Gibbins claim unprecedented 4th RRWT title

Ken Johnston

There is an old saying that seemed to ring true this past weekend: “The fish bite the least when the wind is from the east.”
Everyone, including this year’s Rainy River Walleye Tournament champions, Jason and Oliver Gibbins, found the bite to be really tough for both days of fishing.
The now four-time champs said they picked up two nice fish right at the beginning of fishing on Friday (Day 1).
“It was a struggle after that [all day],” they added.
However, those two fish—weighing 7.75 and 5.72 pounds—vaulted them to the front of the 90-boat field. Combined with two smaller walleye, they were about five pounds up on their nearest challenger after Day 1.
The Gibbins had 15.48 pounds while Christian Armstrong and partner, Mark Nault, were sitting in second with 10.61 pounds, just edging out Christian’s dad, Dave, and uncle, Darren, who were in third after Day 1 with 10.55 pounds.
Many anglers reported a tough day of fishing. “It was a tough day with just little taps and little fish!” recounted Ted and Leo Heyens (Team #50).
While they weighed in four fish, they sat in 38th spot with 4.36 pounds, which was a story-teller weight.
Only about five pounds separated fifth place and 50th place.
With that in mind, many anglers hoped for a better bite on Day 2 (Saturday). But again the wind blew from the east and fog delayed the start of fishing by about an hour.
Some said the delay was costly as the biggest fish caught on Day 1 appeared to be reeled up early in the morning.
For one team, however, the timing seemed to be just right. Dan Armstrong and Sean Kilpatrick (Team #85) travelled upstream about 10 minutes.
Near the Clementson Rapids, Kilpatrick had a hit that had them both excited—a big walleye. Just how big, though, would not be known until later in the day.
Tournament rules allow for anglers to bring in big fish earlier than the weigh-in- if they feel the fish could die from stress in the livewell.
Kilpatrick said the big fish fared well all day. They did, however, have some reservations about a smaller fish later in the day.
“We came in because one of the other fish we had was showing signs of stress,” they said.
So they came in about 40 minutes early and decided to weigh all their fish then.
That big fish tipped the scales at 10.97 pounds—breaking the RRWT record fish held by Colin Wood/Doug Moen since 2004 (10.71 pounds).
Combined with their other three fish, they had a basket total weight of 17.4 pounds, which catapulted them from 67th place on Day 1 (1.76 pounds) to first place at 19.1.
It was a spot they would hold on to all the way until the last boat weighed in on Day 2: the Gibbins.
The top five from Day 1 were kept back to create suspense. The fifth-place team was Harvey Cochrane and Peter Gushulak with 8.60 pounds, who needed 10.55 pounds to knock Armstrong/Kilpatrick from the top perch.
But they, like so many, only found little fish, weighing in three of them at 2.33 pounds. That eventually dropped them to 11th overall.
It was pretty much the same story for the fourth-place team from Day 1. Doug and Troy Kreger had 9.37 pounds—and needed 9.8 pounds to take over the lead.
They had four little ones weighing only 2.9 pounds, however, which saw them finish the tourney in ninth place.
The third-place team (Dave and Darren Armstrong) and the second-place team (Christian Armstrong and Mark Nault) followed suit with bigger baskets, but still not enough.
They needed 8.62 pounds and 8.56 pounds, respectively, to take the lead. The Armstrongs, however, weighed in four fish at 5.1 pounds while the latter duo had four fish at 7.14 pounds.
As such, they finished fifth and fourth, respectively.
With only the Gibbins to weigh-in, and needing just 3.69 pounds, Armstrong and Kilpatrick were nervous. And as Jason and Oliver hoisted up their fish one by one, the crowd’s cheers were a clear indication that they felt the three-time champs were going to win their unprecedented fourth title in 13 years.
The crowd was right. The duo weighed in four fish at 7.48 pounds to capture to the 2011 RRWT—and $15,000 first prize—with 22.96.
The Gibbins also pocketed an additional $600 for the big fish of Day 1.
Armstrong and Kilpatrick took home $7,500 for finishing second, as well as $600 for the big fish of Day 2 and the Lionel Robert Memorial Award ($1,000) for the biggest basket of the tournament.
Jason Gibbins told the Record they only caught those four walleye all day, picking them up just west of town in the early going. He said they tried about 20 spots both days, fishing west in the morning and then east in the afternoon.
They picked up their big fish on Day 1 just west of the international bridge. But after the morning bite, the walleye fishing dropped right off.
“We tried jigging and trolling,” Gibbins noted. “Jigging with different colours worked the best, considering how bad it was fishing.”
“We got bored walleye fishing and decided to do some bass fishing for a while this afternoon [Saturday],” he added. “We love bass fishing and it is really good on this river.
“This river could support a bass tournament easily.”
The pair only fish the Rainy River during the RRWT but with it being so profitable, “We might have to start fishing it more,” Gibbins laughed.
Both he and Oliver do most of their fishing on Lake of the Woods.
The Gibbins only did one day of pre-fishing this year. Their trick seems to be consistency.
In looking back at past tournaments they fished the Rainy River the same way each year they won.
Rounding out the top five teams for 2011 were Lisa Stone and Raymond King—18.00 pounds ($3,800), Christian Armstrong and Mark Nault—17.75 pounds ($2,800), and Dave and Darren Armstrong—15.65 pounds ($2,000).
Finishing sixth through 10th were Kirk Wood and Jon O’Connor—14.47 pounds ($1,600), Doug Jorgenson and Al Wolanicki—13.83 pounds ($1,500), Kevin Marchuk and Tom Briggs—12.46 pounds ($1,400), Doug and Troy Kreger—12.27 pounds ($1,300), and Sean Westman and Dave Oldakowski—11.01 pounds ($1,200).
Finishing 11th through 15th were Harvey Cochrane and Peter Gushulak—10.93 pounds ($700), Dean and Brian St. Pierre—10.80 pounds ($600), Eugene Heyens and Ken Kreger—10.65 pounds ($500), Pete Blakeney and Daniel Stamler—10.52 pounds ($400), and Brian and Jim Ney—10.46 pounds ($300).
Harvey Cochrane and Peter Gushulak also won $300 as the top rookies.
Bill Godin and Ralph Galusha, meanwhile, were crowned the “River Champs”—pocketing $600 as the top team fishing both the Emo Walleye Classic (14.89 pounds) and the RRWT (9.99 pounds).
As well, two hidden weight awards (worth $200 each) were presented each day.
The hidden weights for Day 1 were 3.31 pounds and 6.71 pounds, which went to Dorothy and Nick Leininger (3.5) and Jamie and Jeremy Westman (6.75), respectively.
The Day 2 hidden weights were 1.31 pounds and 2.31 pounds, which went to Dean and Kevin Wiersema (1.26) and Brendan Loney and Shane Scott (2.31), respectively.
Finally, the Legion boat raffle winner was Melvin Kallstrom of Fort Frances.
Second prize ($1,000) went to Craig Neufeld of Dryden while third prize ($500) went to Veldron Vogan of Sleeman.