Largemouths just weren’t biting this year

The 23rd annual Shaw Kenora Bass International wrapped up Saturday in front of a large crowd at the Harbourfront in Kenora.
Anglers were greeted with nice weather for all three days of the event, and everybody had a great time.
Taking home first place this year was the team of Dennis Mandamin (Whitefish Bay) and Jason Carpenter (Whitedog), who brought in a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth bass that included the big fish of the tournament—a 5.21-pound largemouth on Day 2—for a three-day total of 50.20 pounds.
Mandamin and Carpenter made a big jump in the standings when they brought in the second-largest catch of the tournament on Day 2 that weighed 18.58 pounds.
This moved them into second place going into the final day, when they put 16.36 pounds on the scales.
Second place went to last year’s champions, Matt Rydberg and Brian McNanney. They brought in a 16.94-pound catch on Day 3 that was part of their 48.73-pound total that landed them another solid finish.
These guys are very consistent at bringing in big catches on Lake of the Woods.
The big catch of the tournament was caught by eventual third-place finishers, Behn Carlson and Jon Pearson of Kenora. They had a 19.55-pound haul on Day 1 that included the big fish on that day—a 5.02-pound largemouth.
Chris Savage and I came fourth this year—a finish we were very pleased with at the end of the weekend. Our three-day total of 48.24 pounds left us about two pounds behind the leaders.
It was probably the most gruelling tournament I have ever fished because we experienced such a wide range of ups and downs over the course of the three days.
We had a rough start on the first day as we experienced some mechanical problems in the morning and had to switch boats. This cost us some fishing time, but we still were able to get it together and bring in a good catch on Day 1.
It did not come easy, however. With only 20 minutes to go, we stopped at a small island close to Kenora and Chris caught a 4.60-pound smallmouth—one of the biggest we have ever seen on Lake of the Woods to cull a small 13-inch fish that may not have weighed more than a pound.
This fish made a huge difference in our weight the first day. I guess the moral of this story is never give up!
I want to thank Woodlake Marine and Clearwater Bay Boat Storage for getting my boat fixed up after Day 1 so we were able to use it the rest of the weekend.
Throughout the weekend we just were not catching a lot of fish, indicated by the fact we had one small fish in our catch each of the three days. We did lose some big ones that would have made a difference, but everybody loses some.
That is the luck factor in these tournaments.
We spent the majority of our time fishing for largemouths and they just were not biting as well this year as they have in the past.
Chris and I fished extremely fast on weekend to cover as much water as we could each day. Since we did not have a definite pattern figured out, it was all about covering as much water as we could in order to get our baits in front of fish that wanted to bite.
We caught fish on a variety of lures, including spinnerbaits, topwaters, finesse jigs, and crankbaits.
The interesting thing about the largemouths is that while they did not seem to be snapping last weekend, they did factor into the catches of the top five teams at this year’s SKBI.
Although none of these teams brought 15 largemouths across the scale (the limit is five each day), they all had some big ones as part of their catch at some point during the event.
They simply get bigger than the more plentiful smallmouth and when the fishing is tough as it was last weekend, these big “kicker” fish make a difference.
In related news, Team Canada moved a bit closer to catching up to Team USA in the annual Can/Am Challenge. Team Canada won the Frank Townsend Trophy this year to bring the all-time score to 13-10 for the Americans.
Canada has now won three years in a row.
Overall, the SKBI was a huge success again this year. I have heard only positive feedback from the anglers and everybody who participated had fun.
The site on the Harbourfront was great and the party down at the tent on Saturday night attracted a good crowd and was a lot of fun.
A huge thanks to all the volunteers that made it happen again this year!

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