Tournament week at Rainy Lake

From the Livewell
Jeff Gustafson

The last week of July is a week that I look forward to as much as any throughout the entire year since I started fishing the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship back in 2000.  
That first year my buddy Pat James and I got into the tournament off the waiting list a few days before the tournament.  
At that time, the tournament had an extensive waiting list and it was tough to get in. The top 90 finishing teams were guaranteed a spot the following year, while those that finished between 90 and 135 went into a draw with new anglers that wanted to enter the tournament.
I think in the early 2000’s, the waiting list got up to nearly 100 anglers!  
We had never fished the lake before and only got a day and a half to practice but we rode a hot topwater bite to a respectable 23rd place finish.   
Since that tournament, I fell in love with the event and especially the lake.  
The community support is always great and I have some many great memories fishing this tournament over the years.  
It’s hard for me to believe but this year will mark my 15th time fishing the FFCBC.
The highlight has obviously been finally winning the tournament last year but my partners and I have had a few very memorable days and fish catches over the years.  
The party on Saturday night after the tournament is over is one my favourite nights of the year because it’s always busy under the tent at the Sorting Gap Marina and everybody has a good time.  
It’s fun to visit with a lot of the other anglers because leading up to the tournament everybody is busy with prefishing long days on the water, then it’s straight to bed when we get in at night.   
It’s also good to visit with many of the friends that I’ve made in Fort Frances over the years.  
As I write this I’m about halfway through the prefishing that I’m doing and it’s been a different lake than the past couple years, evidently because of the much higher water than I have ever seen on the lake.  
I have not caught any big fish yet but I’m hopeful I’m saving them up for the tournament.  
We generally try to avoid fishing our really good spots during the prefish because we don’t want to burn any big fish on a spot that we’ll likely fish during the tournament anyways.  
We’ll get close to some of the sweet spots to see if there is any action or sometimes I’ll cut the hooks off on my topwater baits and just look for big fish to hit the baits where we can get a rough look at them.  
We spend most of the time just continuing to look for new spots and in doing that we sometimes go for longer periods of time without a lot of action but if we can find a couple of inconspicuous spots during the days leading up to the tournament, those usually help on days two and three in the tournament when the obvious spots have been worked over by us and other anglers.  
After being fortunate to win the tournament last year, John and I don’t have a lot of pressure on us for this year, we’re going to have fun and do the best that we can.  
I can guarantee you that we’ll be ready for business when the tournament starts on Thursday morning, hoping we can make our way into that top ten boat parade on Saturday afternoon under the big tent, then anything can happen.  
It will another adventure this week on Rainy Lake and there will be some big smallmouths caught.  Weigh-ins start at 3 pm each day of the tournament under the Big Tent at the Sorting Gap Marina or you can follow online at