Howard brothers claim LaBelle’s tourney

That’s what it must have felt like for John Guzej and Ted Stewner when they stood on the stage at the Rainy Lake Fall Bass Classic on Sunday afternoon at LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp.
After taking the top spot away from Alex/Darell Keszler and Scott Ourada/John Allen, who were tied with 39 pounds each, the Winnipeg duo had to wait to see if three other teams could top their weight of 40.78 pounds in the two-day tournament that attracted 78 teams.
Mike and Sandy Salvador rolled in on the quad from the dock, needing 19.63 pounds to overtake the lead. They got 16.96 pounds.
Next up was Bill and Sara Galusha, who needed 19.29 pounds. Instead, they only weighed in 10.96.
So things were looking good right?
Well, it also seemed that way during the 2003 and 2004 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, when Guzej and Stewner stood on the stage clinging to the lead with only one team left to come through the big tent.
The only problem was that team was the tandem of James and Bill Lindner, who would win the FFCBC crown both those years.
And unfortunately for them, the Fall Bass Classic proved to be no different.
Wayne and Dean Howard still were left and when they came up with their basket, the crowd knew it was going to be tight.
They would need 19.21 pounds—and got 20.36.
“We thought it would be close, but I didn’t think we had 20 pounds. I thought maybe 19,” said Wayne, who split the $5,000 first-place cheque with his younger brother.
When Guzej was reached for comment before stepping into his cabin at Birch Point Camp, his first comment was: “Second place again—put that in the paper.”
Guzej was smiling, of course, and when he looked over the final weights, he was quick to credit the Howard brothers, who beat him and Stewner by a comfortable 1.16 pounds.
“Those guys smoked us,” said Guzej. “They beat us by what, over a pound? We had no chance of beating them.”
The victory was unexpected for Dean Howard, but he likes the feeling of winning (who doesn’t?) and he hopes to taste it more often.
“Hopefully, we’ll be on the stage more often in the future,” said Dean, the owner/operator of Campfire Island on Rainy Lake and competing in his second Falls Bass Classic with his brother.
(Wayne fished the first two years of the tournament with a different partner).
The Fall Bass Classic traditionally has some of the biggest weights of all the tournaments. You only have to look at its name for a hint as to why.
The bass—especially the females—have been stuffing themselves silly with smelt all season long to prepare for the winter. Now that it’s fall, they’re fatter than Donald Trump’s wallet.
“They’ve just been putting on the weight for the winter and are just getting fat,” noted Wayne Howard.
Just look at the Day 1 weigh-in on Saturday, which saw Frank McClymont and Ron Wihebrink’s 19.78-pound total not even crack the top 10.
And if you looked a little closer, you’d see that a weight like 18.06 pounds, which was brought in by Corey Curtis and Todd Grennier) wasn’t enough to make the top 20.
“We knew there were going to be a lot of good fishermen in the tournament and most of them would be on the fish, and it was going to take a pretty big bag of fish to win,” said Howard.
“We come because of the big fish,” noted Stewner, who didn’t feel that bad about coming in second place this year considering he won the first two Falls Bass Classic titles.
“The fishery is phenomenal, probably the best fishing in all of Ontario right now,” added Stewner, who split the $2,500 second prize with Guzej. “We don’t have bass fishing like this anywhere in Winnipeg and that’s why we come.”
It was the wind that proved to be Guzej and Stewner’s downfall, but what’s ironic is that rough weather usually translates into success for them.
They had been pre-fishing on Rainy Lake since Tuesday and were bagging at least 20 pounds a day, but when a strong wind greeted them Sunday morning, they didn’t know what kind of day they were in for.
“Usually we like the rough weather, but the fish just didn’t want to play today,” smiled Guzej.
“We though we’d be in for a big haul, but this is fishing and you never know what can happen,” echoed Stewner. “This is a tournament so there are a lot more guys on your spot, so things change a lot.”
For the Howard brothers, the wind—which created waves as high as three feet on parts of the lake according to some anglers—was a welcome forecast because it cleared the smaller bass boats from the larger stretches of water.
“We love the wind,” said Dean Howard.
Emcee Paul Morrison announced the Keszlers as the third-place winners, worth $1,400, as ties were decided by which team brought in the bigger bag, leaving Ourada and Allen in fourth place ($1,000).
Rounding out the top five was the duo of Steve Ballan and Doug McBride, who were named “Kings of the River” after winning the Emo Walleye Classic earlier this spring and then the Rainy River Walleye Tournament last month.
Their 38.58-pound total at the Falls Bass Classic earned them $750.
Rounding out the top 10 were Bob Miller and Scott Schinderle (38.36 pounds), Mike and Sandy Salvador (38.12), Bill Senter and Brian Durham (37.74), Davis Viehbeck and Jason Cain (37.38), and Darrin Ward and Karl Wolff (37.36).
And though the tournament part of the 2005 fishing season is now done, the 158 anglers who got to spend two days on one of Ontario’s best fisheries are happy to see the “little tournament that could” is now the “little tournament that is.”
“It’s an excellent tournament and a great way for us to end the season,” said Wayne Howard. “All of the anglers appreciate the one last hoorah [this] tournament serves.”