Pre-fishing ‘tough’ for tourney anglers

When it comes to coughing up the goods on where, or even if, they’re finding big bass during pre-fishing, anglers competing in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship aren’t exactly known for their honesty.
But as they pulled their boats off Rainy Lake following Sunday’s annual Kid-Pro tournament, they certainly weren’t raving about how their prep work had gone so far.
“It’s tough,” said Terry McClymont, who has finished in the top 20 at the FFCBC three times.
“Terrible,” assessed former FFCBC champion Kent Ballan.
“It hasn’t been overly good,” echoed Devlin angler Eric Lessman. “It’s been a lot of looking—looking for something that’s actually going to bite.”
With almost all of the 136 teams having started pre-fishing by last weekend, and about 40 of them having competed in Sunday’s Kid-Pro tournament, Rainy Lake has been a flurry of activity of late.
As is the case at any fishing tournament, there’s also been a flurry of activity on shore, where the mind games and friendly banter get underway long before the official launch.
If asked, the anglers are happy to chat about lake conditions, techniques, and their luck (or lack thereof) tracking down patterns of fish. Whether you choose to take their bait, on the other hand, is up to you.
Guy Johnston, a seven-time FFCBC competitor who was half of the top local team with an eighth-place finish last year, said he and partner Doug Wright having been trolling some old spots and searching for some new ones.
But he wouldn’t tip his hat as to whether they’ve found a location where they can fill their live-well come tournament time.
“You’ll get one here, one there,” Johnston said coyly. “It’s hot and cold.”
But he noted with some of North America’s top anglers entered in the three-day event, which gets underway Thursday and wraps up Saturday, somebody is bound to be on to a few hot spots.
“There’s too high-calibre fishermen for somebody not to be on fish,” Johnston remarked.
“As fishermen, they’re not going to tell you the truth anyway,” he added.
Lessman, who is paired with veteran angler and longtime Rainy Lake camp owner Tom Pearson, agreed some teams probably are reeling in some big bass.
But he said Sunday he believes most of the FFCBC anglers are indeed struggling.
“It seems nobody is getting really the fish that they think they should be able to,” he remarked, noting the recent mayfly hatch didn’t do the anglers any favours.
“We figure if we’re not getting good fish, most of the teams are doing the same.
“You can’t really tell if anybody is telling you what’s really going on or if they just want you to believe that is what’s going on,” Lessman added.
McClymont, a Fort Frances product who now calls Winnipeg home, only has missed the FFCBC twice. He said Sunday that the pre-fishing conditions this year were about as tough as he’d ever seen them.
“You’re getting them and then it’s just down and you can’t find a fish anywhere, and then they’ll turn on again for an hour,” he shrugged.
As all the anglers pointed out, whether anybody hauls in a record-setting bag this week will depend largely on the unpredictable weather and lake conditions.
Leading up to Sunday’s Kid-Pro, it had been hot and muggy most days—not exactly ideal conditions for finding fish, or for spending eight hours in a bass boat.
Strong winds have been a factor, too. On Sunday, some anglers reported encountering swells as much as four or five feet high.
For his part, McClymont said a light wind and some cloud cover would be ideal. Lessman agreed slightly overcast conditions would be best.
Gene Boyer, a Savage, Minn. native who turned in a top-five finish at last year’s FFCBC, also would like to see cool temperatures, but isn’t getting his hopes up.
“We had really good luck when we had a little more of a cold-front situation last year,” Boyer said. “This year, it looks like we’re not going to get that cold front, it’s going to stay pretty warm.”
While Boyer, like most of the anglers, reported things were pretty tough Sunday (his first day out on the lake), he’s not too concerned. Or if he is, he’s certainly not showing it.
“We’re getting a few bites but not the big ones,” he said. “[But] you can have poor pre-fishing and do well in the tournament.”
The FFCBC officially gets underway Thursday with Team #1—James Lindner and Mike Hehner—slated to leave the launch area at 7 a.m. sharp.
The weigh-ins are slated for 3:30 p.m. both Thursday and Friday under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina, and then for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.