While it was disappointing that I missed fishing in the annual Kenora Bass International tournament over the weekend on Lake of the Woods, I made the comment to my long-time tournament partner Chris Savage that if we had fished, we would have probably got our butts whipped.
In the 35-year history of the tournament (congratulations to the KBI on that), more big bass were brought across the stage at the Whitecap Pavilion than any previous year. The team of Adam Bachinsky and Andrew Beernaert didn’t break the all-time tournament-winning weight, but they led a large contingent of teams that brought consistent limits over 18 pounds to scale all weekend. Their three-day total for 15 bass was 58.67 pounds. Chris and I won the tournament back in 2000 with 45 pounds for three days, which would have nearly landed you in the triple digits this year.
I had to hit the road on Saturday for New York where we have our last two Bassmaster Elite Series events over the next couple of weeks but I did attend the weigh-ins the first couple of days. When I arrived on Friday afternoon, there were a parade of 18, 19 and 20 pound limits. In the past there have always been a few big catches in that range over the weekend but the sheer number of big limits caught this year was very impressive.
Several people asked me why I thought the weights continue to grow larger seemingly every year. I think it’s the combination of a number of factors. Anglers are getting better at catching bass. Tackle and equipment on our boats continue to improve. Forward-facing sonar certainly contributes to a few more catches but I would note that it was probably not that big of a factor for most teams in this tournament because a lot of the big fish are coming from shallow water in the south end of the lake.
The smallmouth bass from the southern half of the lake have been dominating the KBI for several years now and this year they really showed out. Another factor is that anglers are traveling farther and are simply learning where to catch fish in that remote part of the lake, south of the Aulneau Peninsula.
Second place went to Kenora anglers Connor Burton and Jeff Engstrom who had a three day total of 57.23 pounds. Coel and Paul Forsyth, also of Kenora, finished third with a three day total of 56.02. While largemouth bass don’t play as much of a factor in the outcome of the tournament as they once did, there were still a few big ones over five pounds brought in.
I have mentioned in past columns that I started fishing the KBI when I was ten years old, but in the couple years before I fished the big tournament, I fished in the Kids KBI off the docks at the Harbourfront. The Kids KBI still goes on today, with a new group of kids fishing off the docks each day of the tournament. It is a great event and all of the kids get a prize. I stopped by the kids tournament on Friday and I was impressed at all of the fish that were caught. Several bass, a couple of nice pike, as well as some perch and walleye. I don’t remember catching anything when I fished the docks, but quite a few of the kids caught fish, which was great to see.
I huge thank you to all of the volunteers that help make the KBI happen every year. Over the 35-year history of the tournament, there have been a lot of great people put in time to make it such a great event for Kenora. The tournament can always use more help so if you have any interest in becoming a volunteer or director, please reach out to the tournament through their website. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to fish next year!