While the debate may rage on about the change of venue for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, organizers are adamant—it’s either the arena or bust.
“The choice isn’t where you have it, it’s if you have it,” stressed Doug Cain, site and facilities director for the tournament.
“And the only place we can afford to have it is at the arena.”
Despite the benefits of moving to the Memorial Sports Centre from the Sorting Gap Marina, the reviews from those on hand for the tournament were mixed.
“It is hot in here, it sucks,” declared Ken Ball, who said he only stayed for 10 minutes of the festivities this year.
“I wouldn’t even come to listen to a band in here because the acoustics are so bad,” he added.
Ball noted he’s attended the FFCBC every year since it began.
“Absolutely sucks,” he reiterated, adding he would rather see it back at the Sorting Gap Marina next year.
But not all were pessimistic on the change.
“I think this was phenomenal [on Saturday],” said local Safeway manager Kevin Langford.
“The weigh-ins have been phenomenal and I think it’s a great venue for it.
“I don’t think you can get this many people in the tent with the cheering and the atmosphere,” he noted.
“I think everyone will agree that it’s a nice atmosphere in the evening, so lets just see how the [Saturday night entertainment] goes,” Langford added.
“I got mixed feelings to be honest,” admitted Doug Olson. “Weather-wise, it’s great but outdoors is just outdoors.
“The outdoors is nice, but here you don’t have to worry about the weather.”
Considering the thunderstorm that rolled through town Thursday night, the weather easily could have ruined “Quest for the Best” had it been held under the tent instead of inside at the Ice For Kids Arena..
“I’m glad they tried it to see what it’s like,” Olson remarked. “Maybe next year we will be here again..
But like most people, Olson said he was going to miss the atmosphere down at the river.
“It’s a fishing tournament right by the river, that’s what a lot of people are going to miss,” he reasoned. “You got the smell of the water, the sound of the river.
“But indoors, you don’t have the weather [concerns].”
Olson said he personally would like to see it back at the marina next year. But since the weather could change quickly, he wouldn’t mind seeing it again at the arena.
The anglers took a simple approach to the debate about the venue—whatever it takes to keep the FFCBC going.
“Joe [Thrun] and I were talking about this and Joe made a good point, ‘Whatever is best for the success for the event is how they should do it,’” said Jim Moynagh, a five-time FFCBC champion.
“So if this is better for the success of this event, then I am all for it moving to the arena.
“I’m fine weighing my fish at the arena or the marina,” Moynagh added. “And as long as the fish are well taken care of, that’s important, too, and they do a great job of keeping fish healthy whether it’s here or at the lake.”
“If it saves the tournament, then it is awesome,” echoed John Allen of Green Bay, Wis., who finished in 27th place this year with partner Scott Ourada.
“If it saves them money, then it’s a good thing,” he remarked.
Allen did say it was a lot cooler down at the marina—a problem outgoing FFCBC chairman Tom Fry said will need to be addressed next year.
But for those wishing to see the tournament back at the marina next July, don’t get your hopes up.
“It’s going be here [at the arena] or it’s not going to be at all,” declared Fry.
“I thought it was great, especially from the point of view because most of the things people were concerned about going in were not a concern as the week went on,” he noted.
“And we gained what we expected to gain, which was a big gain on volunteer time.
In fact, Fry said if they had had eight more volunteers out on Sunday, they would have been finished taking down the site.
“We have what I call the ‘geriatric crew’ here right now,” he noted. “There is about seven or eight guys over 50 years old that are tearing this site down, and there should be some young blood to help us out.
“We are going to be out of there hopefully [Monday],” Fry added. “The old site, we wouldn’t have been out of there ’til probably Friday of this week.”
“We didn’t have a lot of volunteers here [Sunday],” echoed Cain. “We basically had five volunteers tops and the rest were board members, so everybody disappears when the party is over.
“If we were at the old site, with the amount of volunteers we have now, it would take us to the Civic Holiday,” he remarked.
“Not that we want less people at the arena, but we can do it with less people,” Cain explained. “[But] we still need the bodies and they did not show up yesterday [Sunday].
“It happens every year and we are disappointed every year.
“Really I don’t want a negative story, but that’s a fact,” Cain stressed.
One of the major concerns for organizers over the venue change was the bass mortality rate.
In years past, the FFCBC typically lost about one percent of all the fish caught, which equates to around 20 fish over the three days.
This year, Fry said they lost 13 fish on Day 1 and eight more on Day 2, which he noted was comparable to the marina.
“That was the one concern the majority of fishermen had,” Fry said. “As a matter of fact, we had fishermen drop out because they were worried they would just be killing fish.
“We proved them wrong. We’ve had 21 in one day at the other site.
“We buried a lot of nay-sayers after the first day, and there wasn’t a lot of pessimistic people by the time it was done,” Fry added.
Although everyone may not agree with the venue change, Fry stressed the public needs to stick with the FFCBC for its success to continue.
“I’m hoping the community stays behind the event,” he remarked.
“The place will obviously not work without the community support, and the entertainment is a part of it so we can raise the money so we can do this,” he noted.