Gustafson, White break derby record

Joey Payeur

Bryan Gustafson threw down the gauntlet twice, once with his fishing and once with a good-natured, but pointed verbal volley.
Jeff Gustafson has every intention of answering the challenge before the month is out.
In what has become a respectful, but fierce rivalry, the two anglers have taken turns making the other get the best seat in the house to watch the first one lift the championship trophy.
This past weekend, it was Bryan Gustafson’s turn, as he teamed with fellow Fort resident Brian White to win the first-place prize of $5,000 at the “Castin’ for Cash” bass tournament hosted by Lake Despair Lodge.
The pair set a two-day record for the tourney with a combined haul of 34.57 pounds to soundly defeat the Keewatin-based husband-wife team of Jeff and August Gustafson, who finished almost 4.5 pounds behind with a total of 30.13.
To rub salt in the wound, the old record was held by none other than Jeff and August, who set the old mark in 2011.
“The line of the night came in the beer gardens about 11 p.m. on Saturday night,” beamed Bryan, who along with Florida-based teammate Brandon McMillan was edged by less than a quarter of a pound in last year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, by—yes—Jeff and partner John Peterson to make it two straight FFCBC titles for the duo.
“I asked Jeff if he was ready to rumble in two weeks (at the FFCBC). He looked at me and smiled and said, ‘Let’s do that.’”
The legal-sounding pairing of Bryan and Brian lost to Emo’s Nathan Brigham and Brett Meyers by .7 pounds at last year’s Lake Despair shootout.
But using a massive Day 1 mark this past Friday of 17.63 (second highest in tourney history), the eventual champions lunged to the front of the 64-team bunch and never looked back.
“There weren’t any big fish, but all of them were beauties between 3.47 and 3.78 pounds,” noted Bryan.
Day 2 brought along a slightly smaller weight (16.94, still the biggest of the day by almost 2.5 pounds) but the tournament’s biggest fish and the second-largest in tournament history at 4.45 pounds to net an extra $500.
The most surprising things about the big numbers the two were putting up was that they were doing minimal culling of their day’s catch both days.
“We only caught seven fish on Day 1 and eight on Day 2,” admitted Bryan.
“There were not a lot of bites. It was really strange, especially because they sometimes bite better in the heat.”
The new champions were so dominant, they made the defending champs an afterthought in third place, despite Brigham and Meyers’ total of 28.88 being better than their victory number of last year (28.43).
Bryan’s usual pre-tournament preparations were waylaid when he was stuck on shore due to illness in the days leading up to the tournament.
“We just winged it,” he summarized bluntly.
“It was just using a bunch of rods and covering a lot of water and all the stars aligned for us,” Bryan continued.
“It was a lot of run-and-gun fishing on a lot of different areas of the lake.”
Bryan’s win at Lake Despair was his second after partnering with the Fort’s Jamie Bruce to defeat the field in 2013.
But this one came with its own personal history.
“Me and Brian as boys fished at a real young age before it was ever cool,” recalled Bryan.
“He’s really who my fishing started with.”
Taking fourth place was the Fort’s Zack McBride and Mike Wilson of International Falls (28.28), while the Emo team of Dallas and Cameron Mosbeck was fifth (28.11).