Pre-fishing inconsistent for tourney anglers

FORT FRANCES—The similarities between tournament fishing and high stakes poker are resounding.
The key to both sports is knowledge.
Knowing something the opposition doesn’t puts a player at a distinct advantage and greatly increases their chances of winning.
As such, knowledge is the one aspect of both sports that a participant is unlikely to share with anyone.
In fact, there is such a premium on knowledge that competitors have been known to provide false information in order to gain an advantage.
And why not? Who in their right mind is going to offer up valuable knowledge to their opponents in the days leading up to a competition?
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is very much like the kind of high stakes poker game found in the back rooms of a casino like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The potential for a big payday is huge.
With $171,250 in cash prizes on the line, the tournament attracts some of the best anglers in North America each year.
Each of the 137 teams competing in the FFCBC dreams of collecting the $50,000 first-place prize—and of owning bragging rights until next July.
And like a poker game, teams guard the knowledge they’ve gained pre-fishing in the days leading up to the competition.
However, while none of the teams are likely to divulge any specific strategies or the locations of good fishing spots, a few common themes came up time and again in conversations heard around the Sorting Gap Marina on Monday evening.
The biggest concern for many of the anglers has been the complete lack of consistency in terms of finding, and netting, the size of bass necessary to be a contender come Saturday afternoon.
Craig Wicklund has fished the FFCBC for each of the past six years. He said this year’s pre-fishing produced a few good-sized bass, but not enough to be in the hunt for first place by Day 3.
“You catch a lot of fish but there’s a lot of small ones,” he remarked. “It’s hard to find a spot with a lot of big ones.”
“We’re still not seeing the size or the numbers we’d like to see,” echoed Bart Stebnitski of Kenora after a frustrating day of pre-fishing.
Joe Semler, a six-year tournament veteran, summed it up best. “I found some good fish in a couple of spots, but I can’t seem to duplicate it.”
The unusually warm weather this year was another hot topic of discussion. With Rainy Lake significantly warmer than it normally is at this time of year, the bass spawning cycle has been accelerated significantly.
As such, the fish have made their way to deeper water much earlier than they have in years past. And that’s meant anglers are fishing much deeper than they normally would.
“There’s nothing shallow,” said FFCBC rookie John Maher.
Maher and his partner, Brian Stenberg, have spent most of their pre-fishing time searching for “the right kind of water” and the big fish.
Bobbie and Lindsay Durno agreed with the notion that deeper water appears to be where the big bass can be found.
“There’s still fish up shallow, but it seems deeper is more consistent [in terms of finding big fish],” Lindsay Durno said. “They’re [the bass] not in their normal places.”
Despite the frustration felt by many of the anglers during pre-fishing, the news was not all bad. The early weather forecast, which is predicting nothing but sunny skies and warm temperatures during the tournament, offered hope.
“Whenever the weather is stable, it helps with the fishing,” Semler said.
So given all the struggles the anglers seemed to be experiencing during pre-fishing, should spectators expect lower weights this year?
Absolutely not, according to the anglers.
“Guaranteed it’s going to be the same as last year,” Stebnitski said of the weight needed to win this year’s FFCBC.
“There’s 50 or 60 teams that always do well and it could go any way.”
Stebnitski’s partner, Dean Smith, went one step further, predicting “60 [pounds] to win.”
Gene and Jeff May also weren’t buying into talk of lighter baskets this year.
“There’s going to be some big bags brought in,” the latter said. “Someone always finds them.”
The only question that remains to be seen now is who’s holding the proverbial cards and who’s bluffing?
(Fort Frances Times)