Gustafson, Bruce earn Lake Despair crown

Lucas Punkari

This past weekend marked the first time that Fort Frances angler Bryan Gustafson was using his brand new Legend Alpha 211 boat in a fishing tournament, as he teamed up with Kenora’s Jamie Bruce for this year’s “Castin’ for Cash” event on Lake Despair.
While it’s hard to stay if his new boat was the reason for his success, Gustafson’s christened his new vessel on a winning note, as he and his partner outlasted 61 other teams to take home this year’s title with a two-day weight of 30.72 pounds.
“I just got this boat two weeks ago, so we’re one-for-one with it thus far,” Gustafson enthused.
“Now we are going to try to go for a two-for-two in a couple of weeks on Rainy Lake,” he added, referring to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
The tandem, who regularly team up for the FFCBC and the Kenora Bass International (KBI) events, jumped out into the lead on Day 1 as their five fish tipped the scales at 15.90 pounds.
“The first day was a blast,” Bruce recalled.
“I haven’t really fished with Bryan since the KBI last year, and he did all of the practice for this event as he knows the lake really well, so I was just pretty much getting guided out there.
“I did get lucky though and caught a few, but I was really buckling in for a long day and hoping for a 13-pound bag,” he noted.
“Either the fishing’s getting better or the anglers are getting better, as we saw some really good weights this weekend,” added Bruce.
Though rainfall made things a bit different for the anglers, the pair was able to catch 14.82 pounds of bass on Saturday, which was more than enough to clinch the tournament title.
“The fishing was about the same as it was yesterday, but the main difference was that we had one bigger fish in our bag on Friday,” Gustafson said.
Gustafson and Bruce were able to edge out the father-and-son tandem of Corey and Chase Curtis, as the Emo natives finished in second place with a two-day weight of 29.82 pounds.
“It was a really fun weekend,” 11-year-old Chase said afterwards.
“We got some big fish, and we had seem some big ones during practice all week,” he added.
Having entered Saturday in third place with a weight of 13.91 pounds, the Curtis’ moved up into first place in the standings with a tournament best one day total haul of 15.91 pounds, which was anchored by a 4.56-pound “lunker” that was caught by Corey which proved to be the big fish of the tournament.
“We caught it later in the afternoon,” Corey recalled.
“We were driving by a spot where we know that there is big bass, but there are a lot of boats that fish it, and there was actually another boat ahead of us in the top of the standings that had just left the area after catching a couple of fish.
“Once we pulled in there, I threw in our first cast and it hit right away, and I thought it was a pike at first because it was so long.
“But when it jumped out of the water again, and my heart jumped into my throat,” he added.
While the crowd was pumped out when the Curtis’ pulled their big bass out of the livewell, the Day 1 leaders were a little bit worried that their chances of winning the tournament could be in trouble.
“We had a two-pound lead going into the day over them, which is a nice cushion in a two-day tournament like this one,” Bruce noted.
“But when they opened their livewell and pulled out that giant, I was sweating, as I would of killed for that bass,” he added.
However, Corey knew that despite their huge catch, they would probably not have enough to knock off Gustafson and Bruce in the end.
“With the two-pound cushion that they had, we needed another 4.5 pounder,” he said.
“But we knew that we had a shot to at least take the lead, and to at least finish in second for sure,” Corey noted.
“When I saw that the team who was in second place ahead of us going into the day [Ryan and Gabe Hyatt] didn’t have any fish, I was a little excited, because I knew that we would either be in first or second,” Chase added.
Finishing in third place were the Devlin-based team of Doug and Solly McBride, who caught a two-day total weight of 29.16 pounds.
“It was tough fishing out there, as you really had to slow everything down to get the fish to actually bite,” Doug said.
“But we actually did better in the tournament than we did in our pre-fishing, as it was really slow for us, to say the least,” Solly stressed.
“However, we were able to save our spots for the weekend,” Doug added.
Ryan McDowell and Mike Badiuk finished in fourth place with a weight of 28.05 pounds, while Dave Williams and Pat Cross rounded out the top five with a total weight of 26.02 pounds.
Defending event champions Wayne and Pat Howard finished well back in the final standings, as they only caught 11.89 pounds of bass during the tournament.