Bass tourney to return to waterfront

By Lucas Punkari - Fort Frances Times Ltd.

Thanks to feedback from anglers and the public, there will be two major changes when the 2013 edition of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships hits the water July 25-27.
For starters, the 19th-annual event will return to the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina for the daily weigh-ins and nightly entertainment following a three-year stint at the Memorial Sports Centre.
“We’re going back to the original roots of the tournament with a smaller venue at the waterfront,” FFCBC chairman Gord Watson noted.
“It won’t be like what it was the last time that tent was up [in 2009], where there were two or three tents that separated the stage and the bar,” he explained.
“Instead, it will be under one tent, where it’ll be a little smaller, but in a cozy and confined area.
“And it’ll be similar to what the layout was like at the Ice For Kids Arena,” Watson added.
Now in his third year as FFCBC chairman, Watson said there were two reasons why the tournament is moving back to the waterfront for the weigh-ins, which is a favourite for both spectators and the competitors.
“One of the big reasons was the general public input that we have received saying that they wanted the event to [go] back under the tent,” he remarked.
“For those that have never been there, the feeling in the tent is one of an outside summer get-together, and that is something that you didn’t get the same atmosphere with at the arena.
“At the end of the day, Nick Beyak at Sunset Country Ford was a huge help for us financially, and that was a big factor in bringing back the tent,” Watson added.
The tent also will host to the annual “Quest for the Best” singing competition, which is being moved to the Friday night this year after being held on a Thursday evening last July.
“When it was a Wednesday in the past, we had a good turnout,” Watson noted. “And last year on a Thursday night, we had close to a 1,000 people come out.
“By moving it closer to the weekend, and especially on a Friday, we can hopefully get those people to come out and stick around, and help to build things up towards the final weigh-ins on Saturday [under] the tent,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the angling side of things, one of the most noticeable differences is the entry fee for this year’s tournament, which has been reduced from a $1,000 to $800.
“Once again, that change came from the input that we received from anglers,” Watson said.
“Our entry fee was always at $1,000,” he remarked. “But that being said, the KBI [Kenora Bass International] is at $800, so it kind of generalizes things in the area.
“It’s a little more affordable with how the economy is, and this is really focused a lot on those teams that are a father/son team or a family team as $1,000 is a lot of money,” he conceded.
Other than that, everything else is pretty much status quo following a successful tournament in 2012, which was won by long-time competitors Mark Raveling of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Mike Luhman.
“Things went really well last year and there were no major problems,” Watson recalled.
“Having the boats leave from the river was a great decision as it helps to centralize everything and it’s quite a spectacle to see,” he added.
A total of 47 teams were entered for this year’s tournament at last report, which is around where the entries where at this time last year.
“The teams are going to be what they are going to be, and they are close to where they were at this point a year ago, so that’s fine with us,” Watson said.
“There are a number of different factors that we can’t control when it comes to the turnout, such as if the paper mill goes down, but it is what it is.
“If the bass tournament gets 75 teams or 100 teams, it doesn’t matter as long as things go smoothly on our end,” he reasoned.
The FFCBC board of directors will begin work on getting things ready for the 19th edition next Wednesday (Jan. 16) with a meeting at 7 p.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous.
“We take some down time after the tournament every year just to relax and not burn people out, but we are getting everything back going now,” Watson said.
“We’ll be meeting once a month for the first three or four months on the third Wednesday of each month, and then we will have two meetings a month after that,” he noted.
Watson also said a number of board positions still need to be filled prior to this year’s tournament, and also is open to anyone who may want to replace him as event chair following the July event.
“I got involved for a three-year term, and this is basically going to be my last year as part of that,” he explained.
“I would like to see if anyone would be willing to get involved this year on the board that is interested in taking over my job next year [so] they can get a good idea to see what things are like and have a good handle on things before taking over the reins next year.”
Those interesting in joining the FFCBC board are encouraged to attend next Wednesday’s meeting, or contact Watson at 274-2028.