EWC should still be strong despite lower numbers

The excitement of the final 10 boats coming into the Emo/La Vallee Community Centre this Saturday, and the buzz over what the biggest fish of the weekend will be, probably are going to be the biggest topics of conversations at this weekend’s Emo Walleye Classic.
An almost inevitable discussion point, however, will be the number of teams competing this year.
As of press time, there only were 39 teams set to tackle the Rainy River starting Friday morning. And while EWC chairman Lincoln Dunn is hopeful of a few last-minute entries to get the final number closer to 45, that would be the lowest amount of boats in the event’s history.
The inaugural edition of the EWC back in 2002 had 44 boats taking part. The numbers then continued to grow steadily to a maximum field of 65 anglers in 2007 before they dropped slightly in recent years, with 52 teams competing a year ago.
While some may worry about the viability of an event like the EWC if numbers are lower than they have the been in the past, in my opinion it’s just a microcosm of the current economic climate we are living in.
As Dunn himself said in article in our Emo Walleye Classic preview section with this week’s Times, events like fishing tournaments are considered a luxury item and usually are the first to go when belts get tight.
That sort of thing also can be seen with the upcoming Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship in July, which has seen its entries fall from 124 three years ago to 95 for last year’s tournament.
Lower numbers aren’t just an issue, though, when it comes to fishing events.
In a sport that’s near and dear to my heart (auto racing), many tracks have a hard time trying to keep their car counts high throughout the course of a season, and many facilities have been forced to shut their doors as a result.
However, those tracks that have been around for a long time, such as the Emo Speedway here, are able to adapt and change with the times—and are still around to this day.
You are seeing that sort of thing locally, as well, as the FFCBC adopted a three-flight payoff system for the final day of their tournament last year. And this year’s EWC is seeing a similar system when it comes to its four flights of boats.
There probably are those who are afraid of change, but sometimes you have to switch up certain things to make sure that there is continued interest for those who may want to come in the future.
Dunn’s point, though, about teams deciding to enter at the last minute was something I found a little bit interesting, especially as many anglers stress the importance of pre-fishing prior to a tournament.
While we can debate endlessly what the future will be for fishing tournaments in this region, the big question will be what will happen this year.
Yes, the numbers may not be the 65 boats that we saw in years past, but sometimes in sports it’s about quality and not quantity.
When you look over the event entry list, you have numerous former EWC winners and a number of top anglers who have yet to capture the big trophy, and that alone should make this weekend’s event another memorable one.