FFCBC rookies already talking about 2006

Kenora’s Mark Skrzypek has been trying for years to get a spot in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
This year, his name was finally drawn. And with the 2005 tournament now a thing of the past, he insisted it was well worth the wait.
“I loved it,” Skrzypek enthused. “It’s great, well-organized, the volunteers are tremendous, and the people are so friendly.”
Skrzypek, a former member of the Kenora Bass International organizing committee, had taken in portions of the FFCBC in the past, but had never dipped his boat in Rainy Lake during the three-day event.
No stranger to tournament fishing, he said he was impressed with what he saw again last week.
“I can’t say anything negative about this tournament,” Skrzypek remarked. “It’s been great. It was everything it’s made up to be.”
With only one-third of the 136 spots in the annual tournament available to potential newcomers (and a whopping 141 anglers having entered their names in the draw for this year), it’s not easy to snare a berth.
But a few of the fishermen in last week’s event were experiencing the FFCBC for the first time.
Minnesota anglers Matt Peters and Jeremy Bester were lucky enough to have their name pulled in the October lottery and made the six-hour drive north from the Twin Cities area to compete.
They compete in a number of events on the summer angling circuit south of the border and said what they heard from other anglers at those events convinced them to give this one a try.
“Everybody’s talking like it’s a big fun tournament so we decided to come up,” Bester said.
Another Minnesota native, Jim Battin, was attracted to the FFCBC here because of the area’s tremendous fishery.
“It was the opportunity to fish Rainy Lake,” he said Monday.
So what did the FFCBC rookies think of the 2005 tourney?
“It was great,” remarked Bester, who, along with Peters, earned a spot next year with an 85th-place finish. “But I wish we had caught some more fish the second day.”
“I thought it was pretty well-run,” added Battin. “The lake is pretty gorgeous and it’s always fun fishing for smallmouths.”
Keith Wilson, who lives just east of Atikokan, joined his brother, Terry, in the boat and said he had a great time—even despite a lengthy list of motor troubles.
“I’d heard a lot about the tournament, that it was well-run tournament, and I found out it definitely was,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who also fishes a handful of other tournaments in Northwestern Ontario each year, said he was particularly impressed with the great lengths taken to ensure the event has activities for people of all ages—not just anglers.
“What really impressed me was what they do for the kids,” remarked Wilson, who also participated in the annual “Kid-Pro” tournament the previous Sunday.
“The parade really surprised me,” he added. “I didn’t know there were that many kids in all of Fort Frances.”
FFCBC chair Doug Cain said all the first-time participants he’s talked to seem to echo the sentiments of Skrzypek, Bester, Battin, and Wilson.
“The rookies were amazed,” he noted. “The few I talked to were just amazed with the way the community buys into it.”
Cain, in his rookie year as tournament director, added all the anglers, not just the new guys, seemed impressed with how things went last week.
For his part, Wilson, who placed 101st overall, said he’d love to return to the FFCBC again next year.
“I just sent my [draw application] back in already,” he noted. “Hopefully I can get back in. I really enjoyed it.”
Just after weighing in his bounty Saturday afternoon, Skrzypek said he also would like to fish the FFCBC again in 2006.
Unfortunately, Skrzypek and his partner, Frazer Green, fell one spot short of the top 90—missing the cut by less than a half-a-pound—but the duo seems determined to get in one way or another.
“If we can qualify, that’s great. But if not, I guess we’ll go back in the lottery and see what happens there,” Skrzypek said.