All-female team pumped by first dip into FFCBC

Dan Falloon

Even though they finished dead last out of the 106 teams competing in this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, the rookie duo of Jandalyn Heil and Kim Pacarenuk still were thrilled about their experience on Rainy Lake.
The first all-female team to compete in the FFCBC since Patti Roy and Bev Sandmoen took to the waters in 1997, the pair were skunked Friday after a 2.49-pound catch on Day 1.
But they got back out on the water on Saturday and brought in four fish for 7.56 pounds—more fish than their mentors (2001 champs Kent and Steve Ballan) brought in.
“Today [Saturday] was good, today was really good,” enthused Heil.
“We were able to find a few today.
“We’re pretty happy that we actually pulled in more fish than [Jim] Moynagh and [Joe] Thrun did,” she added.
Their four-fish haul on Saturday was made sweeter by Friday’s trying times, which taught them several valuable lessons out on the water, with the help of a number of fellow anglers.
“How to stay calm, how to not get really mad and throw stuff into the water,” kidded Heil.
“We learned a lot, though, with how to fish, where to fish,” she added.
“They [anglers] weren’t afraid to tell us what they’re using or what they’re doing, so it was really good that we had that support.”
“A lot of the guys from town, and even some of the Americans who we’d never met before, they’ll just walk up and say, ‘I’m really proud of you for fishing this tournament,’” added Pacarenuk.
“It’s a true show of sportsmanship that they’ll offer to give the others help and pointers of how they do things. It’s pretty tremendous, actually,” echoed Heil.
“We’re still competition whether we’ve fished before or not,” she reasoned.
Even though it was an up-and-down weekend for the team, Heil said hey plan to launch their boat again next year.
“We were frustrated yesterday [Friday],” she admitted. “Because of the storm, we didn’t know a lot of the pattern changes and the wind changes, and how they bite after a storm.
“We had a great day, we’ll be back. That didn’t scare us away,” she vowed.
“Absolutely, we’ll be back—with more experience and knowledge under our belts.”
The pair said neither of them had any women approach them with plans to fish the FFCBC in coming years, but Heil expects to hear some rumblings along those lines—and would like to see more women out on the water.
“We had a great time. We hope to see more women out there,” she enthused.
Meanwhile, the Ballans were thrilled to see their protégés enjoyed some success over the weekend.
“They kicked our butts today—and I couldn’t be happier,” lauded Kent.
“My hat’s off to them,” he added. “It takes a lot of guts to be running with the big boys out here as the only all-female team.
“It really says a lot about their character.
“The third day’s always the hardest day to put together, and as far as I’m concerned to do it in style,” he concluded.
Both credited the women with taking in a lot of information in a short amount of time as they learned bass-fishing basics in about six weeks.
“When they first started, they knew absolutely nothing about bass fishing,” Steve Ballan explained.
“They had a bunch of tackle, but they just fished walleyes.
“They catch on quick, that’s all I can say.”
In fact, Steve noted the duo just about brought in the nearly five-pound lunker that helped the Ballans win the Safeway KidPro title with Damon Nyberg back on July 18.
“I wish they could have brought that one in,” he remarked. “It would have brought some hoots and hollers from the crowd.
“Then they would have had their five, too.”
Kent noted that same fish was just about theirs again earlier, but escaped being in their boat a second time.
“The big one that we had at the KidPro, it was pushing five pounds,” he noted. “We went back there first on Day 1 and we had hooked up with her.
“We got her up to the boat, she jumped twice, she come up the side of the boat twice, come up again, and I was just scooping up to net her and she spit the hook out,” Kent recounted.
“It’s unbelievable how something with a brain the size of the head of a pin can outsmart you like that.”
The Ballans had acknowledged a KidPro “curse” after capturing the title, pointing out past KidPro winners tended to flounder once the real tournament began.
They weren’t able to break the spell this year, falling to 98th place with 19.03 pounds, although things looked promising heading into Day 1 last Thursday.
“We had good pre-fishing the whole time,” noted Steve. “We basically stayed south and it hurt us.
“I’m used to fishing north, and I should have stayed there,” he added.
“There was some current where there wasn’t current during [the] pre-fish, and everything we had just progressively shut down more and more and more,” echoed Kent.
Even though the “curse” inflicted its wrath again this year, both Ballans would like the FFCBC to consider making participating in the Safeway KidPro mandatory, at least to the point where any kid who wishes to go out will be able to.
“They should make it mandatory that everybody has to take a kid fishing,” Steve remarked on stage during Saturday’s weigh-in.
“Ask any of the guys that have taken kids out—the looks on their faces tells it all.”
“He [Nyberg] already told us that he’s planning to fish tournaments someday, and that’s what we need,” added Kent.
“We need new blood. The kids are the future,” he stressed.