2021 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship kicks off tomorrow morning

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

After a year sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is back.

The modified tournament is set to run from Thursday, July 22 to Saturday, July 24 in a way that will at least be familiar to those sport fishers who have registered to take part. While the public side of the tournament will be very different for those who usually enjoy the entertainment on offer, bass championship organizer Greg Gustafson shared that on the actual tournament side of things, planning has gone well and all involved are hard at work to get the fishing going as smoothly as possible, though not without some losses along the way.

“She’s coming fast,” Gustafson said of the tournament in a phone interview last week, just as he was about to enter another meeting with other organizers.

“Things are going good. We had to scratch all of the American teams on Friday. We decided there wasn’t going to be an announcement [about the border re-opening] in time. It just doesn’t give them enough time for hotels, travel, planning, pre-fishing, the whole nine yards. I put a few notes on Facebook and haven’t really heard any feedback; I think they all knew it.”

Still, with the disappointing loss of American fisherman, many of whom have fished the tournament for years, Gustafson said there is still a healthy level of competition for those who are able to make it this year.

“We have about 84 net teams, which is good,” he said.

“I think there’s something like 19 new teams, which is really good.”

With the tournament almost upon us, Gustafson said he and the team of volunteers and organizers will be setting up the space down at the Sorting Gap over the course of the week, getting everything ready to go for the fishing teams bright and early on Thursday morning.

Granted, everything this year is smaller than it has been in the past, but Gustafson noted that even as the scaled back version has made some things easier for the organizers, it hasn’t meant they could coast through the planning process.

“For sure, it’s made it easier to a certain degree, but there’s still an awful lot of work,” he said.

“We have to line up all the permits and permissions and get authority from the town for various things and line up contractors to hook up the power for you, get people to do the fish care and et the boats to return the fish back to the areas they were caught from. We still need a computer lady to tabulate things, so it’s scaled down for sure, but it’s still a lot of work.”

While the tournament itself has had to be scaled back due to lingering COVID-19 restrictions and the impacts they have had, Gustafson said teams he’s spoken with have been excited to get back on the lake and do some fishing, with teams having registered from Thunder Bay, Nakina, Nipigon and Kenora, among other locations.

When it comes to the fishing itself, Gustafson said that the only major difference is going to be the lack of the big tent and related entertainment like bands or Quest For the Best, though Gustafson said he’s heard La Place Rendez-Vous will feature entertainment of some sort on Saturday. Teams will still be leaving in flights early in the morning and coming back for weigh-ins each afternoon, which will give non-fishing fans a chance to watch what is traditionally a fairly popular part of the tournament. Once teams return, things will play out much like they have in the past. though the process has also been streamlined.

“We’ll have two small tents, kind of where the big tent would normally be,” Gustafson explained.

“When the teams come in, the guy driving the boat will stay there, the other guy will grab the fish, walk them up to our weighmaster Paul Cousineau and hand the fish over. Paul will weight them, hand back a slip and then that guy will go get his truck and trailer and go load up the boat and driver and that’s kind of it.”

Some of the final work that has been done to get things ready to go was putting together the packages for the anglers that have their information and boat number, as well as setting up the tents and fish tanks, and once that has been taken care of then the tournament will be in fine shape to kick things off. The need for volunteers has also been reduced this year, though in a Facebook post on July 15 the organizers noted they were still searching for 15 people to help out this week from Thursday to Saturday in various roles including fish care.

Even as the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship returns in a modified form this year, Gustafson said he and the other organizers are hoping that it will be a one-off event so that next year’s tournament can be a return to form in size, scope and the ability to have our neighbours to the south join in the fishing fun.

“That’s what we’re all looking forward to, in more ways than one,” Gustafson said.

Fishing for the 2021 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship begins Thursday, July 22 at 5:00 a.m.