The future of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is in jeopardy unless four vacant director positions are filled by next week.
That was the consensus reached by the remaining directors at a meeting last Wednesday evening.
“Everything’s on hold at this point,” FFCBC chairman Tom Fry stressed.
“The remaining board members voted unanimously that if these positions don’t get filled, we will not go forward with the 2010 tournament,” he added.
The vacant positions include co-chairperson, computer systems, daytime events, and site and facilities.
The bass committee said these must be filled by the time of its next meeting Oct. 20 in order to proceed with organizing the annual event each July.
“If at that meeting we have the positions filled, we’ll move ahead and all of the information will go out to the anglers,” Fry noted.
“But we won’t be sending anything out until at such time that we have those positions filled,” he warned.
Fry said the committee is set up so that no one person is in over their heads.
“We’ve got a good core with a number of returning people in the same positions, so that’s going to help out any new ones coming on,” he stressed.
“The board is set up to divide the tasks so it isn’t too onerous on any one volunteer, and when even one is missing that places extra burden on the others,” he explained.
“That’s why we’re holding the line on this.”
Kenora native Jeff Gustafson said the FFCBC is an annual ritual in his busy tournament schedule that would be sorely missed.
“The FFCBC is a big part of my life and of many other anglers, so I obviously don’t want to see it go away,” Gustafson said.
“I look forward to coming to Fort Frances for a week every year and think about it on a daily basis all year long.”
Long-time tournament angler Bill Godin agreed, but stressed the need for more incentives to attract volunteers.
“It’s hard to keep volunteers interested, and I think they have to do a little more for the volunteers,” he remarked.
“There’s lots of good volunteers out there, but I think maybe they have to be taken care of better in order to keep them around.
“It’s hard on the volunteers working that many nights in a row,” he stressed.
Godin added the FFCBC likely would be more sustainable if it was geared solely as a fishing event.
“I think it needs to be more of a fishing tournament, not a week-long social,” he argued. “Rainy River [Walleye Tournament] had three nights of entertainment, and if there was 20 people there the first two nights that’s saying something . . . people can’t afford to go out that many nights in a row.
“I think if it was geared to one or two nights, I think it would be a lot better.”
Godin also suspected some of the costs could be reduced with a few alterations.
“It’s a big cost, I know that, and I think the town has to help out a little more,” he reasoned. “I really don’t believe all of that police service is really needed.
“I was at a tournament [McDonald’s Big Bass Splash] last winter that had 7,000 [anglers] in it, and I saw two policeman there, and they were directing traffic on the road,” Godin noted.
Gustafson said the business community in Fort Frances needs to realize how much of an negative impact losing the FFCBC would have locally.
“The economic benefits from this tournament for Fort Frances are huge, and unfortunately some people in the business community that take this for granted need to wake up,” he urged.
“If the tournament goes away, that money is gone. It’s gone and it won’t be replaced,” he stressed. “The business community that cashes in on this tournament needs to step up and make it happen.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is some great local support for this tournament and I graciously thank those people, but there are some people that need to step up,” Gustafson continued.
“If this tournament doesn’t exist, not only are they going to lose all the out-of-town business for the week of the tournament, but they are going to lose out on anglers that make weekend trips throughout the year to put time in on Rainy Lake.”
Gustafson also said people need to realize this is a special tournament on a special lake.
“Anglers that fish all the other tournaments know this, but some of the spectators and local people may not know how much better this tournament is than all the rest,” he remarked.
“What can I say? Disappointing for sure,” longtime FFCBC angler Phil Bangert of Camdenton, Mo. wrote on a posting at www.fftimes.com
“This will [be] a hole that will be difficult to fill.”
In related news, the bass committee also voted unanimously last Wednesday to move the tournament, if it goes ahead, from its current venue at the Sorting Gap to the Memorial Sports Centre.
“There’s close to a $30,000 saving in terms of set-up in going to the arena,” Fry explained. “We can still do the final boat parade through there.
“We’ve looked at the logistics of that and we think we can make it work,” he added. “There are some real benefits to going there.
“With the two arenas, we can have the entertainment on one side and the weigh-ins on the other side, which means the transition between weigh-ins and night-time entertainment will be much simpler.”
Not everyone likely will be receptive with the change, but Fry stressed the move is necessary to sustain the tournament for the years ahead.
“There’s lots of positives [to the move], but the only negative is the loss of the ambience from the waterfront site,” he admitted.
Anyone interested in applying for one of the vacant board positions is asked to call Fry at 274-3584.