Bass Championship small, but exciting

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

It’s another championship in the books, and not even a scaled-down version could stop it from being a success.

The 2021 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship wound to a close on Saturday afternoon, seeing the angling team of Troy Norman and Jay Samsal crowned the winners, breaking a decades-old tournament record in the process. even as the tournament was heavily modified due to lingering COVID-19 restrictions, tournament organizer Greg Gustafson said the team behind it all still feel it was well received and enjoyed by anglers and the community alike.

“Everything went about as smooth as you could expect,” Gustafson said.

“I think everybody was happy. We talked to a couple anglers today and they said everything they heard was good. They liked the revised format and were ok with the payout. We were happy to see lots of new teams, father/son teams, husband and wife and so on. Other than getting a little wet on day two, everybody was really glad they were able to fish the tournament this year.”

Following the decision last year to cancel the tournament outright, the organizers stripped back the offerings of the 2021 event to just the essentials. Gone were the signature big tent, beer garden and public events like Quest for the Best; instead, the tournament kept things lean and mean with three days of fishing and quick, efficient weigh-ins at the end of each. Members of the public were still allowed to head down to the Sorting Gap Marina during the tournament, and many people did, to watch the boats leave or come back, and to see their friends or family members haul their day’s catch up to the weigh-in tent. While the tournament lacked an MC this year, results were posted online as quickly as the organizers were able to, following some technical difficulties on day one. That meant anyone stopping by the tournament grounds was still able to keep up with the most recent results as the fish came in.

And, as always, plenty of teams rose up to the challenge of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. While American teams were unfortunately scratched relatively close to the tournament’s start date due to continuing border restrictions, the final field still included 86 teams taking part.

As the tournament came to a close, another benefit of the smaller scale presented itself. Gustafson said clean-up following the tournament this year was quick as well, with far less moving pieces to take into consideration.

“There wasn’t much to do,” he said.

“We had to take one tent down and the other one was rented so they were taking it down. Then we had to load the fish tubs up and put them back in the trailers at the woodyard. Teardown couldn’t have gone any faster than anything in the past 10 or 12 years I’ve been involved with.”

Still, as much as the tournament itself might have moved quicker this year, Gustafson said the organizers’ goal is to return to the way the FFCBC has run in the past, adding back the spectacle and community involvement that was missed this year.

“The weigh-ins were done in record time, but then we didn’t have Paul Morrison, our usual MC, talking to anybody, teasing people and joking with them a little bit and asking how things went onstage, which is all part and parcel of it,” he explained.

“Then of course we didn’t have the Top 10 Boat parade. I know there were some teams disappointed that would have been involved with that for the first time, but I think everybody understood that, things being the way they are, we were just happy to be able to do what we were able to do this year. Hopefully next year we’ll be back to the big tent, the Top 10 Boat parade and operating the way we have in the past.”

Gustafson said there are already teams that have given their deposit for next year’s tournament, including one brand-new team, which bodes well for the tournament’s return to the pomp and spectacle that people in Fort Frances have come to enjoy. The organizers are also getting to work on the 2022 tournament, Gustafson said, though things move a little bit slower this far out than they will as the months go by and bring everyone closer to fishing again.

Putting on a tournament of any size requires a host of volunteers, and even though there may have been fewer this time around, Gustafson said they’re all deserving of thanks for the work they did to help make the weekend run as smoothly as it did, a sentiment he’s heard directly from anglers as well.

“I’ve gotten numerous texts and a couple phone calls thanking all the volunteers and directors for putting on a tournament,” he said.

“Some of them are new people that really appreciate the way things went and how they were treated. There was one new team that was there first thing every morning and they said they’d never been involved with a tournament where the people were so friendly, so that was good to hear. We appreciate all the help we got from all the volunteers and everybody that could help as much as they were able to this year.”

Canadian Bass Championship Top 10

PosTeamDay 1Day 2Day 3TotalCaptainPartner
1421.4419.9020.7662.10Troy NormanJay Samsal
21419.9321.1717.8258.92Mike WilsonZack McBride
3517.2520.4119.6957.35James HillChris Viel
46517.9319.9317.0554.91Cole GodboutBraedon Keast
51020.2618.3316.1154.70Bryan GustafsonBrian McNanney
610317.4718.3418.3054.11Carson DubchakPerry Dubchak
7917.2820.1316.6954.10Connor BurtonJeff Engstrom
811818.2316.9418.9254.09Jim SandelovichConnor Sandelovitch
96718.7716.8217.3552.94Travis ShallockJakob Marszowski
109821.5315.0016.3652.89Bill GalushaJake Boettcher