Mixed results for local teams

In addition to what emcee Paul Morrison dubbed a “Sioux Narrows invasion” atop the leaderboard at the 11th-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, a number of Rainy River District anglers proved local teams are capable of making waves against some of North America’s best.
While Devlin’s Bill Godin, who once again was partnered with Norm Lindsay of Sioux Narrows, barely missed out on the $50,000 first-place prize, a trio of other local entries also cashed cheques after the three-day tournament.
Paul Jewiss and Mike Graham wound up 17th overall with 45.28 pounds, Guy Johnston and Doug Wright were 23rd (43.92), and Jason Cain and Dallas Mosbeck finished in 27th spot (42.97).
“This year, everything just seemed to click,” said Jewiss, who split the $1,750 prize for 17th-place as well as a second cheque for $1,000—awarded annually to the top local entry (Lindsay and Godin were ineligible because Lindsay does not reside in Rainy River District).
Johnston and Wright earned $1,500 while Cain and Mosbeck claimed $1,400.
Jewiss, from Devlin, and Graham, a Fort Frances resident, had reeled in an impressive 18.18-pound bag on the opening day of the tournament last Thursday—and found out in a hurry the pressure that comes with carrying the title hopes of the hometown fans.
“The expectations are much higher because everyone is watching what you do,” said Jewiss, admitting he and Graham may not have been as patient as they should have been on Day Two on Friday and struggled to land their five bass—netting only 11.71 pounds.
“Some of the big teams that have been here before, they’re sort of used to the pressure,” he said. “We’ll know better next time.”
Still, Jewiss, whose best previous finish at the FFCBC was a 44th-place showing in 2002, wasn’t making any excuses Monday.
“Those other 16 teams, they did better, they fished better, they landed better fish,” he remarked.
“You’ve got to have three good days. So far, we can do two.”
Johnston and Wright, the top local team last year with an eighth-place finish, also had one tough day which cost them a few spots on the leaderboard this time around.
After posting totals of 17.58 pounds and 14.12 pounds on Day One and Day Two, respectively, poor conditions made it impossible for them to get to their favourite spot—nearly 50 miles from the Sorting Gap Marina in the south arm of Rainy Lake—on Saturday.
They caught just five bass, weighing in 12.22 pounds, and slipped seven positions.
“I thought we could have done better on the last day, should have done better on the last day,” Johnston said. “We kind of thought we had better weight than what we had.”
While some district anglers, like Jewiss/Graham and Cain/Mosbeck, posted their best finishes ever at the annual tournament, other locals who have had past success struggled this year.
Past champions Denis Barnard and Clint Barton, who took the top prize in 2000, and Steve and Kent Ballan, who were triumphant the following year, are among the 17 local entries who will need some luck in the draw if they want to compete next year.
Godin, who finished fourth at last year’s FFCBC, said he expected some of the local anglers would have a little more luck on Rainy Lake last week.
“Denis Barnard, the Ballans, the McBrides, those guys usually do pretty well,” Godin said. “I was surprised they weren’t up higher than they were.”
“There’s not as many top local teams [on this year’s leaderboard],” he added. “It’s a majority of American teams.”
Godin, who was born in Rainy River and now operates a tourist camp at Lake Despair, also stressed that with more pro anglers entering the draw every year, keeping familiar faces in the FFCBC field is of the utmost importance.
“I think the field is getting tougher, but I do think we have to keep a lot of the local guys in the tournament to keep the crowds up at the tent,” he remarked.
While home turf is considered a huge advantage in many sports, FFCBC participants from this area are split on whether competing in their own backyard gives them an edge in this event.
Johnston said he thinks it does.
“We’ve got the advantage, we can go out and fish [Rainy Lake] every day we want,” he remarked. “We’re learning all season long.
“I find now that we’re getting more and more experience with this tournament and getting more educated with fish patterns, it’s getting easier for us to do well.”
But with so many pro anglers marking the FFCBC on their summer calendars, Mosbeck isn’t sure that’s the case.
“There’s so many great fishermen fishing this tournament that it’s so hard to say you have an advantage,” he noted.
“We may have a little more of an advantage since we get to spend more time on the water, but otherwise, techniques and stuff like that—they know a lot more than we do.”
“Some of the locals only fish this tournament, that’s it,” agreed Jewiss. “It’s tough. You’ve probably got 50 teams that could all win.
“You look at Gary Lake, how long has he been doing this? Or Al Lindner? Ron Lindner? It’s a big thing, experience.”
Nonetheless, anglers insisted we haven’t seen the last local team to hoist the FFCBC trophy.
“No, no, no,” Mosbeck stressed Saturday. “There’s a lot of good local anglers. It’s always hard to beat the Lindners, or Stewner and Guzej for that matter, but if you fish hard, I think you can do it.”
Whether they were hauling in big bags or struggling to land fish, the district anglers once again enjoyed plenty of support from the community. The tent was crowded for the Day Three weigh-ins on Saturday—and there weren’t a lot of empty seats on Thursday or Friday, either.
The outstanding community support is what makes the FFCBC a favourite event for all the anglers who hail from the area, Mosbeck noted.
“It’s just great to see everybody out,” he said. “It’s always more fun weighing in fish in front of a big crowd, whether you have five small ones or five large ones.”
Jewiss said the local support goes beyond just people packing the big tent for the daily weigh-ins or cheering on the anglers from the shoreline.
“The local sponsors really make it possible for us,” he stressed. “Without them, we couldn’t do this.
“A lot of the local people really help out the local guys,” Jewiss added. “They do well for us, and we try to do well for them.”
About 80 of the 272 anglers who participated in the 2005 FFCBC hailed from Fort Frances or other district communities.