It was the best of times and the worst of times at Lake Despair Lodge for the 10th-annual “Castin’ For Cash” tournament over the weekend.
The fishing proved difficult for many of the teams. But those that were able to bring in some bass found some significantly-sized ones on the hook.
Jon Evans and Gus McFaddin won this year’s edition, setting a record weight in the process with a two-day haul of 29.35 pounds—breaking the previous mark of 29.03 pounds set by Jeff Gustafson and August Collinson in 2008.
When accepting the trophy Saturday, Evans said he felt relief after recording a respectable second day, explaining he and McFaddin tended to be a bit of a “crash-and-burn team” in the past.
He recalled they were sitting in third place after the first day one year, but were unable to duplicate that success on Day 2.
“The second day, at about 3:30 p.m., we didn’t have a fish in the boat yet,” Evans recounted.
“And we had to come through the tent.
“We got lucky and caught three fish at the end of the day and saved our bacon,” he noted. “But it was definitely a lot more fun to come through the tent with five big ones, that’s for sure.”
Evans added that while being part of the parade of boats was enjoyable, it might have been a little more fun to have flown under the radar and held on from there.
“I like to be in sixth [place] in these tournaments [after Day 1] so I don’t have to go through the tent,” he joked.
Evans credited skill, in part, to their win, but added good fortune also was a key factor in producing the heaviest weight in the decade-long history of the tournament.
“We actually caught one of our biggest fish while I was eating my sandwich today,” he remarked shortly after capturing the title.
“My bait was just floating out behind the boat and up it came.
“There are a lot of good fishermen here,” Evans noted. “You’ve got to have a little luck, too—or a lot of luck.”
The pair said they maintained faith in their handful of spots and their steadfast commitment was rewarded handsomely.
“We consistently worked hard on certain holes, and be consistent and work hard on it,” McFaddin explained.
“We spent a lot of time in one spot,” added Evans.
“We spent probably three hours in one area, and just kept returning to the same spots over and over,” he noted.
The pair came into the tournament seemingly trying to play “bass bingo” with the number of mini-goals they were trying to hit over the weekend. But while their goal to break 30 pounds wasn’t realized, the $5,000 top prize should soothe any disappointment.
“Our first goal was to catch one 12-incher, and then after that was to get five [fish] and then after that was to get 30 pounds,” Evans recalled.
“We got our 12-incher at about 8 [a.m.] and then we moved up from there.”
McFaddin, of Beaumont, Tex., has been visiting Rainy River District every year since 1939, eventually building a summer home in Nestor Falls in 1948.
The 77-year-old considers himself to be a reverse “snowbird,” opting to escape the summer heat in the Lone Star State.
“We’re just the opposite from what people are here,” joked McFaddin. “We spend the summer to get away from the heat in Texas.
“We built the home up here in 1948 after a hurricane blew our beach house in Beaumont down.
“We come up here because it’s cooler.”
The temperature broke 30 C on Saturday. But if McFaddin didn’t seem fazed, he has an excellent reason.
“I’m usually complaining about how hot it is and Gus is complaining that it’s cold,” kidded Evans.
Kelvin Caul and Ted Heyens finished in second place with 28.57 pounds, followed by Doug and Solly McBride in third (25.53).
While the top weights were impressive, the lower end of the scale was less than stellar.
Seven teams were skunked on both days while 25 of the 68 were unable to land a fish on at least one of the two days.
Organizer Bill Godin did explain, however, that sometimes teams that are out of contention on Day 2 may not go to the trouble of weighing in smaller fish in order to not cause stress on an animal for the sake of a pound or two.
“It’s a little high,” Godin admitted. “Normally you get a lot of one and two fish, but it is a little high for the zeroes.
“There were a few teams today that didn’t do well yesterday [Friday], and they only caught one or two today and they threw them back rather than have them sitting out there in the hot sun and waiting to get weighed in,” he noted.
The father-son duo of Ralph and Scott Galusha held the hot seat before the top five from Day 1 entered for the boat parade—even outlasting the first two to come through the tent before falling.
But they still had their share of tough times en route to a fourth-place finish (23.31 pounds).
“Pre-fishing was hit and miss,” the elder Galusha said. “There’s lots of bass there, it’s just getting them to bite.”
Like the champs, Galusha agreed teams should stick to their guns if they know they’ve hit a good spot that may not be producing right at that moment.
“If you know the fish are there, you just have to wait ’em out. They will bite,” he stressed.
“Yesterday morning [Friday], our bite was in the morning,” Galusha noted. “We had five fish at 10 a.m. and today, at 2 p.m., we had one.
“And at 3 p.m., we had seven.
“You [just] hope they bite between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.,” he remarked.
While the Galushas were able to watch two teams drive through, weigh in, and walk out without losing their perch on the stage, Ralph knew it only was a matter of time before he would give way to another duo.
“I knew there were some pretty big bags coming in,” he said. “Kelvin Caul’s a good fisherman, Doug McBride’s a good fisherman. All these guys.
“We didn’t have the fish to win,” he conceded. “Pre-fishing, I had some big, big ones, but I couldn’t catch them today [Saturday].
“Two, two-and-a-half pounders don’t cut it.”
Jason Cain and Kyle Thompson brought in the big fish of the tournament, hauling in a 4.63-pound lunker on Day 1.
Unfortunately for the pair, it was the only bass they were able to reel up that day as they finished in 29th place overall with 11.35 pounds.
“It’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught in this system,” enthused Cain.
“I’ve seen bigger ones, but it’s really nice to get one that big.”
Cain admitted it took a moment for it to set in that he had brought a big one into the livewell.
“At first, I didn’t realize how big it was, actually,” he remarked.
“We had two other fish chasing it in, and we were trying to catch those, and then I realized how big it was, so we put it in the net,” he related.
“It came in pretty easy, in one jump.”
Cain reported Friday’s crowd was a little underwhelmed by the lunker during the weigh-in, but that he still was proud of the accomplishment all weekend long.
“I just kept talking about it,” he said. “If you only catch one fish, it might as well be that one.”
Cain was one angler who experienced the fickle nature of Lake Despair, with some nasty wind on Day 1 combining with the higher water levels to throw some curveballs at the competitors.
“Fishing was a lot harder than it has been,” he noted. “This was probably the hardest year I’ve had for bass ever.
“I think it had to do with the rising water, the additional water,” he reasoned. “The current in the lake probably had some big effects.”
Meanwhile, Dale Evans and Randy Kirk recorded the largest one-day haul, weighing in 16.48 pounds on Saturday.
Bill and Nell Godin already have set the date for next year’s affair, selecting July 8-9 for the 2011 edition.
The couple is encouraging teams interested in vying for next year’s crown to sign up early as 11 hopefuls were stuck on the waiting list when competition began Friday morning.
Here are the top 15 finishers:
1. Jon Evans/Gus McFaddin (29.35 pounds)
2. Kelvin Caul/Ted Heyens (28.57)
3. Doug McBride/Solly McBride (25.53)
4. Ralph Galusha/Scott Galusha (23.31)
5. Dave Evans/Randy Kirk (23.00)
6. Ryan Hyatt/Dale LaBelle (21.46)
7. Chris Bell/Mel Giesbrecht (21.41)
8. Chase Curtis/Corey Curtis (21.23)
9. Jim Gustafson/Ben Gustafson (20.07)
10. Bryan Gustafson/Brian White (19.81)
11. Wayne Howard/Pat Howard (19.78)
12. Darrin Ward/Pete Badiuk (19.10)
13. Grant Swire/Dylan Swire (19.05)
14. LeRoy Wilson/Mike Wilson (17.93)
15. Larry Foss/Joel Pagnac (17.41)