Champs were true first-class act

When planning out our Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship coverage here in the newsroom in the days leading up to the 16th-annual event, I was told to keep my ears to the ground for stories beyond just the winning team.
One off-the-cuff example was to look for a team that may not have fared well in the standings, but demonstrated some excellent sportsmanship.
As luck would have it, it was the winning team of Dorian Lindholm and Bill Wilcox who displayed some exemplary sportsmanship on Saturday, coming to the aid of Jason Pavleck and Bill Walls of International Falls.
As Lindholm and Wilcox were cruising back to the Sorting Gap Marina in anticipation of weighing in their 18.14-pound haul to clinch the FFCBC crown, they noticed Pavleck and Walls trying to flag them down because one of the gears had conked out.
With only a few minutes to spare, the duo made room in one of their live-wells for Pavleck and Walls’ equally impressive 15.65-pound bag, which was good enough to help them to a ninth-place finish overall.
Pavleck also rode with the pair back to the landing, allowing him to participate in the top 10 boat parade through the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Going 70 m.p.h. without being behind the wheel was a thrill for Pavleck, an admitted “speed junkie,” but he had some other things on his mind, as well.
“It was a pretty intense ride,” he recalled. “[But] I just wanted to make sure they [Lindholm and Wilcox] got back without any penalties.
“I didn’t want that to be on me.”
There was some luck involved, too. Pavleck said the duo told him they only took the channel where he and Walls had broken down on a bit of a whim—almost taking a different route back to the check-in.
“I figured we were done for,” admitted Pavleck. “They could have just driven on by. They could have said, ‘No, we’re leading.’
“You couldn’t meet two nicer guys. . . .They’re one-in-a-million.”
Talking to both Lindholm and Wilcox after the tournament, it was clear there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in helping out the down-on-their-luck duo.
“No problem. If somebody’s broke down, you help ’em out,” stressed Lindholm. “You hate to see a person get stranded, and the young fellas, they’ve only been in it for two years.
“They had a nice bag of fish.”
“They said, ‘Man, we’re in seventh place and we’ve got a good bag,’” noted Wilcox.
“We said, ‘Well, we’re in first place and we’ve got a good bag, too.’
“‘Get your fish in here right now, hurry up!’” he finished.
It also was likely that Lindholm and Wilcox were the pair’s last chance to get to shore as it was late in the day and they were on an isolated part of Rainy Lake.
“We were on our way back in, and from what I understand, we were the last boat,” Lindholm remarked.
“They didn’t expect to see any other tournament boats to be coming through.
“When they seen us, they seen the rooster tail and they were like, ‘Oh, God, another tournament boat,’ so they flagged us down.
“They were so excited when we told them we’d bring one of them in,” Lindholm added.
“We put all our fish in one of the live-wells, they put all their fish in another live-well.”
Wilcox noted he and Lindholm had left plenty of time to return to the Sorting Gap Marina, meaning that stopping to help didn’t put them in jeopardy of being late.
“We had 15 minutes extra, and it took them five minutes to get in, so we still had 10 minutes, but we were still 40 minutes away when we picked them up,” he recounted.
Lindholm just hoped a fellow angler would return the favour if he ever found himself in such a position. “I hope somebody does that for me if I break down,” he said.
Pavleck felt the same way, saying he would repay the favour. He also said he “couldn’t even explain” the relief he felt when Lindholm and Walls pulled up.
“I couldn’t express enough thanks,” said Pavleck. “I think they got tired of hearing it.”
Pavleck added he and Walls plan to stay in contact with Wilcox and Lindholm, and even have invited Wilcox back up from Texas to go fishing.
• • •
Blair Dingwall may have been in his first year as a captain in the FFCBC, but this wasn’t his first rodeo.
At 17, the Dryden native already was fishing in his fourth FFCBC, this time with Jeremy Kennedy, also 17.
“We had a lot of fun together,” said Dingwall, who fished with his brother, Scott, last year and Phil Bangert twice before that. “We learned a lot, but we struggled.”
The pair finished in 76th place with 29.46 pounds in Dingwall’s first year in command.
“It’s a lot more pressure on me,” Dingwall admitted. “I have to know the water and be more in charge.
“[I just] want to keep getting experience and doing what I’m doing.”
Although 2010 went down as a tough one for the youngest team, Dingwall thinks he and Kennedy are in a decent position for years to come.
“We experimented this year with a new area, and we started to learn that a little more as the week went on,” he noted. “We’ll probably stick with that, figure it out a little bit more each year.
“It was a lot of fun fishing with Jeremy, and hopefully next year we can put up a better performance.”
By contrast, the oldest FFCBC team of Randy and Brian Amenrud, from Ham Lake, Mn. and Coon Rapids, Mn., respectively, had a combined age of 137 (compared to 34) and brought in Thursday’s biggest fish at 4.84 pounds.
Overall, the brothers finished 47th with 38.80 pounds.
• • •
The move to the Memorial Sports Centre seemed to be a successful one all in all.
There was a gnashing of teeth from the anglers and public alike when the venue change was first announced, with reasonable concerns ranging from care of the fish to the atmosphere.
Although the number of dead fish only was available for the Thursday and Friday, losing about 10 per day (21 over those two days) reportedly is about average, so the hiccups to be expected with a change in venue seemed to have been conquered quickly.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere inside the ’52 Canadians Arena improved as the three days progressed—from a worrisome few by the time Thursday’s weigh-ins wrapped up to a rollicking house for Saturday’s final day, including the top 10 boat parade.
Having only arrived in Fort Frances back in December, I can’t compare the atmosphere to some of the past tournaments held at the Sorting Gap Marina. But if the cheers heard on Saturday are any indication, then it would seem as though the learning curve for organizers flattened out each day—resulting in a good time at the weigh-ins.
The transition wasn’t perfect, as both arenas were hot and muggy on Saturday, but that’s a favourable payoff for having the shelter available for Thursday’s “Quest for the Best” when a thunderstorm rolled through town.
Mother Nature was raining down a proverbial zoo of animals that no doubt would have made times miserable for the audience and performers at the tent.
Organizers stressed that, in the end, the move saved numerous volunteer hours, which hopefully helped to relieve some stress on the already over-taxed volunteer base.
Maybe the Memorial Sports Centre, at its best, pales in comparison to the Sorting Gap Marina at its best, but it seems like a certainty that the reverse holds true, as well.

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