Long-sought win for my dad

The annual Shoal Lake Big Bass Classic was a special one for me this past weekend because I got to watch my dad, Jim Gustafson, and his partner, Dean Smith, whup everybody to win the tournament after fishing in it together for many years.
In fact, it was my dad who mentioned after the tournament that although he has a number of second- and third-place finishes, it was his first victory since he started fishing in bass tournaments 19 years ago.
It was in 1993 that he took me in the KBI for the first time (I was 10 years old) and we have never looked back.
“Smitty” has won a few over the years fishing with his brothers-in-law, Pat James and Bart Stebnitsky, but this one was pretty special because they have been really close several times and have worked hard putting in a lot of time fishing on Shoal Lake over the years.
For their efforts, they took home about $7,500.
They were in third place after Day 1 with a catch that came across the scales at 16.60 pounds. Then they brought in the second-biggest catch of the tournament on Day 2 with an 18-pound bag that also included the big fish of the tournament—a 4.70-pound monster smallmouth.
The highlight on Sunday for my brother, Ben (who also fished in the tournament), and I was seeing how pumped our dad was after everything wrapped up. It was priceless!
Second place on the weekend went to two of my good fishing buddies, Scott Dingwall and Jay Samsal. They really rallied on Sunday after a tough first day and brought in the biggest catch of the weekend at 18.32 pounds.
Their large catch on Day 2 included a pair of big largemouths in the four-pound range.
Overall, largemouth bass were much less of a factor in this tournament than they usually are, likely due to the low water on Shoal Lake. While the water level on Lake of the Woods is nearly back to normal, it’s still at least a foot lower on Shoal Lake.
And for reasons unknown, history has proven that the largemouth fishing is much tougher out there when the water is low.
My partner, Chris Savage, and I ended up with a solid fifth-place finish on the weekend, which we were happy with. Our two-day total of 31.44 pounds was .02 behind fourth-place finishers, Matt Rydberg and Brian McNanney of Sioux Narrows.
The funny thing for them is that was the same margin they beat us by to win the 2009 Shaw Kenora Bass International. Chris and I didn’t think it was that funny!
Third place went to the Crow Rock Camp team of Kurt and Kody Dafcik.
This weekend, the action switches to Lake of the Woods for the Bronzeback Classic, taking place at the old Pizza Hut docks in Kenora on Saturday and Sunday.
A full field of 100 teams is registered, with the weigh-ins starting at 3 p.m. each day.
Down in Fort Frances, out-of-town anglers will be rolling into town this week to get ready for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship taking place next week on Rainy Lake.
My practice is going to be a little bit shorter than normal because I’m fishing the tournament in Kenora this weekend with my fiancé, August, then driving south on Sunday night after the tournament is done so I can get on Rainy Lake bright and early Monday morning.
The week in Fort Frances is always one the highlights of the entire summer for me, so I can’t wait to get down there next week!

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