Two streaks came to an end Saturday at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Firstly, Dorian Lindholm, once again teamed up with Bill Wilcox of Burleson, Tex., broke a string of visitor dominance at the tournament, becoming the first Fort Frances resident to hoist the trophy since Kent and Steve Ballan had the honour back in 2001.
“It feels great,” enthused Lindholm, whose three-day team total of 56.45 pounds topped Mark Raveling and Mike Luhman by more than three pounds.
“We’ve been looking for this for 11 years,” Lindholm added.
Secondly, the win by Team #4 ended the three-year winning streak of Joe Thrun and Jim Moynagh.
The duo, hailing from Annandale, Mn. and Carver, Mn., respectively, finished 19th this year with 46.08 pounds.
The five-time champs had rocketed from 13th place to second on Friday after bringing in the tournament’s big one-day bag of 21.21 pounds. But everything fell apart Saturday as they only caught three fish weighing 8.14 pounds.
“After yesterday’s big catch, the only thing I was afraid of was being overconfident,” Moynagh said while on stage Saturday.
“I was quite certain we were going to bring in at least 17 or 18 pounds, but as soon as you start thinking like that, it’s going to bite you.
“And it did—and it bit hard,” he added.
While Moynagh and Thrun were doing their best not to read too much into Friday’s performance, even Wilcox, a pro on the BASS Tour and host of Honey Hole All-Outdoors TV, felt the pair had something up their sleeves on Saturday for a fourth-straight title.
“Not with Thrun and Moynagh having 21 pounds the second day,” he maintained.
“They figured something out, so nothing’s taken for granted after that,” Wilcox added. “I felt like they had the target, not me.”
Wilcox said given all the top-flight anglers in the tournament, he had a good feeling about coming out on top.
“It’s very satisfying because the competition here is so tough, and there are so many good fishermen here that you’ve got to have good fish every day to win,” he noted.
“It’s easy to bring in a good bag one day and falter the next.
“To win this, you can’t have a bad day,” he stressed.
Lindholm and Wilcox certainly were consistent over the three days of the tournament, posting a 19.63-pound bag on Thursday to sit second place after Day 1.
They had 18.68 pounds on Friday to take over first place, then cemented the deal with an 18.14-pound haul Saturday.
On the other hand, Alex and Darrell Keszler of Winnipeg, who led after Day 1 thanks to a 20.10-pound bag, went downhill from there, eventually finishing 18th.
One consistent area of success for Lindholm and Wilcox was a special spot they had hit early on in the day to build up a reserve of fish. Wilcox said the spot brought them four four-pounders right off the bat over the course of the three days.
“We had a starting spot we started each day and caught two from it the first day, one from it the second, and one the third,” he recalled.
“That spot done us well all three days,” agreed Lindholm.
Wilcox acknowledged early-morning success was key to their victory, as having a limit allowed them to target some game-changers instead of simply trying to bring in any bass that came along.
“We knew we had 17 or 18 pounds by 10 a.m., and we just kept trying to upgrade that,” he explained.
“When you’ve got a good limit, you can take chances on trying to catch a bigger fish.
“Even though we didn’t catch one [on Saturday], the other days that did work out for us,” he concluded.
Wilcox said he and Lindholm were fishing shallow areas with less than a foot of water near weeds, and found that topwater and spinner baits brought them the most success.
As well, the team caught a bit of a lucky break with the flight orders reversed on Friday. They were able to catch a 4.5-pound fish late in the day after the wind, which had howled for much of the day, started to die down.
“The second day, the wind hurt us a little bit, but since we were in the last flight, we had a little later bite, so that helped us out, actually,” Wilcox admitted.
“We had no problems because we were in a spot where the wind didn’t bother us all that much,” added Lindholm.
Wilcox noted there wasn’t much good news for the team before the tournament began. Pre-fishing didn’t teach them too much in terms of location, although they were able to figure out a championship pattern.
“Our pre-fish was really tough, but we just got on a pattern and we stuck with that pattern,” he said.
“We would go to water we didn’t practice on, but use that same pattern and catch fish.
“We’d find that same type of water, and it’d work not every time but most of the time,” he concluded.
The pair also made a point of isolating themselves from other tournament boats. Wilcox said they only saw a handful of competitors over the three days on the lake.
“During the tournament, we didn’t see but four tournament boats all week,” he remarked.
“I learned that last year to stay away from the boats and change location every day. It really helps.”
While Lindholm was proud to be the first Fort Frances resident to take the FFCBC crown in nine years, he noted the field is wide open in coming years, adding that it takes a great familiarity with Rainy Lake to jump into a competitive position.
“Anybody can win the tournament. It’s just a matter of looking around a lot,” he remarked.
On Saturday, Lindholm was counting his blessings that he had the good fortune to be teamed up with Wilcox.
“I thought I knew a little bit about bass fishing until I met Bill,” he said. “I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“Fishing with a guy like Bill, it’s really something. It’s amazing to watch this man fish,” Lindholm added. “This is what he does for a living.
“I can’t say enough about him.”
And Lindholm said he’s still picking up advice from Wilcox, including some fish first aid this year.
“I learned so much from him, and still, during the tournament this year, it was a learning experience,” he explained.
“He taught me things that I never, ever knew, like how to save a bleeding fish.
“That guy is so full of knowledge,” he lauded.
Lindholm fished the FFCBC in both 1997 and 1998 before being teamed up with Wilcox, mustering finishes of 85th and 106th, respectively.
The two started competing in the tournament 11 years ago when Lindholm was in need of a partner while Wilcox was looking to compete with a local angler.
Randy Carmody of Little Canoe Lodge, where Wilcox discovered the tournament, played matchmaker, and the pair have competed on Rainy Lake most years since then, missing only 2004 and 2008 since teaming up in 1999.
However, they’ve only begun to become a real threat recently as their best finish before placing fourth last year was a 24th-place showing back in 2002.
Mark Raveling and Mike Luhman finished in second place with 53.26 pounds, followed by Jeff Gustafson and John Peterson (52.24), Frank McClymont and Albert Trudeau (51.00), and Richard Rud and Jon Austin (50.08).
Rounding out the top 10 were Jim Sandelovich and Karl Howells (49.84), Al Lindner and Troy Lindner (49.49), David Skallet and Jim Merthan (49.43), Jason Pavleck and Bill Walls (48.52), and Kraig Dafcik and Kelvin Caul (48.42).
The big fish of the tournament was a 5.05-pound lunker brought in by Troy Norman and Jay Samsal on Saturday.