Gustafson, Luhman take Bass Championship

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Bryan Gustafson and Mike Luhman took the lead on Thursday afternoon and they never looked back. The pair went wire to wire to win the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC) with a three day total of 61.19 lbs.

Neither storm, nor boat fire would deter them from their goal. Both Gustafson and Luhman have won the FFCBC before with other partners, Luhman as recently as 2019 with Mark Raveling. But their only finish together was 22nd place at last year’s championship. Gustafson won with Brian McNanney in 2018. Both also have had multiple top-10 finishes in the past as well.

Bryan Gustafson, left, and Mike Luhman hold aloft the trophies for their top place finish at the 2023 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. Gustafson and Luhman, Team 23, took top spot with a three-day total weight of 61.19 pounds, holding off second place Team 1, Ian Waterer and Motei Demers, who landed a total of 59.72 pounds, and third place winners Team 2, Jeff Gustafson and John Peterson, who brought in a combined total of 55.27 pounds. Gustafson and Luhman also brought in the Big Catch for the tournament, as well as the top team with a Lund and top team with a Mercury. Team 115 (Mike Salvador and Steve Salvador) landed the Big Fish for the tournament, weighing in at 5.23 pounds. – Allan Bradbury photo

The Times caught up with the victors shortly after coming off the stage under the big tent.

“It feels great,” Gustafson said.

While on stage the pair thanked many community members who offered their help when the pair thought their boat might be down for the count after an electrical issue the second morning of the tournament.

“There was a short that jumped the battery,” Luhman said. “There was smoke coming out from underneath the dash, from underneath the console. There was so much smoke everywhere I couldn’t even see Bryan at the back of the boat.”

Luhman says with some handiwork Gustafson got the boat running again.

“We didn’t know if it was going to run and he did some master mechanic stuff and got it rewired and got it to work,” Luhman said. “It ran the rest of the week.”

When people heard they were having issues Luhman says many stepped up to offer boats.

“There was at least 10 different people that heard before we could get to town, that had heard we had a boat fire and wanted to make sure we were ok and offered us their spare boat,” Luhman said. “There was one sitting here rigged, ready to go full of gas by the time we got to town, because we didn’t know if it was going to start, if it was going to run or if any of the depth finders had fried. We didn’t know what we had other than a burnt mess, but it worked out perfect.”

The weather Saturday morning was a challenge for most of the anglers on Rainy Lake. MC Shane Beckett asked most anglers how they managed through the torrential thunder and lightning storm that tore across the area Saturday morning. Many toughed it out and fished through while others sought shelter at cabins or resorts on the lake in an effort to stay safe. Gustafson and Luhman took the boat near an island in an effort to get out of the worst of the weather, which Gustafson described as a “pretty sketchy.”

On leading the tournament from day one, Luhman said it’s a rare accomplishment.

“It’s very difficult to do that,” Luhman said. “If you watch many tournaments you know it’s a difficult feat. With the boat catching fire the second morning and almost being late there was a lot of stress involved.”

The last day the pair were struggling to bring in the larger fish they might need to secure the championship and after trying a few other areas that didn’t pay off the took a gamble to see if they could find bass elsewhere.

“Second place means nothing to either of us at this point in our lives. We’ve both done it too many times,” Gustafson said. “We said we’d roll the dice and they’ll fall where they fall.”