Brother duo capture FFCBC title

By Joey Payeur, Fort Frances Times Ltd.

From being a last-minute addition to the field that finished in 58th place on their first try to reaching the pinnacle, Steve and Scott Sandberg have travelled a long river together.
“We really dedicate this win to each other,” said Steve Sandberg, a Brooklyn Park, Mn. resident about his Ham Lake, Mn.-based brother, whom he joined forces with to win the $20,000 first prize at the 21st-annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship on Saturday at the Sorting Gap Marina.
Their bag of 16.24 pounds led to a three-day total of 52.13—making them the only team in the starting field of 92 to break the 50-pound mark.
It also made them first-time champions in their 14th attempt since first competing at the FFCBC back in 2002.
“[Rainy Lake] was our favourite place to fish even before we started being in the tournament,” noted Scott.
The pair sat in third place after Day 1, took over the lead Friday with the big fish of Day 2 (4.50 pounds), and never relinquished it.
Those on hand for Saturday’s final weigh-in witnessed an incredible ending to what local resident Duane Cridland called a “surreal” afternoon as he and Fort Frances teammate Chad Hanson nearly made history.
Starting the day in 14th place, Cridland and Hanson turned in the biggest bag of Day 3 at 18.31 pounds to vault all the way up to second place (49.90).
Had they held off the Sandbergs, they would have been the first team to not only win the tourney with less than 50 pounds but also the first to not be in the top-10 boat parade.
“It might have been more enjoyable than nerve-wracking for us,” smiled Cridland, referring to fending off one challenge after another while sitting in the “hot seat” until the very end.
“We were discussing it in the boat and it turned out that’s a better seat to be in than being in the parade,” he noted.
Chad Johnson (Rogers, Mn.) and John Janousek (Nissiwa, Mn.), who were sixth after Day 1 and out of the top 10 after Day 2, charged right back into the mix with a Day 3 weight of 17.33.
They wound up finishing in third place (49.41).
Richard Rud and Jon Austin of International Falls, who earned title for the FFCBC title in 2011, also moved into the top 10 on the final day, winding up in fourth (48.43).
Rene Cadene (Atikokan) and his brother, Morgan (Cranbrook, B.C.), rose two spots Saturday to finish two spots shy of their spot last year—coming in fifth (48.06).
Nabbing sixth were Bill Godin (Devlin) and Dave Lindsay (Kenora), who won the International Falls Bass Championship last year, with a total of 48.03.
The next three spots in the top 10 were occupied by three teams that were in the final parade of contenders Saturday, but who either stayed put or lost ground.
Thunder Bay rookie teen team Nick Vescio and Mitch Siciliano were tied for third heading into Day 3 but wound up seventh (47.91).
The Green Bay, Wis. tandem of Caleb Colwell and Tim Klug remained in eighth (47.29).
Denis Barnard and Colin Barton were knocking on the door in second place starting Saturday but a 13.12-pound bag saw them slide to ninth (47.61).
Barnard was chasing a second FFCBC title for himself—the first coming with Barton’s dad, Clint, back in 2000.
Duane and Travis Peterson (Bemidji, Mn.) tied the Kenora pairing of Connor Burton and Jeff Engstrom for 10th (47.55).
Doug and Solly McBride (Devlin) had a rousing good-natured battle between spouses for the big fish of Saturday.
After Doug tipped the scales with a 4.80-pounder, his wife got in the last word with her top catch of 5.06.
It was the second-biggest fish of the entire tournament—behind the 5.65-pounder brought in by Bryan Gustafson (Fort Frances) and Brian McNanney (Sioux Narrows) on Day 1.
As for the two-time defending champs, a “three-peat” was not in the cards for Kenora’s Jeff Gustafson and Bemidji’s John Peterson, who finished the week in 38th place (42.07).
“That was tough fishing this week; the toughest we’ve seen in a long time,” a dejected Gustafson said after the final weigh-in.
“It happens to everyone,” noted Peterson.
“You can’t get them every day.”