Bass tournament rekindles friendships

Last week, four friends arrived at our cottage. They were up for a week of fishing on Rainy Lake and now all are over 70 years of age, though you wouldn’t know it by their attitude or their stamina on those hot, humid days.
They are a fun group of guys to hang around. On Sunday, I participated in the Safeway KidPro with my friend, Phil Bangert, whom I met for the first time 16 years ago under the big tent when the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship was held on the waterfront.
His partner at the time had slept in and he just wanted to talk. It was his first year in the FFCBC and Phil was enjoying Fort Frances and making friends with the community.
That same year, I met Randy Amenrud, Norm and Dave Lindsay, the Lindner family, Larry Bollig, Larry Hullet, Alex Kezler, and a whole boatload of anglers. Every year we seem to renew those friendships that have developed through our local bass tournament.
Some of the “pros” today were hoping to get picked to be in the Safeway KidPro tournament back then. Others were too young to participate.
This past Sunday, Bryan Gustafson and Andrew Rogozinski, who started fishing in the KidPro, both were taking out young anglers to experience the excitement of fishing. Jeff Gustafson, from Kenora, took two young fishermen out.
Since he started fishing his first FFCBC, multiple champion Joe Thrun has never failed to take a young person out for the Safeway KidPro.
More than 20 youngsters experienced the thrill of competitive fishing on Sunday. And since the tournament’s inception, some 400 young people have fished the KidPro.
Those fishermen who voluntarily found time to take the youth of the area out on the lake are making friends with several generations of families.
Phil and I took a young lady from just outside of Minneapolis out for the day. Her grandmother and mother, who we were introduced to, had made chocolate chip cookies for the boat, and we met Annika Roisin’s three sisters and her dad, who came to watch the launch and weigh-in.
The tournament has introduced me to a great bunch of fishermen and families, many of whom have become friends, and I look forward to renewing friendships with them every year.
Early Monday morning, just as the sun was rising over Ranier, you would have found me at the launching ramp shaking hands with fishermen and wishing them well on the lake. It will be repeated every day this week. And in the evening, I probably will be found wandering from motel to motel, catching up on the latest gossip of what is happening on the water.
After Phil Bangert and I had finished up with the KidPro, Phil met up with Heather Seiders, whom he had taken fishing seven years ago in the KidPro. She is now in university but she wanted to just catch up with the man who had taken an interest in her so many years ago.
Every year they have met up with each other—sometimes for a day fishing, other times to enjoy an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen.
Now most of the fishermen I know can tell great stories. In another life, they probably would be authors of fiction and we would clamour to read their books. Most of the stories are at their own expense, and almost all will bring laughter and smile to your face.
I think that is all part of what I look forward to.
Often times now, with some of the fishermen who are my age, I am hearing the stories of their grandchildren who they are taking fishing. Their faces are beaming.
Years ago, the stories we would tell each other often were of our harrowing mistakes by running a buoy on Rainy Lake on the wrong side, or letting a rod fall overboard while landing our partner’s fish with a net, or forgetting to put the plug in the boat before launching and watching the water seep over the floor boards.
Today, though, the stories are of their granddaughters and grandsons fishing from their boats. The faces beam with pride as they tell those stories of introducing another generation in their family to the thrill of fishing.
For many of the older anglers, they still look to be competitive and look to capture that elusive FFCBC trophy. But more often, the real reason to come to Fort Frances is to rekindle those friendships.
A study published this past year points to increased longevity and health by hanging out with family and friends, and remaining in contact. The study also found that being able to tell great stories contributed to the development of friendship and the bonds that grow from it.
The stories are our way of communicating to others our experiences and tell a lot about ourselves.
Perhaps the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is helping border residents live longer by developing a wider range of friends.

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