FFCBC anglers battled elements while pre-fishing

By Mitch Calvert, Fort Frances Times LTD.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

        Conditions have been far from ideal for those teams pre-fishing ahead of tomorrow’s start of the 15th-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
    Cold rains and strong winds haunted anglers all last week before briefly subsiding over the weekend—only to return in full force again Monday and Tuesday during the last couple of days teams were allowed to test the waters.
    Kenora-area anglers Trevor Guderyan and Dean Tacknyk, Team #5 after a strong showing a year ago, felt the brunt of the rough waters.
    “We blew a lower unit on our boat on Thursday so we had to go back to Kenora to get it fixed,” Guderyan said outside the Bayview Motel here Monday night, where several teams are staying during the tournament.
    “One of the guys here was like, ‘We’ve got an extra boat here, take it,’ and you don’t see that too often.
    “Everyone is supportive and it’s a real fun atmosphere here,” Guderyan enthused.
    Despite the poor fishing conditions presented so far, Guderyan said he and Tacknyk are happy with what they’ve reeled up during practice and are confident going into Day 1 tomorrow.
    “[Monday] was probably our best. We had a couple nice fish in the four to four-and-a-half [pound] range,” Guderyan said. “Those are the fish you want on Thursday, not [Monday], and you never know until Thursday morning, but we kinda know where we are going already and we’ll see what happens.
    “You’ve gotta get those five in the box, and [Sunday] and the day before were pretty tough,” Guderyan admitted.
    “If you catch five okay fish, a 15- to 17-pound bag, you’ll be sitting pretty.
    “But someone is coming in with a 20-pound bag plus,” Guderyan added. “The guys that are there at the top all the time know what they are doing.”
    Guderyan said he and his partner have got some spots pegged at varying depths depending on what Mother Nature throws at them over the next three days.
    “We’ve got some shallow stuff and some deeper stuff, but you just never know with the weather,” he remarked.
    “But we’ll figure it out from there and hopefully get them in the net.”
    Reid Norine, of Wood Berry, Mn., is teamed up with Mike Salvador of Sioux Narrows for a second-straight year after a 21st-place finish last July. He said fishing might be a little tougher than in years past, but stressed teams still will find plenty of big fish.
    “The fish are scattered, and with the mayflies and other stuff that’s happened, fishing is a little bit tough right now,” Norine said.
    “They are still hungry, but not as good.
    “I think you’ll see guys casting crank and spinner baits [into the shallows], and not so much the off-shore bite,” Norine added. “We have some areas, not so much spots.
    “In other years you might have a rock pile or a reef, but I think it’s more areas [this year],” he noted. “It’s just a matter of fishing the area wherever they are roaming around.”
    Minnesota natives David Skallet and Jim Merthan, who were among the top 10 after two days a year ago before falling to 20th, will be fishing the FFCBC together for the fourth-straight year.
    “We kinda fell the third day [last year],” Merthan admitted. “We didn’t get the bites and we had a lot of boats with us the third day.”
    The pair agreed with Norine, saying they’ll likely be staying close to the shorelines.
    “I don’t remember the water temperature being this cold for the tournament, and I’ve been here 12-13 years now,” Merthan added.
    “You don’t see anybody out on the structure in the middle of the lake,” he noted. “Everybody is on the shoreline or on a point not too far from the shoreline.”
    “It’s been a tough bite out there this year,” agreed Skallet. “Day by day it’s changing and I think the fish are coming off their spawn and we’re dealing with post-spawn fish.”
    The duo said their strategy is simple.
    “The strategy is if they are biting, catch every one you can because they might not be there the next day,” Merthan stressed.
    “Especially with this weather changing up and down, it’s going to make it tough,” agreed Skallet. “[Monday] we didn’t see as many mayflies, but there’s still a ton of them out there and it’s definitely not helping us, either.”
    All the anglers interviewed said this tournament is a special treat not only because of the fishing it presents, but also because of the camaraderie developed between teams and the fun atmosphere down at the big tent.
    “We’ll always be coming back and I know a lot of these guys [will],” Guderyan said, referring to his fellow anglers at the Bayview. “We keep our same rooms, and even if we have a bad year we’ll still come back.
    “With the tent and all the events going on here, they treat us pretty good,” he enthused.
    “The people here, the tent, the community, everything here makes it a lot of fun,” echoed Norine.
    “I like the town and the people,” said Merthan. “It’s a really good event, been coming here a long time, and it’s just a lot of fun besides the fishing.”
    The teams also made no bones about the fact they’re here to catch some big fish and compete for the FFCBC crown.
    “We’re coming here for smallmouth bass and that’s what we live for,” Skallet remarked. “We come here for a week every year and our focus is on catching smallmouth bass, and we love it.”
    Norine also said Rainy Lake is somewhat of a unknown, but presents some of the best fishing out there.
    “You are out pre-fishing and you catch northerns and walleyes, and it’s a great smallmouth [bass] fishery, as well, but it’s a secret,” he stressed. “The fishing out there is bar none.”
    “I don’t think our bass [on Lake of the Woods] are quite as big as here,” Keewatin native Guderyan said of his home lake.
    “Someone always gets up in the five [pound] range here at Rainy Lake in pre-fishing, so that keeps you coming back hoping to catch one in the tournament.”
    As for the final preparations to the tournament site down at the Sorting Gap Marina, FFCBC chairman Tom Fry said things were “95 percent in place” as of Monday night.
    An exciting feature back this year after an absence is the “hawg trough,” which allows those on hand to try their hand at catching fish in what amounts to an oversized aquarium.
    The field had 123 teams registered as of this morning, with the goal of 150 teams for its 15th year not likely in the cards.
    But Fry said those interested still could enter right up until the rules meeting today (July 22) at 5:30 p.m.