Another great KBI

Smallmouth bass were dominate in the KBI this past weekend and will be the dominant species in the Bassmaster tournament Jeff is fishing this week on the St. Lawrence River. Supplied / The Livewell

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The 32nd annual Kenora Bass International took place last week on Lake of the Woods and some impressive catches of bass, mostly smallmouths, were hauled across the stage at the Whitecap Pavilion. Though no records were broken, the overall weights were likely the best the tournament has ever seen.

While all of the anglers were fishing over the first couple days of the tournament I was driving to southern Ontario to get ready for a Bassmaster Elite series tournament this week on the St. Lawrence River. It was disappointing for me to miss the tournament this year as I mentioned in last week’s column because I love the tournament and getting the chance to fish on Lake of the Woods, but we only get three days to prefish for these Bassmaster tournaments and if I had fished KBI I would have missed one of these valuable practice days on a body of water I have never fished before.

Former champions Jon O’Connor, from Lorette, Man. and Byron Sharp, from the Rainy River, area took the lead on day two of the tournament then sealed up the title with a final day catch of 19.14 pounds. Their three-day total of 55.79 pounds didn’t come that close to the tournament record that they set with 59 pounds when they won the tournament back in 2015 but overall, the number of 18 and 19 pound limits that were brought in was something we have never seen before. For the win, O’Connor and Sharp earned $18,222. 
The other interesting thing is that almost all of these big catches consisted of smallmouth bass.

Between the late 1990s and 2012, largemouth bass factored into the winner’s catches just about every year but they have not really been a huge factor in recent years.

That being said, there are still some big largemouth bass in the lake. There is an award for the biggest fish each day of the tournament and each day it was a largemouth bass, the biggest of which was a 6.53-pound monster caught by Oliver Gibbins and Jason Gibbins of Morson. My opinion on the decline of the largemouth numbers is there seems to be a big loss of vegetation in the lake over the past decade, evidently from the high numbers of crayfish in the lake that I’m told just mow down the weeds. Largemouths seem to really need that vegetation to do well.

To further put these weights in perspective, back in 2000 when Chris Savage and I won the tournament we had a three-day total of 45.90 pounds. That would have landed us a 35th place finish this year, which would have missed the top 30 cut to win money. The bass fishing in Lake of the Woods is as good as I can ever remember, which is awesome.

The KBI is a volunteer-run event and on behalf of all the anglers, they are owed a huge thank you for all of the hard work and time they put in to making the event happen year after year. It is a great event for the City of Kenora and it was nice to hear they had good crowds throughout the weekend.

Fishing on the St. Lawrence River has been fun the past couple of days as I get ready for the tournament this week. There are some huge smallmouths in this river and there will be some big catches brought in. I’ve been catching good numbers of fish but I’m hoping I can find a few more spots with some four and five pound fish that are needed to be competitive here. I’m looking forward to getting the tournament started on Thursday. Look for the recap of the tournament in next week’s column.

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