It was right down to the wire for the 2018 edition of Kenora Bass International. Scott Anderson and Craig Peterson of Minnesota were the final team to weigh-in, but they came through in the crunch.
Their final weight of 17.85 lb was enough for a three-day total of 55.28 and a cheque for first place of $19,111.
"We're really excited," Anderson said, after the cheque presentation. "We worked our tails off to get to this point. Last year was a fifth-place finish. We obviously made it all the way to the top of the food chain."
For the first nine boats in the Top 10 parade, it looked like last year's championship team of Bill Godin and Leroy Wilson might repeat. After delivering the biggest bag of the day at just over 20 pounds, Wilson and Godin had to sit on pins and needles in front of a full-house at the Whitecap Pavilion.
In the end, a Day 1 total of just over 14 pounds was the undoing for last year's champs, and they could only smile and offer their congratulations to the winners.
"It's like an endurance test," acknowledged Peterson, as he allowed the victory to settle in.
The three days in heat and humidity clearly took a toll on the winners, but it didn't stop them from appreciating the moment. In fact, it might've helped them appreciate it a little more.
"It feels really good," Peterson said, underlining the statement with a nod.
Despite all the adrenalin and excitement, Peterson still took time to talk about the beauty of the setting on Lake of the Woods, especially this morning's sunrise.
"It's like postcard. The sun was coming out, burning through the smoke above the trees. It was awesome. There was not a ripple out there," Peterson said.
Yesterday's second-place team of Adam Bachynski and Andrew Beernaert of Keewatin had to settle for a third-place finish after Day 3. Their hopes of a second title in three years came up just short, even though they managed to average more than 17 pounds of fish a day. Their overall total was 52.78 pounds.
The difference between fifth place and 10th was only about a pound, with young guns Jay Siemens and Mark Tully at the top of the heap at 50.31 pounds for the tournament, while Oliver and Jason Gibbins of Morson were 10th at 49.02 pounds.
Peter Tully and Aaron Wiebe of Manitoba had the big fish of the day at 5.26 pounds.