October 27, 2010.
By Dan Falloon, Staff writer – Fort Frances Times
Gord Watson only took over as chairman of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship at an emergency meeting Thursday (October 21st) night, but in that span he already has begun a lot of groundwork for the 2011 tournament next July.
Watson said he couldn’t get into many specifics for the 17th-annual tournament, given the new board has not met yet, but he has met with a number of people with organizing experience and has jumped right into the planning process.
“I’ve been very busy for the last week,” noted Watson, who is taking over the reins from Tom Fry.
“I’ve been extremely busy in dealing with what the anglers want, what the town wants. We are really excited to do a lot of new things,” he added. “Not having had our first meeting, I can’t really elaborate on what they are but I think the anglers are going to be very excited about what they are.”
The board has scheduled its first meeting for tomorrow night (Oct. 28), at which time Watson anticipates they’ll start making hay.
“After Thursday’s meeting, we hope to provide the prize board,” he noted. “The prize board won’t be definite at that point, but we’re going to put it out there and see what the response is to it,” he explained.
Watson hopes to have other tournament details nailed down within the next month, trying to strengthen the FFCBC itself.
Once those details are set, then work will begin on the entertainment and the festival.
“We do want to have a good grasp on everything [related to the tournament] by the end of November, so that’s a short period to line that type of information up,” he admitted.
“We’re going to get that information out to [the anglers] about what we feel the tournament could look like and should look like.
“I think there’s going to be a buzz about the tournament as soon as that information is released, and I think we’ll get the angler support that we’re looking for,” he added.
Watson also was encouraged that a number of new faces joined the board at last Thursday’s meeting. Greg Gustafson, Brian Gustafson, Mike Maxton, Jim and Kathy Cuthbertson and Aurora Doerksen have signed on, with Watson anticipating that the two remaining major positions—co-chair and computer services director—will be filled tomorrow night.
He said both positions have drawn interest, but nothing was confirmed as of press time.
In terms of new additions, Watson was particularly bullish about Gustafson’s involvement, saying the pro angler will bring both fresh ideas and a good handle on angler sentiments to the table.
Watson, who is new to the FFCBC board, won’t be completely on his own. Fry stressed he will be available to help with the transition, as will other experienced board members who plan to take on a smaller role this year.
During last Thursday’s meeting, Fry hammered home the point that planning for the 2011 tournament is behind schedule, adding the new board will waste little time responding.
“We want to get all the information out that the tournament is a go,” he stressed. “We have to get all the information out to the anglers as to the dates and the cost structure, and hopefully something about the prize structure and rules.
“I don’t anticipate a lot of changes in those things, so they’ll pretty much be the same as they have been in the past,” Fry noted.
Watson acknowledged the entertainment might be scaled back this year in order to place more of an emphasis on the fishing.
“It looks like it’s going to be a smaller festival. Maybe a bigger bass tournament, smaller festival,” he remarked.
“This is just speculation, but it does look like it will be a downsizing in the festival part.”
During last Thursday’s meeting, there was talk that the daytime activities may be scrapped while the night-time entertainment likely won’t have the star-power of years past when acts like George Canyon and Kim Mitchell headlined the tournament.
Watson said he hopes to see the boat parade and “KidPro” tournament, in particular, return but is hoping to refocus on the tournament itself.
It will be up to Watson and the rest of the board to decide which balance of fishing and other events will provide the best overall outcome for the tournament.
Fry said Watson’s first big step into his role will be to get a handle on all the facets that go into running the FFCBC.
“The community event kinds of activities, the night-time entertainment and all that, are there to support the infrastructure that’s required for the fishing tournament,” Fry explained.
“Certainly the community’s a big part of it, sponsorship-wise and spectator-wise.
“If we don’t get the spectators out, we don’t generate the income to make this thing viable,” he warned.
“We had a downturn this year with moving to the arena, and we’re hoping that we can turn it around this year,” Fry added.
Indeed, Watson intends to face some of the challenges brought on by change in venue head on, learning from last year.
Heat and sound issues were two of the bigger difficulties in holding the weigh-ins indoors, and Watson hopes to held rekindle the interest that was present when they were held under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.
“We’re looking for a nice, comfortable place for people to come and see the weigh-ins,” he stressed. “It’s definitely going to be more of a show when it comes to the weigh-ins.”
Watson said he took on the role of chairman because his parents, Ray and Ann, fished the FFCBC for many years, and he is an “avid fisherman” himself, taking part in “Castin’ for Cash” and the International Falls Bass Championship.
Although he’s never fished the FFCBC, Watson certainly would like the option to be available down the road.
“If we want a future for the tournament, somebody’s got to do it,” he reasoned.
“That’s the bottom line.”