Smallmouths smash record at KBI 2015

The 28th-annual Kenora Bass International will go down as one of the more memorable in tournament history thanks to some new records being set over the weekend.
Tournament champions, Jon O’Connor and Byron Sharp, Winnipeg residents who grew up in Northwestern Ontario, absolutely smoked the rest of the field with a three day total of 57.04 pounds, the highest three day total in the history of the event.
They broke the previous record of 53.92 pounds set by Norm Lindsay and Bill Godin, when they won the tournament in 2006.
On day two of the event, eventual second place finishers Oliver and Jason Gibbons set a record that may never be broken when they brought in a five fish limit weighing 22.20 pounds. The previous record was set last year by Jamie Bruce and Bryan Gustafson when they brought in 20.69 pounds.
Since the tournament started there have only been five bags ever brought in that have moved the scale past the 20 pound mark. O’Connor and Sharp also did it this past weekend when they brought in 20.40 pounds of smallmouths to scale on day two.
The record catch that the Gibbons boys brought in on day two consisted of five largemouth bass, which included the tournament big fish weighing 6.30 pounds, but it was especially notable because outside of the Gibbons, largemouths were barely a factor in the tournament this year.
One other team in the top ten weighed in some largemouths.
Over the past 20 years, largemouths have played a major factor in winning the tournament in all but a handful of years.
Though there are fewer of them in the lake, largemouths do get bigger so they get a lot of attention from anglers during the week of the KBI.
For some reason, however, the trend seems to be going downhill for largemouth bass in Lake of the Woods.
I’m not sure if it is just from angling pressure because these fish are only located in isolated areas of the lake that have the shallow, weedy habitat that they prefer or if it is due to changes in the weed growth around the lake.
There seems to be less and less of the lush, green coontail weed that largemouths prefer every year.
I guess we’ll just have to see what happens moving forward.
This year’s tournament was one to forget for Chris Savage and I. After finding a couple of areas that seemed to have a few largemouths around in the days leading up to the tournament, we were optimistic that we would do okay.
We covered as much of the lake as anybody over the course of the event but had three very mediocre days that landed us in 42nd place at the end of three days. This was by far the worst finish that Chris and I have had since we started fishing together in 2000.
Looking back, we don’t really have a lot of regret. We gamble on fishing the way that we feel might give us the best chance to win the tournament, rather than play it safe and try to maybe just get inside the top ten.
The problem is, we need to learn that when things are not happening on the largemouth program that we need to fish for smallmouths and still put together a good tournament. We will definitely be back again next year to try and get back to the top of the pack.
The KBI has an absolutely great group of directors that volunteer many hours to make this one of the biggest events of the year in Kenora.
I attend the monthly meetings when I can as an angler advisor so I see how much time these folks contribute from their own lives to put on this bass tournament, so thank you all so very much for putting on another great event.