Duo rules FFCBC once again

By Joey Payeur
Staff writer, Fort Frances Times Ltd.

To win back-to-back titles at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship usually means having to do even more the second time around to keep one’s place on top of the mountain.
Jeff Gustafson and John Peterson did enough—just enough—to make it happen.
It came down to the last weigh-in on Saturday but their Day 3 weight of 20.20 pounds pushed them to an overall total of 57.18—making them only the third back-to-back champions in the FFCBC’s 20-year history.
“This is one of the highlights of the year for us,” said Gustafson, a Kenora native who shared the $20,000 first-place prize with his Bemidji, Mn. teammate.
Nothing was certain, however, until Bryan Gustafson of Fort Frances and Brendan McMillan from Clewiston, Fla., the leaders after both Day 1 and Day 2, brought their final day’s catch to the stage under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina.
But while their haul of 17.20 pounds was strong, it still left them at 56.96—a mere .22 pounds short of the winners, whose championship total of 55.42 last July wouldn’t have been enough to get the job done this year.
“There’s nothing we can do at that point,” Jeff Gustafson said about the nail-biting climax.
“We were nervous,” he admitted. “But we did the best we could every day.
“I’ve been fishing in this tournament for a long time and it’s a super feeling to come here and win,” Gustafson added.
“Words can’t describe it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever won a tournament two years in a row.”
“Gussy” and Peterson were second after Day 1 with a mark of 18.76 pounds, but slipped to fourth on Day 2 even though they had a respectable haul of 18.22.
Still, the pair remained confident due to an exhaustive stretch of pre-fishing in the days leading up to the tournament.
“We’ve got what we call our ‘milk route,’” Peterson explained.
“We just keep hitting spots and keep moving until we make contact with the fish.”
Gustafson and Peterson aren’t shallow individuals by nature, but their philosophy when tackling the high waters on Rainy Lake this year certainly was.
“Everything we caught was in between three and five feet of water,” noted Gustafson.
“Traditionally, we would catch them in six-12 feet.
“But because the water is so high, we were fishing right up tight to the bank,” he revealed.
A look back at the tournament’s most successful team and the last one to repeat (five-time champions Joe Thrun of Annandale, Mn. and Jim Moynagh of Carver, Mn.) also helped the current champs embrace of the shallow water concept.
“Jim and Joe won it three years in a row fishing in a bay close to [Fort Frances],” said Gustafson.
“That opened everyone’s eyes up.”
Finding new hotspots played a large hand in Gustafson and Peterson’s championship journey.
“We never caught one fish in the three days off the same spot we did last year,” Gustafson claimed.
“We’ve all got our favourite spots, but in the end you have to find the fish,” he stressed.
Gustafson and Peterson were in a mood to celebrate Saturday, but already had one eye focused on next year as they try to match Thrun and Moynagh’s stand-alone accomplishment of three-straight FFCBC from 2007-09.
“Absolutely, we will be back next year and be prepared to come and try and win again, for sure,” Gustafson vowed.