Kent and Steve Ballan already have a Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship to their credit.
Now they have a Safeway KidPro title to add to it.
The Ballans, teamed up with kid angler Damon Nyberg, hauled in 11.91 pounds in their three-fish bag, including the day’s big fish of 4.46 pounds, in the 13th-annual edition of the event on Sunday.
Pro Bryan Gustafson helped youngster Michael Albanese to a second-place finish with 11.35-pound bag, including a 4.13-pounder that turned out to be the third-largest fish of the day.
Jonah McCormick, fishing with pro anglers Trevor Gudyeran and Dean Tacknyk, wound up in third place.
The second-biggest fish was hauled in by the 14th-place team of pros Paul Jewiss and Mike Graham with young Kassidy Fryer, who brought in a 4.29-pound lunker.
The Ballans, the FFCBC champs back in 2001, took Nyberg along the south arm, where they hauled in seven bass primarily using jigs and soft plastics.
They made the ones they caught count.
“Today was really good. Today was an awesome day,” enthused Steve Ballan, who has fished the KidPro with his brother, Kent, eight times.
“[We caught] only seven bass,” he noted. “[But only] one was under 12 inches and all the rest were ‘weighers.’
“We had one smaller one, but four that were 18 inches and over.
“It was a good day,” he reiterated.
The Ballans, meanwhile, are hoping their display of goodwill in fishing the KidPro doesn’t have a negative impact on their performance in the main tournament when fishing kicks off tomorrow morning.
“Apparently, traditionally, whoever wins the KidPro tournament usually flops in the big tournament,” Steve Ballan warned.
“We’re out to break tradition this year,” he vowed.
Nyberg’s favourite moment of the day was when the Ballans managed to salvage a bass that nearly escaped their clutches.
That big fish helped to cement the top spot in the KidPro tournament, as well.
“The fish spit out the lure when it was still in the water, but we netted it,” recalled Nyberg, 10.
“It was pretty far down, but we made it spread out and we swooped down and got it.
“That one was about 18 inches,” he noted.
“Then we caught another one that was 19-and-a-half, nearly 20.”
Steve Ballan also remembered the bass that just about got away, noting all three breathed a big sigh of relief when the feisty fish finally was in the boat.
“Just as I lifted it up, Kent netted it and it landed in the net, and the hook kind of popped out of his mouth,” Ballan recounted.
“All I said to Kent is, ‘Boy, are you ever lucky.’
“They were all really jumping today, [but] the biggest one only jumped once,” he added.
While Nyberg did manage to bring in a fish, like many anglers, all he was thinking about back on land was the one that got away.
“I had a giant bite and it bit my twister tail off,” he recalled. “I saw it. It was a giant bass.”
Ballan lauded the youngster for having a wide array of skills before hopping into the boat Sunday morning, and said he and Kent were fortunate to have an experienced kid by their side.
“He’s already an awesome fisherman,” Ballan lauded. “He pretty much already knew everything.
“That’s a bonus to get a kid who knew how to fish as well as he does. The family fishes a lot.”
But the brothers still tried to take advantage of the day to instill some other advanced techniques into the up-and-coming angler.
“We were just teaching him how to use different baits, what different baits will do, how your topwaters will work, how your jigs will work,” explained Ballan, adding Nyberg’s use of topwaters improved the most over the day.
“He was just watching the way that we were working them, and just kept trying to duplicate everything that we did.
“He’s a quick learner, real quick,” Ballan added. “[He was] real fun to have in the boat.
“He’s a good kid.”
Meanwhile, this year’s KidPro was much more successful for Gustafson, who was beset by mechanical problems last year and had to bow out of the event after less than an hour.
This time around, he was glad to be partnered with an enthusiastic angler in Albanese, who was disappointed to see the day end and just wanted “to go out again.”
“It’s nice for him to see some big bass,” enthused Gustafson.
“It’s just all about trying to give back,” he reasoned.
Here are the top 10 finishers from the 13th-annual Safeway KidPro:
1. Damon Nyberg, with Kent Ballan and Steve Ballan (11.91 pounds)
2. Michael Albanese, with Bryan Gustafson (11.35)
3. Jonah McCormick, with Trevor Gudyeran and Dean Tacknyk (10.66)
4. Conner Pocock, with Matt Christy and Chris Hay (10.27)
5. & 6. Lindsay Cain and Daniel VandenBrand, with Andrew Rogozinski (10.20)
7. Jacob Jack, with Dan Fraser and Patti Fraser (9.77)
8. Brandon Kocuiba, with Troy Norman and Jay Samsal (9.27)
9. Brent Morand, with Scott Ourda and John Allen (9.15)
10. Chase Badiuk, with James Lindner and Bill Lindner (9.10)
Complete results from the Safeway KidPro can be found on the FFCBC’s website at www.canadianbass.com.
A photo gallery, featuring photos taken by the kids, was to be posted later in the week.