My first EWC certainly memorable

Up until this past weekend, the only actual fishing tournaments I had ever seen were the Bassmaster ones that the late, great TNN (The Nashville Network) showed when I was a kid or the massive Bassmaster Classic, which TSN aired once about six years ago now, where I was first introduced to the screaming lunatic that is former champion Michael Iaconelli.
So needless to say, I had no idea what to expect when I made the drive down to Emo early Friday morning to cover the start of the 10th-annual Emo Walleye Classic. And while it doesn’t have the flash some of the big-money type events had, it still was extremely entertaining.
The first thing that caught my eye that morning was the launch itself, especially as the last remaining boats waiting to make their way down the Rainy River were tossed around like children’s toys as the other anglers zoomed by them.
Later on that day was my first experience covering a weigh-in, which also bore a similar resemblance to its bigger tournament counterparts with the high-tech computers being worked to parlay information onto the giant screens, and the stage itself that the anglers came up on.
Plus, there’s always that feeling of intrigue to see which anglers were able to haul in the big catch of the day and what teams ended up coming out empty-handed following a tough day on the water, which made things quite interesting to watch.
When Saturday rolled around, I had the chance to go out in one of the spotter boats to take some photos of the action, but was quickly informed that my attire of a curling coat and dress pants may not be the most desirable once I went out on the water.
As such, I was able to round up an extra jacket, a poncho, a super long raincoat, and, of course, a life jacket to wear while I took my ride in the boat, although I may have had enough attire to be a personal life buoy for someone—or possibly be an NFL linebacker.
?In fact, EWC committee chair Lincoln Dunn told me afterwards that he couldn’t stop laughing when he looked down from the Front Street deck to where I was on the dock because it looked as though I was wearing a dress because of how long the raincoat was on me.
While it may have looked a bit odd, it certainly kept my dry if we did run into any unfavourable conditions, which thankfully didn’t happen at either ends of the river.
Another thing I was amazed by while out on the water was the number of boats that were stationed by the dam in Fort Frances, in what resembled more of a traffic jam that you would see on the 401 in Toronto.
I also was impressed that the anglers all were able to catch a number of big walleyes as I would, more than likely, end up tangling my lines with another fisherman if I was in a similar situation.
But what I’ll remember the most from the weekend was when the top 10 boats from Day 1 came into the Emo/La Vallee Community Centre for the final weigh-in late Saturday afternoon—and not just because I was being bombarded by candy and other goodies that were being thrown to the kids in the crowd.
When I had interviewed both Dunn and EWC emcee Doug Cain before the tournament, they talked about how everything builds up towards that moment when the final anglers bring in their fish. And I now know exactly what they meant by that.
You had Les Morrison and John Swentik just waiting with bated breath on the “hot seat” as they withstood blow after blow from seven different teams until 2009 champions Ted Heyens and Kelvin Caul came into the arena.
I’ll never forget Morrison’s reaction when Caul pulled out the walleye that would give them the lead from the live-well. The Rainy River angler just threw his hat down to the ground and gave a smile to the former champs as if to say, “You got us. Good job, guys.”
And then you had the crowning moment when the grandfather and grandson team of Rod Woodgate and Dylan Swire found out they were the champions. You could see just how proud Woodgate was of his grandson as they embraced on the stage, and the joy of the family members and friends who came to congratulate the pair on their victory.
Even fellow anglers were quick to rush over and give high-fives and handshakes to the pair despite the fact they were beaten by the duo.
I know that in the big sports, you see opposing players congratulating their opposition afterwards. But more often than not, the losers are ticked off and upset that they had lost, which certainly was not the case on Saturday in Emo.
Like Dunn said to me as things were starting to wind down, it was the perfect capper to a great weekend—and one I certainly won’t soon forget.
And while I’ll have to wait another 12 months for the next EWC, the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is just around the corner, so I’ll get to experience the ride all over again.

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