‘Castin’ for Cash’ honours ‘close friend’

Bill Godin, owner of Lake Despair Lodge, said he had the pleasure of fishing with Mark Hopkins the day before his fatal boating accident last month on Footprint Lake.
And as the inaugural “Castin’ for Cash” bass derby wrapped up on the grounds of the lodge Sunday evening, Godin said it was only fitting the plaque for first place be named in honour of his late friend who he had so closely organized the event with.
“He was looking forward to being the emcee. He could really get a crowd going,” said Godin. “We missed him this weekend.”
The weekend turned out to be one of remembrance and resolve for everyone involved in the two-day tourney that attracted 50 teams. And there were no major mishaps–something Godin and partner Nellie Halverson were extremely pleased with.
“Safety was our number-one issue,” Godin stressed. “I’m very proud of how well the volunteers did.”
Cory Calder and Dave Woodgate took home top honours and the first prize of $5,000 after tallying a two-day, 10-fish total of 21.05 pounds.
“This is pretty important” were the only words Calder used when asked about having Hopkins’ name on the title.
On the tourney, he credited a strong pre-fish last Friday morning as a spark plug for their winning haul.
“It was very effective. We really found where they were and it worked all weekend long,” Calder said.
Woodgate noted while they held the lead with 10.2 pounds after the first day Saturday, their hopes were dwindling before the 4 p.m. deadline on Sunday.
“It was 2:30 in afternoon [and] we only had three fish in the boat. There was pressure then,” he admitted. “But we were ahead during the first day so we knew we were doing something right.”
Minutes before Calder and Woodgate were trailered up to the stage in their boat, Denis Barnard, reigning co-champ of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Champion-ship, and longtime walleye partner Pete Van Drunen weighed in 8.55 pounds for a 16.67-pound total to grab the lead.
But the consistent size of Calder and Woodgate’s bass were more than enough to keep them away from the top.
“The fishing was quite tough. A really tough bite out there,” noted Barnard, whose team hung on for second place and $2,000. “[Calder and Woodgate] know that lake and did a wonderful job.”
An upbeat crowd greeted the leaders with cheers of approval as they handed their Sunday catch to officials. Woodgate said he thought it would take much more than 21 pounds to win, agreeing with Barnard that the bites were scarce.
“Coming in, I thought we’d have to hit 30 to win it,” he said. “It was tough out there.”
Local angler Garry Noga, who teamed with Eric Shute to finish in 35th place, said doing well on Lake Despair required a strategy all its own.
“We took every strategy we knew from Rainy Lake and brought it here. And absolutely nothing worked,” he said.
Kelvin Caul and Ted Heyens came in third place with 15.83 pounds, netting $1,000, followed by Dave Byrnes and James Asplund in fourth (14.5 pounds) to win $500.
Rounding out the top 10, and winning $250 each, were Mike Mihichuk/Darren Wood (13.9 pounds), Tim/Ryan Mutz (13.1), Frank/Corey Curtis (12.41), Brian Halverson/Terry Dolk (9.84), Jody Shypit/Dale LaBelle (9.66), and Ray Ducharme/Buzz Grennier (9.52).
The Curtis duo also won $250 for having the “big fish” on Saturday (3.80 pounds) while Paul Jewiss/Dale Strand earned $250 for the big fish Sunday (4.08 pounds).
The team of Bob and Mike Badiuk won the draw for a $650 fish finder while Terry Dolk won the rod and reel.
Apart from the fishing, the Saturday night fish fry attracted more than 500 people, while the taped music and food booths also were well-received.
All in all, it was a sparkling debut.
“I couldn’t believe how well the spotters were organized on the lake,” said Barnard. “For putting it on and take on a task like this is really something.”
But Godin stressed this strong showing should not be compared to that of the FFCBC, adding this tourney’s 50-team field is a perfect size.
“We’re not here to compete with the [FFCBC],” he said. “Our goal was to provide a fun tournament for the local anglers and I hope we’ve succeeded.”