The Kenora Bass International tournament took place this past weekend and it was another great event with plenty of big bass brought across the scales. The tournament, which started back in 1988 is one of the longest running annual fishing events in North America. Over the years there have been many directors and volunteers involved in putting this event together and for that, hundreds of anglers are grateful.
Like many tournaments across the region last year, the weights for the 2021 KBI were excellent throughout the top half of the field, as high as ever. Heading into this year’s tournament, anglers were faced with much different conditions with the high water levels, late spring and significantly stained water. It was almost a completely different lake from a year ago.
Our approach for this year was to concentrate on fishing shallow and taking advantage of all of the new cover in the lake. Flooding is more common on the man-made reservoirs where many of the US tournaments that I fish take place and one general rule that I’ve learned is that bass will move shallow when waterbodies flood. When the water starts to fall, they move out. Anytime we get to fish a bass tournament on Lake of the Woods, we’re usually going to mix in some largemouth fishing as well. So, fishing shallow for largemouths sounded like a good plan.
As is often the case with fishing tournaments, things seldom work out exactly like you think they are going to.
Chris Savage and I have fished the KBI together for over twenty years so we are on the same page for how we like to fish. We’ve had plenty of good days over the years and some tough ones. We are fishing to win so we take some risks that maybe I wouldn’t in a pro tournament but that’s what you have to do sometimes. We spent a few days prefishing for the tournament and tried some different areas of the lake but after not really finding anything that we thought was really good, we decided we would focus our efforts on some areas that have been good in the past.
We ended up having a tough tournament, eventually ending up with a 20th place finish. While the finish was not terrible, we did end up in the money, our standards are high and our expectations were for a better finish. We had three days of mediocre weights and just failed to make contact with some of the big bass that you need to make a run at the top ten. Each day was a grind for us.
The 2001 KBI champions, Oliver and Jason Gibbons, took the trophy back to Morson this year, catching 57.18 pounds over the three tournament days, one of the bigger totals in tournament history. They are one of the top all-time teams in KBI history so it was good to see them pull it off again, all these years later. Chatting with Oliver after the tournament he said it felt pretty good because he knows how hard it is to actually win the tournament again, after several second and third place finishes over the years.
Second place went to Ian Waterer and Motei Demers as they continue their hot streak through the Sunset Country bass tournament scene. Bryan Gustafson and Jamie Bruce were third with three consistent days of fishing.
Another huge thank you to all of the volunteers and sponsors who make the KBI happen. It is one of the biggest events that we have in Kenora all year and it takes a lot of time and effort to pull off. The crowd under the Whitecap Pavilion was one of the best that I can remember on Saturday afternoon for the final weigh-in. It was impressive to see and it makes all of the teams that get pulled through the tent for the final top-ten boat parade fell pretty good. I already can’t wait for next year’s tournament!