Lindner’s hopes of ‘three-peat’ shot down

There isn’t any question that James Lindner is one of the best anglers to ever hit the waters of Rainy Lake.
“James Lindner is probably the number-one bass angler in the world,” said Lionel Robert, who was emcee of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship for its first 10 years.
Going in the tournament, and especially after Day 1 last Thursday, there was very little doubt Lindner would become the first angler to win the FFCBC three times in a row.
“He’s just in a different league,” said Ted Stewner, who, along with partner, John Guzej, placed second to Lindner the past two years, after hearing Lindner’s opening day weight of 21.10 pounds being announced.
“There are many teams that can win, but Lindner has this lake dialed in and he’ll be tough to beat,” added Norm Lindsay, himself a three-time winner of the FFCBC (1995, 1997, and 2002).
The only question was if Lindner could accomplish the feat with a new partner in the boat.
You see, Bill Lindner, James’ brother, had to play the part of husband rather than angler last week as his wife’s due date for their first child was during the FFCBC.
So James had to try and accomplish the “three-peat” with Mike Hehner, who works with Bill at his photography studio in Minneapolis.
It’s not like Hehner was some guy off the street who had never been in a boat before. Quite the opposite. He is an avid fisherman who finished in 84th place with Chip Leer when fishing the FFCBC for his first time last year.
“He’s a really good hook,” Lindner said of Hehner.
But it was the first time they were in the same boat at the FFCBC and that surely added to the load that already was being carried by James, who last year had stated that, ‘I find the fish and Bill catches them.”
“James and Bill had something going together—the chemistry is there,” said Robert. “And to be champions that chemistry has to be there.
“The chemistry with Mike and James was good, but not like Bill and James, so that put the pressure all on James and the pressure that he puts on his shoulders is already immense.”
It seemed to be the same old story after Lindner and Hehner weighed in an impressive 21.10-pound bag on Day 1. In fact, the pair had five bass in their live-well by 9 a.m.
And those first five were caught by Hehner, who was starting to get a taste of what it was like being “the team of the tournament.”
“It’s interesting having everyone looking at you and wanting to know what you’re doing and checking out where you’re fishing,” he said. “And I see why it’s so tough to do so good so many years in a row because you get things figured out and then other people catch on.”
They led Dave and Lee Lindsay by a paltry .72 pounds, but the FFCBC crown cannot be claimed after only the first day.
“We’ll try to give James a run for his money,” Dave Lindsay had said. “He’s on some big fish and he may run away with it, but we’re going to try and keep up with him.”
It was the tandem of Mark Libitka and Dave Bennett who did just that, jumping from third place after Day 1 with a 19.41-pound bag to first place after Day 2 with 17.08 pounds.
Libitka’s lead was a tiny one though—only .90 pounds. And Lindner, who hauled in 14.49 pounds Friday to drop to second place, was well aware of that.
In fact, he was relishing the plot twists in the suspense that has been custom at the FFCBC, but a story that has ended the same way the past two years—with his team winning.
“I’ll tell you the truth, I like being in second place going into Day 3,” said Lindner, who had found himself in the exact same position a year ago.
So what about the windy and storm-like conditions that were expected for Saturday?
“If it gets cloudy and overcast, and if we get a little bit of chop on the water, then the other guys better tie their boots,” said Lindner.
But the other guys did tie their boots, and it was obvious from Lindner and Hehner’s body language that they knew they weren’t going to be hoisting the trophy.
“We don’t got it,” Lindner said before making his way through the big tent for the final weigh-in Saturday afternoon. “We’ve got around 12 or 13 pounds.”
Actually, they had 13.12 pounds, which left them in sixth place overall—2.9 pounds behind Dave and Lee Lindsay.
“I’m really proud of them,” Lindner said of the Lindsays.
Lindner said he was expecting big weights this year and figured he would need to catch the “big ones” of Rainy Lake.
And the mentality of looking to the deep water (around 60 feet) for the “big ones” stung Lindner, who he didn’t expect Day 3 to be so low in weights (only 1,378.70 pounds of fish were caught on Day 3 while Day 1 and 2 averaged out to 1,513.10 pounds).
He could have used the time spent searching for the larger fish to instead catch some good mid-size bass and have a different story written.
“We got our fifth fish and put it in the well and I looked at Mike and said, ‘Do you want to win or do you want to come in fifth place?’
“And he looked at me and said, ‘Let’s go for the win,’ so we started looking for those big ones. We could see them, but we couldn’t get them to bite,” Lindner noted.
So was Bill the deciding the factor between being a champion or not?
“Bill has 10 years of experience and has better knowledge of the lake and maybe could’ve helped more in some way, but realistically, not really,” Lindner replied.
But you’ve got to be disappointed that you couldn’t make FFCBC history with the “three-peat?”
“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t thinking about it that much,” Lindner said. “You go out and do the best you can, and try and figure the lake out.”