FFCBC & KBI Tournament Recaps

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The past few weeks have been pretty busy in my part of the World in Ontario’s Sunset Country Region.  For a bass angler who enjoys competing in tournaments, we have some of the best open, team tournaments in North America, with several community run events taking place over the summer months that offer large fields and good payouts on some fantastic fisheries.

The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (www.canadianbass.com) took place the last week of July on Rainy Lake.  My friend John Peterson from Bemidji, Minnesota and I have fished this event together since 2007 and have had several good finishes before finally winning the tournament last year.
This year we showed up and Rainy was like a totally different lake, with water about four feet higher than it was last year.  Most of the stuff we fished last year seemed to have too much water on it so we had to look around a bit to find some fish.  After a couple of tough days of practice we found a few areas where the fish were super shallow in a rock and weed mix that is normally out of the water.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

A big crowd was on hand for the final weigh-in at the FFCBC.

Over the course of the three-day event we brought solid catches to the scales for a total of 57.16 pounds and we managed to defend our title!
We caught most of our fish on a Jackall SK Pop Grande topwater popper by covering water, looking for active, biting fish.  We mixed in a few fish that we caught on small tubes as well, mostly fish that rolled on the topwater and didn’t bite.  It was a good follow-up bait.

Hoisting the trophy at the FFCBC.

Hoisting the trophy at the FFCBC.

This tournament has a competitive field that features a mix of tough locals and several pros from across North America.

This past weekend the Kenora Bass International (www.kbifishing.com) went down on Lake of the Woods.  My partner for this event, Chris Savage and I have fished the tournament together since 2000 and have been fortunate to win this big event twice over the years.

Big largemouths like this can be found on Lake of the Woods.

Big largemouths like this can be found on Lake of the Woods.

For the second year in a row we totally bombed on the final day of this three-day event after sitting in 2nd place after the first two days.  We brought in mixed bags of largemouths and smallmouths over the first couple days of the tournament and caught our fish on a variety of baits including wacky rigged Flick Shake Worms and Senkos, spinnerbaits and flipping Texas rigged Jackall Cover Craws.

Gussy playing to the crowd at the Kenora

Gussy playing to the crowd at the Kenora Bass Event

The first two days we fished the darker water in the south end of the lake and then decided to gamble on day three and fish the west arm of the lake where we have had success in the past.  We were fishing to try to win the tournament and it just didn’t work out.  Sometimes those decisions pay off, other times they don’t.  We ended up in 19th place in the 140 boat field.

These are both prestigious events that are a lot of fun for all the anglers involved.  I would highly recommend both tournaments for anglers looking to visit an awesome bass fishery during our beautiful summer months and fish a tournament at the same time.  Rainy Lake is probably the best topwater smallmouth lake that I have ever fished and massive Lake of the Woods has a mixture of largemouths and smallmouths spread throughout that are caught on a variety of tactics.

This week it is back to Rainy Lake again for the IFalls Bass Championship!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Downtime with Gussy between tournaments

After sticking around to fish at Okeechobee for a few extra days my trip back home to Ontario’s Sunset Country Region was a short one.  I was home for five days before I got back on the road last week to attend the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Alabama.

While I was home I had to get a TV show done for my program Fishing with Gussy.  We caught some beautiful crappies on Lake of the Woods.  The next day I hooked up with a couple of buddies to hit the ice for lake trout and walleyes.  We battled some super deep snow to get out and fish…it was a workout!

Lake Trout Matt Peters

Matt Peters with a nice lake trout he caught on a spoon. Matt is a good friend of KrugerFarms.com and we have ice fished together many times over the years up in Northwest Ontario. Had some great trips over the years!

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Winnipeg Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien was along with Matt so he got in on the walleye action. While most NHL players went somewhere tropical over the Olympic break, Byfuglien went ice fishing at Lake of the Woods!

 

New Shimano Curado I

My experience attending the Classic was top-notch. I helped out Shimano in their booth & was on hand to witness the launch of the new Curado I baitcasting reel. This reel has gone through many transformations over the years but has a long history with bass anglers in North America. I even got to catch some bass on it at Guntersville the day after the tournament!

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The day after the tournament my buddy Blake Nick took Bob Mahoney from Shimano and myself out on Guntersville and we caught some nice fish! It was cool to get to fish on this historic fishery.

Stripers and Bass

After fishing Guntersville I traveled over to Lake Murray, South Carolina to spend a couple of days fishing with some folks from International Comfort Products, one of the major sponsors helping me to fish the FLW Tour. Lake Murray is where the Forrest Wood Cup will take place later this year so I figured it would be a good place to spend a few days before we are able to start prefishing at Lake Hartwell this weekend. We caught some nice fish there on umbrella rigs, jerkbaits and crankbaits.

This week I’ve been busy prefishing at Lake Hartwell for stop number two on the FLW Tour, follow online this weekend at FLWOutdoors.com as the tourney starts on Thursday.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Christmas gifts for the Ice angler

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The direct message inboxes on my social media pages always start to get busy this time of year as the wives and girlfriends of my fishing and hunting buddies send me messages looking for ideas on what to get their “significant other” for Christmas.

For those of us that live in the north or in the “Ice Belt” as we like to refer to it, ice fishing is an activity that keeps us busy for four or five months out of the year.  Winter is long and there is no better way to spend time in the outdoors than by fishing on the ice.

Here are some great gift ideas to cover several price ranges for the hardwater angler on your list, all available on the ICE FISHING page at KrugerFarms.com.

Ontario Sunset Country Walleye

Gussy with a Ontario Sunset Country Walleye

Stocking StuffersFresh fishing line always helps catch more fish in open water and on the ice.  Power Pro Ice Tek is a top-notch braided line designed specifically for ice fishing.  It is specially coated to prevent freezing so anglers can fish without having to constantly clean ice off their line.

The Strikemaster Bait Puck is a handy little item that can be used to store things in our pockets.  I have used these for years for store tackle, live bait and other small items I want to keep dry or protect.  They are great for those remote, back country trips where packing light is a necessity.

Gussy_Ice_Fishing_Crappie

Gussy Ice Jiggin’ for Crappie

 Nice list

Tip-ups and Combos

Anglers can never have to many fishing rods – so a new combo is always welcomed.  Depending on what your gift recipient likes to fish for, there is an ice fishing rod and reel combo that will work for them.  Anglers that fish for panfish like perch, bluegills or crappies should consider light or medium light action rods.  Walleye anglers should look at medium action rods, while pike and lake trout anglers should be using medium-heavy or heavy action rods.

Many anglers use good quality fishing rods in winter but team them up with mediocre reels.  This is a mistake because if you hook into a big fish, you’ll want to have the quality drag that comes with a good reel.  I use Shimano Sedona 500 size reels on my panfish combos and 1000 size models on my walleye and trout rods.  These reels are still affordable, while offering a big upgrade from the reels the come with most rod and reel combos.

A fleet of tip-ups is always handy, especially if the angler on your list especially likes to fish for pike.  Fishing dead baits under a tip-up with a quick-strike rig remains the number one technique for catching big pike, no matter where you fish.  My favourite is the Frabill Thermal 10” Round Tip-Up because it helps prevent your hole from freezing and they are very easy to store in a regular five gallon bucket.

Monster Hard Water Northern Pike

Monster Hard Water Northern Pike

Keep’em Warm!

Like most winter outdoor activities, keeping warm is one of the biggest keys, but with ice fishing even more important, as you find yourself standing on a giant sheet of ice.  Two key things to keep you warm are to have good base layers and proper footwear.  Nothing keeps you warm and dry like Under Armour Base Layer products.  For that special someone’s feet, consider a good pair of insulated boots or wool socks.

very very Nice listIf you really want to spoil somebody with a great gift, KrugerFarms.com can help you out.

Hans down, the best suit on the market for the serious ice angler is the Frabill SnoSuit.  I have worn this suit for several years and I can promise you that it is warm and extremely comfortable in any kind of nasty winter weather, and trust me, I get to test it out over the course of our long, Canadian winter.  It is well built with plenty of cool little features designed for ice fishing.  It will last for many years on the ice!

Most serious anglers own a flasher or depth finder of some sort (a fish finder/depth finder device) and most of them would probably not even consider hitting the ice without one.  They allow us to check the depth of the water, see fish that are below our hole and watch how fish interact with our lure.  For the past five years I have used the Humminbird ICE 55.  It is very easy to use and will increase any anglers catches on the ice.  If you think your angler could use an upgrade on their flasher, this is the one you want.

Ontario’s Sunset Country Region (www.ontariossunsetcountry.ca) where I live is one of the top ice fishing destinations in North America.  With over 75,000 lakes across the region there is no shortage of water to fish!  If you would like the plan the dream ice fishing trip, visit the link above and you can find the lodge or outfitter to help you plan your trip.  Many of the top TV fishing shows, outdoor writers and photographers visit this region every winter to take advantage of all of the great fishing opportunities that exist here.  I promise a great trip!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Gearing Up for Shed Hunting in Canada

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Gussy's Friend with ShedWe are still buried under a blanket of snow across most of Ontario’s Sunset Country, delaying the start of our spring shed hunting season, but much of the Midwest is now clear of snow.  As soon as the snow melts it will be prime time to hit the woods in search of shed antlers across the ice belt.  This is because there is no grass hindering our ability to see freshly dropped antlers.  The snow also preserves all of the deer rut signs from the previous fall so we’re killing two birds with one stone when we hit the woods.  Not only might we find a giant shed antler, but we’re also able to see all the significant deer signs from the previous fall—things like fresh rubs, scrapes and tracks.

Hard Work Pays Off

I have put in many days where I’ve walked for 12 hours straight, through swamps, some of the thickest brush you can imagine and up big hills.  I strike out during some days and don’t find much, but many times my friends and I have found over 100 sheds in one day.

In Ontario’s Sunset Country region, we find most of our sheds on the south facing sides of the biggest hills and ridges.  We scout areas on topographical maps then make a plan for how to access them.  The best spots are more than a mile from the nearest road or the lake shoreline.  These are places that hunters generally can’t get to; so we’re walking on land that sees very little human activity.  When we find 100+ sheds in a day, these include a lot of old sheds—some of which are faded and chewed on—but when we find multiple sheds in the middle of an open ridge, we know that nobody has walked through that opening in a long time!

In the big woods that I shed hunt, a handheld GPS is critical to avoid getting lost.  It can be easy to navigate on our own during sunny days, but on cloudy days it can be almost impossible without GPS.  GPS units like the Garmin Rino 120 also feature a radio—which is an added bonus.  The cool thing about shed hunting is that there is no limit to how many people can be involved.  It’s a social activity, which is why I have so much fun doing it.  My friends and I have contests when we go for the most sheds, biggest or first find of the day.  Having a radio helps us interact and keep track of everyone’s location.

Good day for shed hunting

Finding Comfortable and Durable Gear

The most important part of enjoying a shed hunting experience is being comfortable.  That means dressing properly—from my base layers to my boots.  Walking through rough terrain all day is a great body workout so I want to wear quality boots.  Over the years I have worn several different boots and have come to rely on the Danner Pronghorn GTX for its durability and its water resistance.  The Under Armour-Armour Guard shirt is my favorite base layer because it’s not super tight fitting and it will dry quickly if I break a sweat climbing a big hill.  For my pants, I definitely want something rugged and durable because I’ll be rubbing them on all kinds of sticks and branches.  The Mountain Khaki Alpine Utility Pant is super tough and extremely comfortable—it’s the only pant I wear in the woods anymore.  It’s a top quality product!

Spring is a great time of year to get outside and enjoy time with your friends.  If you find any big shed antlers this spring, be sure to share photos with us on the krugerfarms.com Facebook page!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Gussy and Friend Shed Hunting