Victory to those who wait (and make bait)

Steve Ballan had told his younger brother and angling partner, Kent, that his wish was to be driven through the tent at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, complete with five smallmouths in the livewell and a chance to win one of the country’s biggest bass derbys in front of peers, friends, family and fellow townspeople.
“Whether we win, lose, bomb, do well, my ultimate dream was to be pulled through that tent,” said the 35 year-old Fort Frances native. “I didn’t ever in my wildest dreams think it would be like it was. It’s totally overwhelming.”
As he dreamed, they had just been among the other faces in the crowd as past champions soaked up the cheers.
“I used to sneak to the best spot, right next to the boats as they stopped,” recalled Kent, 25, of his previous final weigh-in experiences.
So maybe Steve was just shooting his mouth off. Or perhaps he was hoping to alleviate the personal pressure to improve on his previous less-than-stellar performances here.
Or perhaps honesty just kicked in.
One thing for sure is that Steve Ballan’s win at last weekend’s FFCBC was a payoff for the many years he spent honing his skills in this sport.
Make no mistake, this was no rookie coming out of nowhere. There have been some low finishes for him at this event and he would be the first to admit it: a 103rd placing in 1997 with Bill O’Leary, a 99th spot in 1998 with Dennis Rodrigues, 130th with Lee Thomson in 1999, and last year’s cut-surviving 86th finish with Kent. It was that last partner that Steve said he needed to put it all together.
“It’s a lot easier to work with someone who you can get along with,” said Steve of his decision to fish with Kent. “I got along with all [former partners], but they weren’t as intense about bass fishing as I was. I just stuck with it.”
The brothers had actually made their bass derby debut back in 1997 at an Atikoken tourney. That particular weigh-in was so long ago–and so unspectacular–that they don’t even remember how they fared.
“Terrible. I don’t remember,” said Kent. “Near the bottom.”
But they continued to fish bass, learning from pros and fellow amateurs the ins and outs of prefishing and presentation. In fact, it was Doug McBride who Steve joined in forming a local bait manufacturing company, “Bass Brother,” specializing in “tube-baits.”
McBride went on to fish with son, Zack, towards a FFCBC second-place finish behind the Ballans.
For Steve, the rise in placings along with the confidence in his abilites started to show last summer. Fishing with McBride that season, Steve made some dents in the leaderboard as they claimed third-place at Shoal Lake, 28th at the Kenora Bass International, ninth at Morrison, and 10th at Sioux Narrows.
And three late-July days on Rainy Lake and 52.92 pounds of bass later, the dream finally became a FFCBC reality last Saturday afternoon. The cheering, the spectacle, they admitted it all happened so quickly.
“It was pretty much a blur for us,” said Kent. “I didn’t realize they were playing a song for us until I saw [the replay] on TV.”
With their recent success, the question rises whether that short trip from the viewing gallery to the spotlight boat inspire them to take that next step and become a full-time professional angling team.
“You can get knocked back down easier than you think,” stressed Steve. “But we’ll see in the future. If we keep doing well, you never know.”