‘KidPro’ alive and well

Households across the district tune in almost nightly to watch the NHL in action. And when it comes to the Stanley Cup, everyone takes notice.
It is no different with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. And the future of the tournament lies in developing new, young talent to fill the vacancies left as older anglers retire from the competition.
From playing in the earliest Timbits hockey league through high school and junior leagues, we encourage our youth to begin honing their skills. It often is a parent who takes their child on wobbly ankles to the rink, or a friend or relative.
The same holds true in figure skating, soccer, baseball, and every sport that is played.
Fishing is no different. A father taking his son or daughter fishing often begins by hooking a bobber and sinker to a line and letting it drift along. Later, someone shows them how to cast from the shore or dock.
Each fishing experience helps them improve their skills. Somewhere a passion for fishing is developed.
For 17 years, the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship has matched up youth of the community with anglers in the tournament. The purpose was to develop a love of fishing and to give the youngsters a taste of tournament fishing.
Every year, 25 or 30 anglers spent a day on the water showing young boys and girls the excitement of fishing. In fact, one of this year’s anglers got his start in the old paddleboat tournament held on the upper river.
The “KidPro” and the paddleboat tournament have paid handsome dividends. Several of the anglers in the tournament have gotten their start in a boat of a competitive angler.
This year, the KidPro was dropped as an activity leading into the tournament, but a single Missouri fisherman decided it was too important not to continue. Beginning with word of mouth and counting on other fishing friends, he has created a modified fishing experience for young anglers leading into “Bass Week.”
Since he began fishing the tournament in 1996, Phil Bangert has taken a least one young person fishing every year in the KidPro. Several of those young people continue to keep in touch with Phil, letting him know how they are doing in high school and university.
They show up at the tournament just to say hi.
As he says, without the KidPro, he would never have gotten to know so many Fort Frances families.
Phil created a modified set of rules for participation this year. Anglers had to find their young angler. They would choose their day to fish and the hours they would spend with that young person on the water.
They could launch wherever they wanted and would return to that spot.
One of Phil’s original youth anglers went on to become a regular partner of his for several years in the tournament. Anthony Veert, who is fishing the tournament this year, began fishing as a participant in the KidPro.
Bryan Gustafson, as a back-up angler, fished with Joe Thrun when Dean Capra had to drop out of the tournament. Today, Bryan fishes tournaments in Northwestern Ontario and several on the FLW circuit in the southern U.S.
Bryan committed to taking a youth fishing.
Jeff Gustafson, who is successful as an FLW angler, tournament angler in Northwestern Ontario, and television fishing personality, took a young person fishing on Monday.
Many anglers participated this year. Steve Hurlburt, who for medical reasons could not fish this year, has had made three split-grip spinning rods with reels which will be given to three of the kids fishing.
The KidPro is alive and well.

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