Wrapping up the tournament season

This time of year is always a little bit depressing for those of us who love bass fishing and competing in tournaments around the region.
Although I really enjoy the fall season and all the fun that comes with it, it’s always a little disappointing to know we won’t get another chance to compete against all of our buddies again for eight or nine months.
This past weekend, there were tournaments on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake that saw anglers duke it out for bragging rights for the winter.
On Northwest Bay, Dale LaBelle has had a revival of his Fall Classic, which was a big event in the region through the early-mid 2000s. Though the event has been downsized somewhat from what it was, it still had a good turnout and some big smallmouths were caught.
The format is different than in the past in that teams only bring in three fish instead of the usual five. It also is just a one-day tournament now, with a 30-team limit.
This year, Missouri angler Bill Senter teamed up with Jason Pavleck of International Falls to win the tournament with a three-fish limit weighing 11.82 pounds.
Senter, who is coming off a win a few weeks back at “Bassin’ For Bucks” in Sioux Narrows, apparently is riding quite a hot streak right now.
Second place went to the Fort Frances team of Darrin Ward and Gord Watson, whose 11.64-pound catch also included the big bass of the day at 4.92 pounds.
Jason Cain and Wayne Howard, also from the Fort Frances area, were third (11.22).
Over on Whitefish Bay, it was the 10th-annual Whitefish Bay Fall Classic. Always held on the last weekend in September, this event has seen some of the biggest fish ever caught in Lake of the Woods’ tournaments brought in.
Back in 2010, Darrin and Ray Marcine caught a seven-pound, 10-oz. largemouth that remains the biggest bass I’ve ever heard of from our part of the world. Brian McNanney and Matt Rydberg also brought in a monster 25-pound bag for their five fish the first day that year.
This year, the weights were down significantly from 2010—likely due to the unseasonably warm weather last week.
Although none of the anglers were complaining, there does come a point in the fall when cold weather actually is better for bass fishing because it really helps to congregate the fish on specific locations.
It also heats up their activity level because they want to feed as much as possible before the long winter ahead.
After two days of fishing on Lake of the Woods, Rydberg and McNanney wound up as champions for third time at this tournament with a total of 34.65 pounds of smallmouth bass to win the $4,000 top prize.
Largemouths were just about non-existent this weekend, with very few weighed in and none of significant size. My feeling is the warm weather really just shut them down because the largemouth bite usually is great this time of year.
Mike Reid and I teamed up for this tournament and ended up putting enough fish in the boat to finish second. We weighed in 10 smallmouths for a total of 33.57 pounds.
We caught our fish in shallow water with green pumpkin Impulse tube jigs and shallow running Jackall MC/60 MD crankbaits.
Third place went to Dennis Mandamin and Murphy Paypompee (33.39). The big fish of the weekend was a 4.29-pound smallmouth caught by fifth-place finishers Ted and Louise Stewner.
I’m looking forward to fun fishing over the next few weeks after what has been a very busy summer for me. I did not do the best job of priorizing my schedule this year so the little break coming now that summer is over is going to be welcomed.
All of the crappies, muskies, and walleyes across the region had better look out!