Terrific people made for terrific tournament

The success of the Emo Walleye Classic isn’t something that just happens.
The annual fishing derby’s popularity with both the anglers and the public is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by a group of people who largely remain in the background.
The spectators see the anglers, and the fish, but what they don’t see are the organizers, sponsors, and the all-important volunteers.
As someone who is has witnessed this spectacle twice (once as a reporter and once as a competitor), I am still amazed at the way things run so smoothly and without anybody getting cranky.
The scene at the dock for the launch and recovery operations, for example, looks at a glance like chaos, but is, in fact, a carefully-orchestrated symphony of people, boats, and trailers that somehow manages to get where they’re supposed to be—and on time.
Special kudos go out to the two guys who stood up to their thighs in the 12 C water to load the returning boats onto trailers at the loading ramp for more than an hour on both days.
Their ordeal was further prolonged by the strong current and stronger winds that resulted in several teams having to make a second attempt to get properly lined up (OK, in my case it was three attempts).
Then there are the sponsors, without whom many of us would not have been able afford the entry fee, let alone the other expenses associated with preparing for a derby such as this.
That’s why I want to thank the Fort Frances Times and the Emo Dental Clinic, which paid the entry fee for me and my partner, Patrick Langevin, respectively. But the generosity didn’t stop there.
First, we needed a boat. That’s where Tom Mosbeck of Tompkins Hardware in Emo really stepped up to the plate.
You see, the one essential component for a fishing tournament (or even an outing) is a boat. And we didn’t have one.
So Patrick put his considerable powers of persuasion to work and he managed to convince Tom to provide us with one.
And judging by the number of people (usually kids) who came up to wish us luck, it would appear Patrick has the largest pediatric dental practice in the district, which would account for his skills as negotiator.
The boat was an Alumacraft with a 30-h.p. Yamaha motor—hardly an imposing package but as history revealed, the race goes not always to the swift.
Our little boat turned out to be perfect for our purposes as the motor was small enough to produce just the right speed for trolling without stalling or fouling. We ran that puppy non-stop throughout the two-day tournament and it never let us down.
Thank you, Tom. We’ll be back next year.
There also are a lot of incidental expenses involved in preparing for a tournament like this if you hope not to embarrass yourself—which was our primary goal.
Lures, bait, a new rod and reel, fresh line, and most of all, gas for the boat, amounted to a lot of money. Again, we were fortunate to find people who offered to help us with the expenses.
Bonnie Bender of the Hair and Body Care Shoppe in Emo was most generous, as were Reeve Russ Fortier, the Emo councillors, and clerk Brenda Cooke. Each dipped into their own pockets (not the taxpayers’) to help us cover the costs.
Patrick’s imagination led him to decide we needed to spice up the parade of boats, so he arranged for North Air Services in Fort Frances to provide a limousine to haul our boat.
His young patients also inundated us with drawings, with which we covered the gunwales of the boat from bow to stern. To top it off, Yowza Music Services of Emo lent us a bubble machine and generator, which combined with a CD player, made our float something pretty hard to miss or forget.
And former Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon (Witherspoon’s One Stop) provided us with minnows for both days of the tournament. As it turned out, we never used them, but it was comforting to know they were there as a back-up.
This generosity of spirit extended to the competitors themselves.
Last Monday, we went pre-fishing with Marlin Carr, who showed us his favourite spots while we showed him ours and detailed our game plan to him.
Then on Thursday evening during the rules meeting at the Emo arena, Marlin came up to me and explained how a friend of his had had to bow out of the tournament and he was asked to substitute at the last minute for Team #47.
He assured me he would stay away from the spots we showed him and would not disclose our game plan to any of the other anglers.
Marlin was as good as his word, so I was particularly happy to see him in second place at the end of Day One and found myself secretly cheering for him to win it all.
As it was, he finished two positions ahead of us in sixth place, which just goes to show nice guys don’t always finish last.
All in all, it was an exhausting, fun-filled three days and well worth the work and preparation we put into making sure we didn’t come back skunked. Now I can’t wait until next year, when, as top 10 finishers, we’ll receive an automatic invitation to return as Team #8 and the honour of starting in the first flight on Day One.
Bring it on!