Duo elated to land another FFCBC title

Jamie Mountain

Climbing the hill to sit atop the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is a daunting task for any team.
Fishing conditions are unpredictable and a field full of skilled anglers only compound the problem.
But a pair of former champs were able to overcome all of that adversity and reclaim the title at the 25th anniversary of the popular tourney over the weekend.
Mark Raveling of Longville, Mn. and Mike Luhman of Deer Park, Wis. hauled in 53.6 pounds over the three days and it was good enough to give them their second FFCBC title together on Saturday afternoon under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.
“It felt great. It’s an honour and a privilege to get the win in the 25th anniversary,” Luhman enthused of their win.
“It’s kind of a special deal and everybody is going to remember that one.”
“It’s an honour to win,” added Raveling. “And it being the 25th anniversary, I believe this is our 22nd time fishing it.”
Leaving the docks in first place with 37.03 pounds, Raveling and Luhman added a 16.57-pound bag on Saturday to top the 96-team field and secure the $25,000 winners’ cheque.
It also was the largest first-place prize in tournament history.
Although that total was less than when they had won their first title together back in 2012 (55.06), it still was enough to hold off Day 1 leaders, Lauren Ras and Chuck Olson of Bemidji, Mn., who settled for second place with a three day total of 52.37 pounds.
Luhman and Raveling had the big fish on Day 1 (4.95 pounds) as part of a 16.67 pound haul.
Then they also had the biggest bag on Day 2–and of the tourney–with 20.36 pounds.
“2012 was a deal where he had so many [second-place finishes] and it really was a release to get the monkey off of our backs finally,” Luhman recalled.
“This one was special because of the 25th anniversary and we had such a horrible practice,” he revealed.
“So we were actually not expecting anything. We didn’t figure we were going to make the money, we didn’t think anything.
“So to fetch anything on Day 1 was exciting and then of course [on] Day 2 having the biggest bag . . . it’s an honour and a privilege fishing against that calibre of fishermen,” he added.
Although they were surprised to be leading the field after Day 2, Luhman noted that he and Raveling had their eyes on Ras and Olson and knew they would be a threat right up until the final weigh-ins on Saturday.
“I was concerned about them,” he conceded.
“Also Troy Norman and Jay Samsal, I was super concerned with those two because Troy and Jay fished the same water we fish.
“They’re on one spot, we’re on the other, and they’re two-time champions,” he noted, referring to them winning the title back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.
“Troy has won Sturgeon Bay, Jay is an unbelievable fisherman–so is Chuck and Lauren–but, yeah, those are the two teams that stuck out the most in my mind,” he added.
Luhman also wanted to take the time to thank all the volunteers and directors that make the FFCBC a success every year.
“Just a thank you to Greg and Shelly Gustafson, all of the board, the tournament board, the Town of Fort Frances, you know it’s the highlight of the summer,” he enthused.
“You’ve heard everybody say that. And of course, getting the honour to come through the pull-through [parade] again that is the ultimate rush of the summer. It never gets old,” he added.
Taking third was Tony Casareto of Ranier, Mn. and John Sandberg, who reeled in 49.65 pounds of bass.
They also had the big fish on Day 2, and of the tourney itself, when they wowed the crowd with a 5.82-pound monster.
The bass was also the second-largest in FFCBC history–just behind Denny Nelson and Dave Smith’s 5.94-pound whopper that they caught back in 1998.
Norman of Fort Frances and Jay Samsal, of Kenora, wound up fourth (49.18), while James Hill and David Stoot of Thunder Bay rounded out the top five (47.98).
Five-time FFCBC champs, Joe Thrun (Annandale, Mn.) and Jim Moynagh (Carver, Mn.) were slated to occupy the hot seats before the top-10 boat parade began on Saturday after their Day 3 haul of 18.7 pounds temporarily vaulted them into the lead.
However–not realizing that they had actually taken the lead–weren’t still at the Sorting Gap when the boat parade had started as they had begun to make their trek back home.
Thrun did return after a quick phone call and manned one of the seats shortly into the top-10 ceremony.
The duo ended up settling for sixth place with a three-day total of 47.55 pounds.
Stuart and Diane Neniska of Kenora were seventh (46.39), followed by Bill Godin of Devlin and Dave Lindsay of Kenora (46.11) and Connor Burton and Jeff Engstrom of Kenora (46.1).
Last year’s champs, Bryan Gustafson–who was a former local resident but now lives in Kenora–and Brian McNanney of Sioux Narrows, rounded out the top 10 with a three-day weight of 45.95 pounds.
Gustafson and McNanney had topped the 94-team field last year with a three-day total of 51.57 pounds for their first title together.
“We had fun, we ran around a bunch. We got to fish a bunch of memories and crush out a couple [of fish],” said Gustafson.
“Just looking forward to next year!”
Devin Stromness teamed up with Travis Stromness to fish up a storm on Day 3 and win the Second Division title.
Their 16.79-pound haul was good enough to help them walk away with a $1,000 prize.