It was one of the most impressive hauls in the 11-year history of the “Castin’ For Cash” bass tournament on Lake Despair.
And in the end, it also was a record-breaker.
Jeff Gustafson and his girlfriend, August Collinson, captured their second “Castin” crown on Saturday with a two-day total of 32.46 pounds, which easily eclipsed the 29.35-pound haul by Jon Evans and Gus McFaddin last year.
“It’s awesome,” Gustafson enthused. “It’s hard to win any of these tournaments so when you do win one, you definitely enjoy it.
“We worked hard and had a couple of hard days of practices that we put in, and as a result, we were able to find some fish and put them in the boat this weekend,” he added.
After vaulting into first place Friday with a 14.48-pound total, the second title for the Kenora-based tandem was assured with an eye-popping 18.23-pound haul on Saturday, which helped to top their 2008 winning total of 29.03 pounds.
“When we won the first time in 2008, the weather was awful and that’s when we managed to find the fish,” Collinson recalled.
“It was the same thing this morning [Saturday] as the weather was just terrible, and we ended up doing the same thing as we did in 2008,” she noted.
A thunderstorm and heavy downpour Saturday morning left most of the anglers soaked—which they still were when they arrived for the final weigh-in later that afternoon at Lake Despair Lodge—and many of them scratching their heads.
But that certainly wasn’t the case for Gustafson and Collinson.
“You don’t know what to expect, really, with fishing because just when you think you got it all figured out, you can get humbled pretty quickly,” Gustafson remarked.
“We went out this morning [Saturday] and we got off to a pretty good start,” he noted. “And throughout the whole day, we never caught a lot of fish but we still had a few upgrades and we got what we got.”
Following a disappointing 16th-place showing last July, Gustafson and Collinson spent a few days pre-fishing prior to this year’s tournament, which they feel was a key to their success.
“Last year [was] really hot and calm, and we didn’t do all that great,” Collinson recalled.
“This year, we put in our time with pre-fishing so we could figure out where the fish were, especially when the weather was different,” she added.
“We actually caught all of our fish in the shallow weeds,” Gustafson noted.
“Last year we only had three fish on both days, so it was a really tough tournament for us, but the conditions were pretty similar this year and we were able to learn from our mistakes,” he reasoned.
Along with that learning experience, the pair may have had the fishing gods on their side, especially with their record total.
“In the five years of fishing we have done here previously, we had only caught two other bass that would have been in our catch on the final day,” Gustafson said.
“Of our seven biggest bass that we have ever caught here, we caught five of them today, so there’s a luck factor that gets involved in sometimes.”
With the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship just over a week away, Gustafson feels his win at Lake Despair will help him out a bit heading into the event here, where he has finished in third spot the last two years.
“Confidence is huge in fishing and every little bit helps,” said Gustafson, who again will team up with John Peterson at the FFCBC.
“I’m really looking forward to going to Rainy Lake now for sure after this,” he added.
As for Collinson, she’ll be putting the prize money from “Castin’ For Cash” towards a trip to Europe this fall, which is something she’s always wanted to take.
“Me and my best friend are planning to backpack around Ireland, then fly to Barcelona and backpack through Spain,” she remarked.
“Jeff has too much fishing and hunting to do, though, so he can’t make this trip.”
While the couple’s final total garnered the most buzz around Lake Despair Lodge on Saturday, another talking point came in the runner-up position as the team of Ralph and Scott Galusha finished in a dead heat with Nathan Brigham and Brett Meyers.
Both teams had a two-day total of 26.32 pounds, which left many wondering how the tie would be broken.
“We should have an hour fish-off,” Ralph Galusha said.
“I think there’s going to be a fist fight, actually,” Meyers joked.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Brigham stressed. “Have you seen the size of these guys?
“They are like seven feet tall,” he laughed.
In the end, it was the Emo-based pairing of Brigham and Meyers who captured the runner-up prize because as they had a better first-day weight than the Galushas (13.66 pounds to 12.97).
“That was about what we were expecting for our performance, actually,” Brigham said.
“Friday was a bit of a grind, and I think we got pretty lucky by getting a couple of fish off of the shore,” he noted.
“We pulled up on a spot while it was raining all morning on Saturday, and even though we were soaking wet, on our second cast of the day we caught our biggest fish,” Meyers added.
Having started the day in fourth place, Brigham and Meyers were able to dodge the bullets from Rod and Dave Woodgate, along with Kelvin Caul and Ted Heyens, but finally were shoved aside from the hot seat as soon as Gustafson and Collinson rolled in.
“We saw what they had at the dock, so we knew they would probably take it,” Meyers said.
“The other two teams [the Woodgates and Caul/Heyens] kind of gave us a rough idea of what they had, as well, but we didn’t know if they were pulling our legs or not,” Brigham added.
As for the Galushas, they were able to improve on their fourth-place result from a year ago with their third-place showing, which also saw them jump from sixth in the standings after Day 1.
“Today [Saturday] was a lot tougher than Friday,” Ralph Galusha said.
“We caught something like 25 fish on the first day, but I don’t know if it was the storm or what, but it made things a lot harder.
“We were still able to catch the right fish. Well, I guess what we thought was the right fish,” he joked.
“‘Gussy’ is really tough to beat.”
But both Galushas feel that their strong showing at Lake Despair will help them out heading into upcoming tournaments.
“Going into the Fort Frances tournament [with ‘Castin’ For Cash’ organizer Bill Godin] with this result really helps a lot,” Ralph said.
“This really makes you feel like you know what you are doing, and it helps to build your self-esteem,” echoed his son, Scott, who lives in North Bay and competes on the Temiskaming Smallmouth Bass Tour.
The biggest fish of the weekend was caught Friday—a 4.35-pound lunker reeled in by Tyson Romyn.