Anglers excited about ‘Kid-Pro’ tourney

Forget the real deal. Tom Burri figures the can’t-miss event of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is the annual Kid-Pro tournament.
And if the choice was his, the International Falls angler isn’t sure whether he’d be taking a youngster out on Rainy Lake—or riding shotgun and trying to pick up a thing or two from one of the many high-profile anglers who volunteer their time to take part in the one-day event.
“For the first few years, I thought I’d put my name in the ‘Kid-Pro’ and see if I could get paired with Al Lindner or Norm Lindsay,” joked Burri, who finished 17th at last year’s FFCBC—his best showing in five cracks at the derby crown.
The Kid-Pro event, which is open to aspiring anglers aged 10-14, has been an institution at the bass tournament here since it was added to the schedule in 1998.
This year, a total of 38 kids—each teamed with at least one adult tournament angler—will hit the water this Sunday (July 17).
As a youngster, Burri had a few opportunities to go fishing with more experienced anglers and said he benefited greatly from their tips and suggestions.
“Without that, I guess I wouldn’t be doing it,” he remarked. “I guess I’m returning the favour.
“I would’ve died to fish with Al Lindner when I was a kid,” he added. “That would just be great.”
While no members of the famed Lindner family are slated to take part in this year’s Kid-Pro tournament, the line-up still is littered with many well-known names, including seven past FFCBC champions—Norm and Dave Lindsay, Steve and Kent Ballan, Denis Barnard, Clint Barton, and Joe Thrun.
In all, more than 70 pro anglers will accompany the youngsters out on the lake.
FFCBC competitor Rob Plumridge never took part in the Kid-Pro tournament, but, as a 12-year-old, he did get the chance to spend a morning on Rainy Lake with veteran angler Phil Bangert from Missouri.
Bangert invited Plumridge to compete with him against the “big boys” the following year, and the pair have been competing together in the FFCBC—and the Kid-Pro event—ever since.
“I just like being able to take a kid out fishing–that’s how I started,” said Plumridge, now 19. “It’s like any hobby, you get something out of it and giving that to somebody else is nice.”
With only a few exceptions, the Kid-Pro tournament is governed by the same rules as the actual FFCBC. The one major difference, organizer Karla Rogozinski noted, is that the fish are released almost immediately after they are caught.
Instead of storing them in live-wells to be weighed on shore, the fish are measured to determine an estimated weight while the youngsters are armed with cameras to snap photos of their catch.
“They still get to have the memories of the fish they caught, they just don’t bring them in to get weighed,” Rogozinski said.
Last year, 11-year-old Alyssa Klupak, with a little help from local anglers Guy Johnston and Doug Wright, reeled in an estimated total of 12.49 pounds to best the 38 other participants and win the one-day event.
Because Kid-Pro participants only are eligible to compete once, a whole new group of challengers will vie for bragging rights as this year’s champ.
While Burri said many of the youngsters are very competitive, it’s not hoisting the Kid-Pro trophy that they relish most, but rather the opportunity to learn more about the techniques and equipment used.
“They’re probably overwhelmed with so much information,” he said. “They’re full of fire and they’ve got plenty of questions.”
“They’re all eager and happy to learn,” echoed Plumridge. “They’re all there because they want to be out fishing.”
Win or lose, the youngsters usually are tickled just to be sharing the boat with one or more of the FFCBC competitors.
“Right away when they strap on their life jackets . . . and they see the great big boat they’ll be riding in, they just can’t believe it,” Burri said. “Once we fire up the motors, their smiles just get bigger and bigger.”
Sunday’s Kid-Pro gets underway at 8 a.m., with the teams expected off the lake no later than 3 p.m. The awards ceremony is slated for 3:30 p.m. under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.