On day one of last year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC), Ian Waterer and Motei Demers were just over a half pound away from the biggest bag in the tournament’s history. The pair weighed in at 21.74 lbs, just shy of the record 22.28-lb bag caught in 2002 by Mike Luhman and Mark Raveling.
The second biggest bag ever helped propel Waterer and Demers to a championship victory last year. They beat Jeff Gustafson and John Peterson by less than a pound with a three-day total of 57.63 lbs.
Though they were thrilled to have won the championship, a new tournament record is not only in their sights, but clearly within reach, having come so close last year.
“I don’t want to say we could’ve or anything like that, but I would really like to have a little run at that record once again,” said Waterer.
Waterer had fished FFCBC a couple times before, but their victory last year was Demers’s first time on Rainy Lake.
From Winnipeg and Kenora respectively, Waterer and Demers are used to fishing on Lake of the Woods, where they can catch 100-150 bass in a day. But during their first day of pre-fishing on Rainy last year, they caught three.
“It’s a totally, totally, totally different fishery,” said Demers. “So we knew we had to figure out totally different strategies than what we were used to. We kind of found something on the third day of practice and ran with it — kind of hoping we could run with it again this year.”
Going into last year, Waterer kept telling Demers that Fort Frances is a different feeling.
“[It’s all] about bass fishing when the circuit comes to town, and that’s so comforting,” he said. “The whole town is behind all the bass anglers, and the fish are giant. Most lakes, the average size is not what it is on Rainy Lake.”
Demers is looking forward to hopefully catching a personal best for the year.
“Every year, we catch maybe one five-pound smallmouth, and [Rainy Lake] is the spot to do it every year,” he said.
Though there’s lots of big fish, Rainy can be a high-risk, high-reward type of fishery.
“The lake will either beat you down or make you the happiest man in the world,” said Waterer.
Now that water levels have substantially decreased, and weed cover has regrown, their tournament-winning fishery is completely different.
“I’m basically going back with a new lake again,” said Demers.
Waterer and Demers have had lots of success in northwestern Ontario tournaments as of late. They won the Kenora Bass International (KBI) in 2021, and last year won both the FFCBC and the Frank McClymont Memorial Bass Tournament.
Last year they also placed second in KBI and the Whitefish Bay Fall Bass Classic, and third in the Shoal Lake Bass Classic. Earlier this month, they earned second place in the Kenora Walleye Open.
“It’s just a really fun place to be, and a fun time of year between Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, and the surrounding areas — there’s nowhere else I’d rather be to try and fish and do tournaments,” said Waterer.
There’s a trio of three-day bass tournaments in the area they certainly plan to fish again this year. Waterer said they like to call them the triple crown — Bassin’ for Bucks, KBI, and FFCBC.
“They’re all kind of on a hit list,” he said. “A pie-in-the-sky list of tournaments you want to win around here.”
After fishing FFCBC, they’ll try their hand at another top finish at KBI, then head to Sioux Narrows for Bassin’ for Bucks in September. They’re also hoping to compete in the International Falls Bass Championship.
The pair run Spines and Tines Guiding on Lake of the Woods together, guiding for all species, but mostly bass.
“90 per cent bass, and then like 10 per cent walleye, pike, muskie, whatever else you’re catching,” said Waterer.
They also guide for a few local lodges, and Demers does AquaTraction marine flooring on the side as well.