Siblings net first FFCBC title

By Joey Payeur, Fort Frances Times Ltd.

Steve and Scott Sandberg lived by a basic philosophy all week—keep moving and the rest can’t catch you.
The Minnesota-based brothers (from Brooklyn Park and Ham Lake, respectively) netted a bounty of bass as they zipped around Rainy Lake for three days that translated into their first victory at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
The Sandbergs took over the lead after Day 2 on Friday, then finished off the rest of the 92-team field with a Saturday haul of 16.24 pounds.
They were the only team to eclipse the 50-pound mark with a total of 52.13.
That put them 2.23 pounds ahead of runners-up Duane Cridland and Chad Hanson of Fort Frances (49.90)—earning the $20,000 first-place cheque.
“We literally caught our fish in four different basins,” Steve Sandberg said about where they discovered their winning catches, which included the big fish of Day 2 (4.50 pounds).
“That was more than we’ve ever moved around in the past.”
“I don’t think we caught more than two fish in one area over the whole three days,” noted Scott Sandberg.
The brothers finally grabbed the brass ring after 14 years of trying, with their previous best finish being fourth in 2006.
They had placed eighth last year.
“I remember when we first started at this tournament in 2002 and if you weren’t in the top 90 the year before, you had to get in by a draw,” Scott Sandberg recalled.
“We didn’t make it in through the draw,” he noted. “But then we got a call four days before the tournament telling us a team had dropped out and we were in.
“Our goal was just to finish in the top 90 so we could come back the next year and we ended up 58th—and haven’t missed the tournament since.”
The Sandbergs have developed a deep-rooted affinity for Rainy Lake over the years.
“Rainy Lake has come to be our vacation place in the summer,” Steve said.
“It was our favourite place to come and fish even before we started in the tournament,” echoed Scott.
The brothers were mobbed by ecstatic family and friends gathered for the grand occasion.
“What a family we have,” enthused Scott, who teamed up with Steve to sit in third after Day 1 (18.19) before grabbing the lead for good Friday with a haul of 17.70.
“They live six hours away and they all drove up to be here today,” he noted.
“What can you say about that?”
When asked about who the victory was going out to, however, Steve pointed to the man to which he has grown closest.
“We really dedicate this win to each other,” he stressed. “We’ve spent so much time on the lake together over the years and put in all the practice.
“It’s so hard to win this thing, or even to come close.”
Scott said the key was not straying from their original plan.
“You have to have things go your way to win this tournament,” he remarked.
“We stayed focused for all three days, and we stayed with the same plan all three days and didn’t deviate.
The low number of fish finding their way into the Sandbergs’ live well had the duo worried in the early going.
“On Thursday at [noon], we only had 11 pounds in the boat,” Scott recounted.
“We thought the tournament was going to be over for us on Day 1.
“But we caught a couple of nice ones just before the end of the day that put us in good shape,” he noted.
The Sandbergs ended the reign of two-time defending champs Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson (Kenora) and John Peterson (Bemidji, Mn.), who never got on track this year.
They finished what was for them a disappointing 38th place (42.07).
But Steve isn’t in any hurry to talk about mirroring the back-to-back achievement of Gustafson and Peterson.
Rather, he wants to savour his and Scott’s view from the penthouse.
“It’s so hard to win one of these and no one can ever take it away from us,” Steve stressed.
“We’ll always be Fort Frances Canadian Bass champions. Not many people have done that.”
Scott Sandberg provided a brief glimpse into the future.
“We’ll certainly be back here next year and try as hard as we did this year and last year and the year before that,” he pledged.