After three intense days of fishing, and some stormy weather to boot, one team has emerged victorious from the 2021 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC) – and broken a decades-old record in the process.
Troy Norman and Jay Samsal, Team 4, were crowned the winners of this year’s tournament following an impressive three day catch of 62.10 lbs, putting them just over three pounds ahead of second place finishers Mike Wilson and Zack McBride (58.92 lbs). Several teams were neck in neck for the first two days of fishing, with multiple 20+lb catches being recorded, but a day 3 total of 20.76 pounds meant that Norman and Samsal were the ones to finally land the trophy.
The three-day total the pair managed to record also broke the tournament’s long standing three-day-total record of 58.62 lbs set by Jim Moynagh and Joe Thrun in 1998. Norman and Samsal’s overall haul marks the first time in Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship history that a three-day total broke 60 lbs.
Speaking after the results were made official and the trophy was handed over, Norman and Samsal noted that it’s been an unusual year, which makes the victory feel different than one might expect, especially as the public is forced to sit out on much of the spectacle that accompanies the tournament.
“It’s been kind of a weird year with the COVID thing,” Norman said.
“This is usually not how winning goes with the tournament at Fort Frances. Usually the town is so wrapped around this thing. There’s a huge tent, Paul Morrison’s voice is echoing through Fort Frances, music is playing, people are screaming, candy is getting thrown. It’s awesome to win the tournament, it’s awesome to compete with a whole bunch of great anglers, but we’re definitely missing the prestige and the big hurrah of what the tournament usually is. It’s not just a fishing tournament, it’s a major event for the whole town.”
“It’s a bit of a level of shock right now,” Samsal continued.
“Coming into the tournament we had a bit of a plan and it went as good or better than expected. We never thought we’d bring in three days of weight like that but it’s surreal and we had a blast doing it. We had a ton of fun.”
Norman and Samsal are certainly no strangers to tournament fishing in Fort Frances or elsewhere, but they’ve come a long way since the first time they competed in the FFCBC in 2005, where the pair came in dead last. (“We were the worst team in the tournament,” Norman said). Since then, however, the pair have taken the trophy home two other times before their most recent win, first in 2016, then again in 2017. Samsal said the two have been fishing together since they were teenagers.
“We both grew up in Dryden and I think we were sixteen and fishing a bass tournament there, and fifteen-sixteen years later we’re still hard at it,” he said.
“This is what it’s all about, we’re having fun.”
Every angler team has a different approach in their strategy, as each lake and set of conditions are different, but Norman and Samsal explained that they weren’t doing anything unusual over the course of the tournament this year, choosing to let each day dictate where they would go and what they would do to land their catch.
“[Friday night] having supper we weren’t 100 per cent sure what we were going to do,” Samsal said.
“But we got up, got out on the lake. You kind of get a bit of a feeling what decisions to make and what directions to go and what you need to do. It’s kind of a cliche but we try to fish what is the moment and that’s what we did all week. We made adjustments. The weight makes it look like it was all easy, but it was never easy. We worked hard for it and at the end of it, it paid off.”
In addition to winning the tournament and breaking a long standing record, Norman and Samsal were also the top team with a Mercury, while Team 65 (Cole Godbout and Braedon Keast) were the top team with a Lund, Team 16 (Glenn Ward and Vanessa Ward) were the top team with a female angler and Team 118 (Jim Sandelovich and Connor Sandelovich) were the top team with a teenage angler. Perry and Carson Dubchak were awarded the father/son Ron Bridgman memorial trophy.