It took longer than expected, but the International Falls Bass Championship crowned its first-ever local champions on Saturday to conclude the fifth-annual event.
International Falls anglers John Cann and Ted Olson brought in a 16.52-pound bag while fishing on Rainy Lake to capture the title with a two-day haul of 28.10 pounds.
They had opened action Friday with 11.58 pounds while fishing the Rainy River.
“It was a lot of hard work; Ted and I put a lot of time in and we concentrated on the river [in pre-fishing] because we figured we had the lake figured out early on,” Cann explained.
“This is our first time winning a big event like this,” he added.
Tyler Kocon (Duluth) and Kyle Potter (International Falls) brought in the second-biggest bag on Saturday (13.97) to vault into second place with a 25.58-pound total while David Hartig (Big Lake) and Eric Kielb (Medina) claimed third with a two-day weight of 25.06 pounds.
Kenora’s Jeff Gustafson and Scott Dingwall, who won the inaugural IFBC back in 2005, were sitting pretty after Day 1 on Friday with a 16.59-pound catch, but had a tough time on the river on Day 2 to finish in fourth with 25.04 pounds.
“We kind of felt like we were in the driver’s seat a little bit [after Day 1], but it’s a two-day event,” Gustafson said on stage at the final weigh-in at Smokey Bear Park.
“I’ve been pretty lucky on Day 2s this year, and we were confident and ready to go, but we were humbled [Saturday], had a tough time and couldn’t get it going, so we were lucky to get five [fish],” he added.
Frank Savino of Hudson and Brian Lapointe (Lake Elmo) rounded out the top five with a 24.28-pound total.
Cann and Olson got the crowd going when they weighed in prior to the top nine teams from Friday coming through the big tent, then they had to wait patiently in the hot seats until the real celebration could begin after all the weights had been counted.
The pair caught all of their fish in one spot during a quick flurry in the afternoon—having their most success battling the heavy winds in open water.
“We were way out in the middle of the lake pounding on [submerged] humps, 14-16 feet of water,” Olson said.
“It’s a rough way to fish and had we been fishing in my bass boat, we couldn’t have done it,” he admitted.
“[But] we hooked up on everything today and everything came in the boat.”
“Without the support of our family, I don’t think we could be able to do this,” Cann said on stage while accompanied by his youngsters.
Olson said his portion of the $10,000 prize would go towards a lower unit on his motor that was wrecked Friday, while Cann said his wife, Stacey, was leaving for New York this week and would have some extra spending money.
Last year’s champs, Dave Bennett and Mike Salvador, struggled mightily on Day 1 with just one fish totalling 1.35 pounds. But they brought in 9.22 pounds on Day 2 to move up to 36th place.
“[Friday] we had one of those days, so we just went fishing [Saturday],” Bennett said.
“The river was fishing tough, our day of practice we had out there we didn’t do too good, but we messed around with a few different things and we finally picked up some fish and had a fun day out there.
“It was nice and sunny, and just a fun day on the water,” Bennett enthused.
Rounding out the top 10 were Troy Jutting of Mankato and Jon Austin of International Falls (23.70 pounds), Travis Peterson of Bemidji and Steve Mattson of Grand Rapids (23.31), Jon McDonald and George McDonald of International Falls (21.57), Tracy Pogue and Chuck Olson of Bemidji (21.53), and Duane Peterson and John Peterson of Bemidji (21.53).
The big fish on Day 1 went to Gustafson and Dingwall (4.73 pounds) while Saturday’s big fish was caught by Chuck Coombe of International Falls and Nate Lappi of Rochester, Mn. (4.38).
The two-day event pits teams against one another on two different bodies of water (Rainy Lake and the Rainy River).
Half go on the river and the other half go on the lake the first day, with the roles reversed on Day 2.
Most of the field brought in bigger bags when fishing the lake this year.