Norm Lindsay cried when he heard the news.
And it was with due right that his eyes looked like two sinks spilling over with water as he stood behind the stage and listened while his brother, Dave, and father, Lee, were crowned the winners of the 11th-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship here Saturday afternoon.
“This is unbelievable,” said Dave, whose team weighed in a total of 51.61 pounds to capture the tournament title and $50,000 prize, which was 1.29 pounds more than the tandem of Norm Lindsay and Bill Godin.
It marked the first in FFCBC history that members of the same family occupied both first and second place.
“That’s truly my family and without them, I don’t know,” Dave said as his eyes also began welling up. “Without them, this wouldn’t mean anything, but with them it means everything.”
It’s not like Dave hasn’t been atop the podium before.
He won the FFCBC two previous times—the inaugural one in 1995 and again in 1997—with his brother, Norm, as his partner.
With Norm having claimed the crown in 2002 with Jess Swenson, Dave’s victory in 2005 tied him with his brother for most FFCBC wins at three.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Norm, who will split the second-place $20,000 cheque with Godin. “This has been a dream of mine for quite a while.”
“This never gets old. I just love coming here,” added Godin. “I can’t even get a refreshment because everyone is coming up to me and shaking my hand.”
Adding another layer to the Lindsays’ day was the fact that this was the first time their dad, Lee, had ever competed in a fishing tournament. But considering the result, it might not be the last time you see the 66-year-old take part in the FFCBC or maybe other tournaments.
“He’s not a gambler and when you’re a tournament fisherman, you are gambling in a way because you are putting money on the line and hoping to do well and cash a cheque,” Dave Lindsay said of his dad.
“I might do it again, maybe even [the Kenora Bass International], you never know,” said the elder Lindsay. “This might be the first tournament I’m in, but it might not be my last—I get hooked on things easily.”
Before the tournament began Thursday morning, the spotlight shone brightest on James Lindner, who was seeking an unprecedented third-straight FFCBC title.
But he was trying to accomplish the feat without his brother, Bill, his usual partner who remained home in Minneapolis while his wife was expecting their first child (a healthy baby girl was delivered).
And it looked like Lindner wouldn’t miss a beat with his new partner, Mike Hehner, as they hauled in 21.10 pounds on Day 1.
“There are a lot of big bags being caught. [But] it’s not over until it’s over,” Lindner had said after Thursday’s weigh-in. “There’s a lot of flip-flopping that can go on, and we’re just going to go out and catch fish.”
But they stumbled on Day 2 with a 14.49-pound bag, which dropped them down to second place heading into the final day on Saturday.
Meanwhile the surprise team of Mark Libitka and Dave Bennett took over top spot with a two-day total of 36.49 pounds—.90 pounds better than Lindner and 1.44 pounds ahead of Dave and Lee Lindsay.
“Last night we had nerves—lots of nerves,” Libitka admitted Saturday. The Kenora angler had placed 32nd last year with Bennett during their inaugural appearance at the FFCBC.
Libitka and Bennett didn’t do as well on Day 3, bringing in a 13.76-pound bag, but their total weight of 50.25 pounds was good enough for third place—a mere 0.07 pounds lighter than Godin and Lindsay.
“Going into this tournament, I seriously thought we could go top 20 and we would’ve been really happy with that. That was the goal,” said Bennett, who hails from Sioux Narrows and will split the $12,000 third-place prize with Libitka.
“And then things started working after the first day.”
Lindner wound up in sixth place overall with 48.71 pounds (5.11 pounds less than his winning weight last year) as he and Hehner only could bag 13.12 pounds on Saturday.
Which begged the question: could James have won it if he had fished with Bill?
“Bill has 10 years of experience and has better knowledge of the lake and maybe could’ve helped in some way, but realistically, not really,” said Lindner.
Hehner fished the FFCBC last year for the first time, placing 84th with partner Chip Leer.
Mike Luhman (Deer Park) and Mark Raveling (Spring Park) finished up just how they had started Day 3—in fourth place 1.82 pounds behind the Lindsays.
Rounding out the top five was Mike Novak (Hudson) and Bill Storbeck (Blaine), who were 2.81 pounds back.
It wasn’t a great tournament for local team this year. The top duo was first-year partners Paul Jewiss of Devlin and Mike Graham of Fort Frances, who finished in 17th place overall with a haul of 45.28 pounds.
The pair had been in eighth place after Day 1 with 18.18 pounds, but they fell to 24th place after Day 2 after catching just 11.71 pounds.
Last year’s top local team of Guy Johnston and Doug Wright wound up in 23rd place this time around with 43.92 pounds, which was only 0.46 pounds less than their eighth-place weight from last year.
The big fish of the this year’s tournament was a 5.30-pounder, which was caught by Steve Luhman (Deer Park) and Glen Getschell (Amery) on Day 2 that helped them snare a 15th-place finish (they also had the big bag on Day 3 with 18.95 pounds).
Arthur Ottertail and Mike Gill of Fort Frances had the big fish of Day 3 (a 4.99-pounder) but they finished well back in 122nd spot with 17.08 pounds in total.
Norm Lindsay cried when he heard the news.