James Lindner is still the man to beat.
The two-time defending champion hasn’t lost a beat with his new partner, Mike Hehner, as the duo reeled in 21.10 pounds Thursday to lead the 11th-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship after the first day.
“It was awesome,” said Hehner, of Baxter, Mn., taking over for Bill Lindner, who is missing the FFCBC this year to be home for the birth of his first child.
Hehner fished the tournament for the first time last year with Chip Leer and finished tied for 84th.
“James put us on where we need to be and we got them to bite right away, and then we started moving around looking for others,” Hehner added.
Lindner, who also hails from Baxter, noted how Hehner had caught the first five fish of their nine total on the day.
That may not sound like much, but Lindner said you can’t be trying to catch all of the fish in Rainy Lake in one day, but rather spare them to better your chances of getting three days of good, consistent fishing.
“We would catch a fish and then leave it because this is a three-day tournament, so you have to save them,” Lindner reasoned.
But their lead is only slight as the son-father duo of Dave and Lee Lindsay is just .72 pounds from top spot after Day One.
“We had a great day today,” said Dave of Keewatin, who won the inaugural FFCBC back in 1995, and again in 1997, with his brother, Norm.
“The fish were definitely biting for us, and we had some lucky breaks. Just had a good day—nothing went wrong,” he added, noting it was that much sweeter to have such a day with his father, who is fishing in his first tournament.
The top 31 boats all brought in more than 15 pounds Thursday, prompting three-time FFCBC champ Norm Lindsay to say that can only mean the start of bigger and better things.
“I see some records being broken,” he said, noting Lindner’s 18.54-pound weight to lead after Day One last year only would have been good enough for seventh place this year.
And if Lindner hangs on to win this year, he would tie Norm Lindsay for the most wins at the FFCBC (three) but be the only person with a “three-peat” (i.e. three in a row).
“I think he might pull it off, but my brother is hot on his tail,” said Norm Lindsay, who bagged 17.07 pounds yesterday with partner Bill Godin to sit in 14th place.
Sitting in third place after Day One with a catch of 19.41 pounds was Mark Libitka and Dave Bennett of Sioux Narrows, who are a surprise team considering their 32nd finish last year.
And so is last year’s 64th-place team, Steve Mattson and Matt Christy, who were in sixth place with 18.87 pounds after the first day of fishing.
Ron and Dan Lindner finished the day in fourth place with an impressive 19.30-pound bag. But it could’ve been more, the latter said, as he lost a “really big fish” even though “I did everything right.”
Mike Novak and Bill Storbeck had the “big fish” of Day One with a five-pounder, which helped them snare 12th spot with 17.12 pounds altogether.
The tournament’s biggest-ever fish was a 5.94-pounder in 1998 brought in by Mike Luhman and Mark Raveling, who sit in 11th place after Day 1 with a 17.39 pounds.
Aside from the two 20-pound bags and two 19-pound ones weighed in by the top four teams Thursday, four other teams brought in 18-pound bags, six had 17-pound bags, four had 16-pound ones while 13 had 15-pound bags.
If anyone is hoping to catch Lindner and Hehner, past results show that today would be the day to do that.
Last year, James and Bill Lindner hauled in just 15.96 pounds, the lowest total of the three days, before following that with 19.32 pounds for a championship total of 53.82.
But other anglers are suggesting Lindner and Hehner just might be too much for the rest of the field.
“He’s just in a different league than everyone else,” Ted Stewner said as he heard Lindner and Hehner’s opening weight before he and partner John Guzej stepped up to the scale.
Guzej and Stewner, the runners-up behind the Lindners the past two years, have become crowd favourites at the tourney, weighing in an opening day weight of 18.33 pounds to sit in seventh place.
“It was a tough bite for us today,” said Guzej.
Saturday’s final weigh-in starts at 2:30 p.m.
James Lindner is still the man to beat.