November 2, 2010.
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC) will adopt a new format for 2011. Gord Watson, the incoming chairman, recognized that some changes had to be made when he assumed the chair. He knew that he had to start by increasing angler participation. Last year, in 2010, 106 teams participated. That was a 13-year low in the sixteen year history of the tournament. He picked up the phone and started talking with anglers. He also closely examined a feedback and suggestion survey of about 30 anglers that was conducted after the 2010 tournament.
“When looking at the tournament we were getting pressure for change from many directions.” stated Watson. The suggestions for change came from what was identified as three distinct groups. Each group had different and often conflicting suggestions. “The anglers who finished at or near the top wanted the prizes at the top to be increased. Teams in the middle of the pack wanted to increase the number of spots paid out,” explained Watson, “and the bottom third need a reason to compete if they had one bad day.” It was also suggested by some competitors that the tournament become a two day event as they ‘could not put three strong daily weights together’. Some anglers suggested that lowering the entry fee might attract more teams. There was also clear message that something needed to be done to attract more local teams.
Watson had to find an answer that would keep the existing teams, attract new participants, bring back ‘retired’ anglers, and increase local participation. “At one point,” remembers Watson, “I thought that it was impossible to keep the three distinct groups coming back and it would be tough to attract new teams.”
As his discussions with anglers continued a new structure began to evolve.
“The new format is unique, original, and nobody is doing it,” announced Watson, “it is created by anglers for anglers, rewards anglers who fish well on all three days and gives all anglers an opportunity to cash cheques on all three days. It is definitely different and I urge people to contact me if they have questions. I look forward to talking to anyone and I am positive that once they have heard my sales pitch and understand what has gone into the creation of the ‘new Fort Frances format’ that they will become fans of the changes.”
The field is capped at 120 teams. The entry fee remains $1,000.00 per team and the prize board pays out 85% of the total entries. That means that at 120 teams the total cash payout will be $102,000.00.
At the rules meeting, teams will draw for Day One Launch Order. The field will be broken into three flights of forty teams. The first flight will leave at 7:00 am, the second at 7:30 am, and the third at 8:00 am. Flight One returns at 3:30 pm, the second flight at 4:00 pm, and the third flight at 4:30pm. Day One will payout for Big Fish and top three Day One catches. The total Day One payout is $4,500.00. This is double the amount paid out on Day One in previous years.
Day Two is similar to Day One but the Day Two Launch Order is a reversal of the Day One Launch Order. The team that left last on Day One goes out first on Day Two. The Day Two launch times and payout is the same as Day One.
“Day Three is where the format changes come into play,” explains Watson, “the teams are ranked by their combined Day One and Day Two weights. The top forty finishers after Day Two will make up the Day Three first flight. The next forty, those who finished from forty-first to eightieth will make up the Day Three second flight and the third flight will be made up of teams that finished from eighty-first to 120th.”
“On Day Three each team will compete for cash prizes within their flight,” continued Watson, “and all teams will start Day Three with Zero Weight. The Day Three Championship Flight will pay out to the top 15 teams based on their Day Three catches. The value of the Day Three Championship Flight payout is $66,450.00, up $3,500.00 from the top 15 team payout last year. The champions cash a cheque for $20,000, same as last year.”
“On Day Three, in Flight Two, teams will compete for new cash prizes totaling $12,800.00,” Watson explained, “the top six teams will collect cheques based on their Day Three catches. The team finishing in first place in the Day Three Second Flight will win $5,000.00. In past years the best that teams that would have placed in this flight could realistically do was cash a cheque for $1,000.00 if they moved to the bottom of the prize board.”
“Day Three Flight Three teams will compete for cash prizes totaling $9,000.00,” clarified Watson, “the top six finishers will get cheques based on their Day Three catches. The first pace team in the Day Three Third Flight will earn 2,500.00. Previously all that teams that finished in the bottom third after Day Two could expect on Day Three was a boat ride. There was no real incentive to compete. All that they had a chance for was Day Three Big Fish or Big Catch prizes.”
All teams will compete for the Day Three Big Fish prize of $750.00
“On Day Three all anglers compete in their respective ‘weight classes’ in this format,” Watson observed, “all anglers are in the game, albeit a new game, until the end. This structure will require a different angling strategy than conventional payout tournament.
Flight departure and return times change for Day Three. The first flight leaves first, at 7:00 am, and returns last at 4:30 pm. This gives Championship Flight anglers nine and a half hours on the water. The second flight leaves at 7:30 am and comes back at 4:00 pm giving those teams eight and a half hours on the water. Third Flight competitors will get seven and a half hours on the water by leaving at 8:00 am and arriving back by 3:30 pm.
“This format rewards the Championship Flight teams with more hours on the water than the rest of the field,” declared Watson, “and gives both first and second flight anglers more on the water time than they had in previous years. Since teams are only competing against those in the same flight on Day Three there is no requirement for all teams to have the same amount of fishing time.”
“What we have had in our tournament,” stated outgoing chairman Tom Fry, “is a handful of pros taking on a bunch of amateurs. The amateurs invested the majority of the prize money and the pros traditionally took it home. What we have in this new format is a leveling of the playing field not unlike what happens in golf, where golfers tend to play within their own skill level or if they don’t they have a handicap to compensate for their lesser abilities. At the end of the first two days anglers are ranked into three levels and then fish against their level of competiveness on the final day. Everyone has a chance to win money on the final day and the most proficient still have an opportunity for the big money. Not unlike the curling bonspiel in which teams during their first two games qualify for one of three events, following which they play within that event until a winner is declared.”
Gord Pyzer, in an email from France, stated, “Just let me say, whoever thought of this tournament format deserves a lot of credit. It has the potential in my mind to save the FFCBC. On the current course, based on comments I have been hearing from anglers, I would have given it, at best, two or maybe three years under the original format. Speaking purely from a tournament perspective you can NEVER lose sight of the local angler. Lose him and you will lose the event. Also, read the book, Too Big to Fail about the economic meltdown in the USA. It is going to get worse before it gets better! The American anglers may not be coming or coming back so you need the locals. It is critical.”
“There has to be a reason, declared Pyzer, “for the local anglers to fish the event and this will do it in my opinion. In fact, the idea of having daily prizes via the various groupings is brilliant. And the big names can't complain because they can still win a good pot of money. Anyway, this is brilliant from an organizational point of view and anyone who doesn't think it is - has their head in the sand, hasn't been reading the newspaper, or following the economic press for the past 2 years!”
Gord Pyzer is widely regarded as Canada’s most scientific angler and is a twenty-four (24) time national award winning writer. He is the Field Editor, In-Fisherman Magazine and the Fishing Editor of Outdoor Canada Magazine. Pyzer is a keen tournament angler, a regular visitor to Rainy Lake, and a twelve time participant at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
“I like it!” I Really Like it!!” emailed three-time FFCBC champion Dave Lindsay, “It's almost a game of chess on the water. I really like it. It's a little more than just fishing; it's going to really force the good anglers to think strategically.”
“I must say I have never seen this format anywhere,” comments Frank McClymont, the only angler to compete in every FFCBC and every Kenora Bass International, “we needed some changes in the Fort, and changes we got. From the short time I have had to study this I can see were the some local anglers and others who may have taken some time away from the Fort tournament may now want to jump back in. I can see how we anglers are going to have to rethink the way we fish this tournament. Now the Fort will have to be fished with some planning for Day Three and whether you end up in on the final day in the first, second or third flight Day Three strategy will be so important and it better involve some big bass. I hope everyone gets into this as it will make each day exciting for anglers of all levels. For those who may have felt the playing field hasn't been level, this will level things out. Yes, we will still want to do our best on Days One and Two, but we better have a solid Day Three plan.
Entries will be accepted and team numbers allocated on a first paid first in basis. Each entry must be accompanied by a $250.00 non-refundable deposit. The entry fee balance must be paid in full by April 30, 2011. After the field is full a waiting list will be established on a first come first in basis. Any team completing an entry form after the entry deadline will be added to the Waiting List in the order that they submit their entry form. The team at the top of the waiting list will be offered a spot in the event that a team scratches. The team from the Waiting List will have 48 hours to confirm participation and make payment arrangements.
“This new format is exciting,” declared emcee Paul Morrison, “it’s a real game changer, a fresh new idea that will give a needed shot of life to the tournament. It will give all anglers a reason to get out of bed on the last day. It will turn the Day Three weigh-in into a “three fight night’ with separate payouts for the heavyweights, middleweights and the lightweights. Anglers will have to approach this format differently. Teams that want to cash a championship cheque will have to catch enough to make the cut without burning all their fish and then they will have to swing for the fence on Saturday.”
“I am looking forward to the 2011 weigh-ins, added longtime tournament weighmaster and former angler Paul Cousineau, “it is going to be fun. I am thrilled with the new format. Every body has a chance for a payout every day. I’m betting that I’ll be seeing a lot of smiling faces, from the audience and from the anglers as they cross the stage. Teams had better get their entry in early, ‘cause its going to fill quickly.”
“All prize board dollar figures mentioned are based on a full field of 120 teams,” Watson concluded, “but I am confident that we will have a full field and a waiting list by New Year’s Day. Anglers can check out the tournament format details, the complete 2011 FFCBC Prize Board, and entry forms on the tournament website, canadianbass.com. Revised 2011 rules reflecting the changes will be posted by the end of the week.”