Success on Rainy Lake

The 14th-annual International Falls Bass Championship took place this past weekend and a full field of 60 teams competed for two days on Rainy Lake and the Rainy River.
The tournament has evolved over the years from the format it started with where teams competed on the U.S. side of Rainy Lake for one day and the Rainy River for one day.
Three years ago, the lake was opened up to include the Canadian side of the south arm of Rainy Lake with the boundaries being that boats could not go under any bridges.
This opened up significant water that anglers could fish on the lake and included some better bass water in Canada.
The past couple of years the format changed again, giving anglers the option to fish either the Lake or the River in the tournament. It’s interesting because in the early years of the event, the River always kicked out the most weight and the fishing was really good.
Over the years the River got to be more challenging, usually because the water levels often drop significantly when the tournament is going on and it would make the fishing tough.
That inconsistency has led to more big catches coming from the lake.
Scott Dingwall and I have fished the tournament together since it started back in 2005 and have had some good fortune over the years with several first-place finishes.
Last year we had two amazing days on the lake and ended up winning. This year we went back with the game plan of duplicating what worked for us last year.
We spent three days prefishing before the tournament and quickly learned that the conditions and the fishing was not quite the same as it was at this time last year.
Last year we caught all of our fish in deeper water and found schools of bass on several humps and deeper main lake structure.
Through three days of practice we caught a couple of big smallmouths in deeper water so we knew there were some out there but we did not see the numbers that we saw last year.
Our game plan heading into the tournament was to try some of the deeper stuff that we found fish on and then move shallower in the afternoon to fill out our five fish limit if we had to.
On day one, the plan worked out well as we caught a few four pound plus smallmouths in the morning then moved shallower in the afternoon to finish off our limit.
We didn’t catch very many bass but they were good quality and our 20.51 pound limit landed us in second place.
The father and son team of John and Eric Ruud captured a 21.57 pound limit on day one that included three big largemouth bass to take the lead. While a few largemouths are usually weighed in each year in this tournament, they are not that common on Rainy.
I have never caught one out there but there have been several five and six pound fish weighed in over the years.
We struck with our plan of fishing deeper water on day two and visited a different part of the lake where we caught a few fish in practice.
It was a slow start to the day as we only had a couple of bass in the boat by lunch time but an afternoon flurry loaded the livewell with a 20.80 pound catch that gave us the victory for the second year in a row.
The Ruud team had a solid second day catch over 18 pounds to finish second.
It’s hard to win any of the tournaments that we have in this area so it feels pretty good when it’s all over.
We could have caught more fish had we focused on shallower water but we didn’t feel like we could have caught the quality that we did in the deeper stuff.
In these tournaments, it’s not about catching numbers, but the five biggest fish you can bring in.
Big thanks to the community of International Falls for putting on another great event!