lake of the Woods for the past five years in early July. Earlier in the spring it was pushed to later in the summer, finally landing on the same weekend that the KBI was scheduled to happen. It worked out well for organizer JP Kennedy because several teams already had the week booked off because they were planning to fish KBI and as it turned out the weather was excellent over the past week.
111 teams signed up for the tournament this year, a little less than normal but that is simply because the couple dozen teams that typically come from the U.S. were not able to attend this year. It was a great turnout, showing that anglers in central Canada were excited to participate in a fishing tournament.
Under the typical format for the tournament, teams can bring in four walleye to be weighed. One of which can be over 23” while the other three must be under 18”. I have to commend Kennedy for changing the format this year to save some of the bigger walleyes in the lake. Instead of bringing the big fish in to be weighed, teams are measuring them, taking a picture of the length and then letting the fish go immediately where they are caught. They are then bringing in the three smaller fish to be weighed.
With the warm temperatures right now, both the air and the water temperatures, it would make it tough to keep large walleyes alive in a livewell. This is especially true for walleyes caught in deep water, where a lot of them will be found right now. The smaller walleyes are much easier to keep alive and the anglers are penalized for bringing in stressed or dead fish so they are taking all the precautions necessary to keep the fish alive.
The walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods is World-class so you know that there would be plenty of big fish caught over the weekend. It did not disappoint, with several ten pound plus fish being caught, measured, photographed and released. It makes me happy to see all of the big fish.
The Manitoba team of Paul Janzen and Justin Hebert won the tournament with a two day total of 30.04 pounds. Their catch included a walleye in the eight pound range and one over ten pounds on day two to go along with six solid slot fish under 18” in length. Jamie Bruce of Kenora and Matt Rydberg of Sioux Narrows took second with 29.60, while Brett Robinson and Sebastien Despatie of Wawa and Hearst took third.
Kennedy said that the tournament will move back to early July next year and hopefully the KBI will be back on the schedule for the second week of August in 2021.