Duo seals fourth IFBC crown

Falls Journal
Whitney Jackson
Emily Gedde and

Three hours before having to check in at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Scott Dingwall and Jeff Gustafson stopped fishing because they figured they had enough fish to win the 2017 International Falls Bass Championship.
And they did.
The team from Keewatin, Ont. and Kenora, Ont. sealed their fourth IFBC title Saturday night under a packed tent at Smokey Bear Park.
“We were fishing to win and it worked out,” noted Dingwall, who has fished the tournament every year since it began.
Dingwall also admitted he and Gustafson were feeling pretty confident after catching their first few fish.
The team, whose last win was in 2010, brought in 21.70 pounds of bass on Day 1 and 21.30 on Day 2–evening out to their 43-pound overall haul to pocket the $10,000 first prize.
“Everything kind of clicked this weekend,” said Gustafson.
“Those are the biggest catches I’ve ever had.”
Gustafson had a hunch an IFBC Rainy Lake record was about to be broken.
“I think we’re going to have a new Rainy Lake record today,” he had said before their final weight came in Friday afternoon.
“We had a really, really good day,” he noted.
The duo took an early lead, being only the third team to weigh in Friday.
“That’ll be hard to beat,” IFBC president Gary Potter said of the 21.70-pound bag.
The weather changed from warm, sunny skies Friday to chilly temperatures and plenty of rain Saturday.
“We like when it’s sunny and calm and nice . . . the wind blew out of the same direction for three days, so that kind of set the fish up in places,” said Gustafson.
“We didn’t catch a lot of fish but we were fishing for big ones and just stuck with it.”
Several anglers also commented on the weather, saying it was rough on Rainy Lake, with big waves and a lot of wind–making it more of a challenge or nearly impossible to reach some spots where larger bass may have been hiding.
“I don’t know what was worse, the fishing or the wind,” said Luc Levesque of Fort Frances, who was partnered with Jim Woods of International Falls.
The IFBC’s only all-girl team also agreed the weather was an obstacle.
“The weather was a big factor and we ended up trying new water in an effort to stay out of the wind,” said Falls’ native Kristi Taylor, who fished with event newcomer Erin Hall.
The duo ended the tournament with a 5.99-pound total.
“That’s tournament fishing,” said Potter, also noting there were impressive bags coming in despite the weather conditions.
“Anything can happen.”
And while the weather turned Day 2 into a ruthless grind for some, others continued to bring in big bags.
Not far behind the four-time champ were Falls’ natives Jake Ruelle and Charlie LeDuc, who brought in just over 38 pounds of smallmouth bass, and Jon Balaski and Eric Olson (35.48).
“After pre-fishing, we didn’t think we would land where we did,” admitted LeDuc.
“After Day 1, we started to feel good and the weather changed, so we started catching fish right away.”
Ruelle and LeDuc brought in 19.36 pounds on Day 1 and 18.66 on Day 2.
“We caught maybe 10 fish today,” said Balaski, adding the team had a goal of making it to the top 20.
“We didn’t expect to make it as far as we did, and we’ll absolutely be back next year.”
Balaski and Olson brought in 17.07 pounds on the first day of the tournament and 18.41 on the second one.
This year, instead of splitting the teams up to half on the river and half on the lake, anglers were able to choose which body of water to fish.
Only two of 60 teams ventured to the Rainy River on Friday while four teams did Saturday.
“We’ll probably go back tomorrow,” Mark Anderson of Fairbault said Friday, noting it was nice not bumping into other boats.
Anderson and his partner, Jim Picha, wound up finishing in 31st place with a two-day total of 24.06 pounds.
This year’s tournament didn’t bring in the top weight former IFBC winners were looking for.
Reigning champs Nathan Brigham and Brett Meyers had five fish weighing 14.81 pounds on Friday, but didn’t even record a weight Saturday.
The Emo, Ont. duo finished the 2017 event in 54th place.
Brothers Duane Peterson and John Peterson of Bemidji, Mn., the 2012 champs, only recorded 7.42 pounds of fish.
They’ve fished all 13 years of the IFBC, along with many other tournaments, and said a day of fishing just doesn’t always go as planned.
“We learned years ago you don’t catch them every time,” Duane said Friday.
“You go out there and you come to the scale with a smile whether you’ve got 21 pounds like the leaders or you come to the scale with 7.42 pounds.
“It’s humbling but that’s how we fish,” he added. “Some days they bite, some days they don’t.
“We’re just happy to be here on Rainy Lake.”
One of the new teams to the IFBC this year was Devin Stromness and Travis Stromness of Fort Frances.
The team, who sat in the “hot seat” on Saturday until Balaski and Olson took over, finished in sixth place with 32.21 pounds.
“We don’t know what happened, we’re just so excited,” the duo said.
“The stars totally aligned for us.”
And while some teams came in with much smaller fish than they were looking for, many said it’s likely they will be returning to fish in the IFBC again, including Dingwall and Gustafson.
“We’ll definitely be back,” Gustafson vowed. “This is a great tournament.”