2017 Top 12 Competitive Angler Rankings for Central Canada
by Eric Labaupa
As published in Winter 2017 Hooked Magazine
We look back on the past year of competitive angling to highlight a handful of impressive season performances. The second year of this annual list compiled by Kickerfish is based on tournament performances during the 2017 season within the region and beyond. This Top 12 and Honourable Mentions list are comprised of anglers who hail from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or Ontario.
These talented sticks are only some who cashed multiple cheques and dominated local leaderboards. Four anglers from the 2016 rankings made the list again this year. Factors considered were strength of competition, size of event field, number of top finishes, tournament wins, and competing in multiple species.
Jeff Gustafson (ON)
‘Gussy’ had a relatively subpar season competing at the highest level of the sport this past year. His best finishes on the FLW Tour were 13th at Lake Travis and 22nd at Lake Guntersville. When you consider that he is competing against the best bass anglers on the planet, the fact that he cashed cheques in the major leagues is still an incredibly impressive feat. A less than stellar pro tour turned out to be bad news for anglers on the local circuit. He came home and proceeded to cash top 5 cheques at six events and recorded a 1st place win at the International Falls Bass Championship and 1st at the Shoal Lake Last Chance Bass Tournament. 5thplace at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, 4thplace at Kenora Bass International, and 3rd place at the Sioux Narrows Bassin’ for Bucks were all solid showings at the three sunset country major events. A 2nd place finish at the Shoal Lake Bass Classic and 3rd at Crow Lake rounded out his spectacular bass season in Northwest Ontario. Gustafson even competed on the walleye side recording a more than respectable 24th place finish at the toughly contested Kenora Walleye Open. His second year in a row at the top of the list, Gussy is always a threat to win at every tournament he competes at. Dominance and consistency of performances still makes him the stick to beat in 2018.
Jay Samsal (ON)
One half of the Samsal/Dingwall power duo who had a great 2017 season competing on the bass circuit as teammates. They started the season off well with a 3rd place finish at the Falcon Lake Bass opener. A 1st place win at the Dryden Bass Tournament, 5th at Bassin’ for Bucks, 9th at Shoal Lake Last Chance, 11th at the Frank McClymont Memorial, and 19th at the Shoal Lake Bass Classic were the rest of their top bass finishes together. They came in 3rd place at the 120 boat Kenora Walleye Open to display their multi-species prowess as well. Separately Jay has the edge on Scott this year as he won the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship for the second year in a row. He also finished higher at the prestigious Kenora Bass International event coming in 18th, both times with his other main partner Troy Norman. Ranked 4th last year, Samsal is an outstanding angler who could most likely do some damage down south as well. An amazing season was capped off by him winning the Kickerfish Bass Series Angler of the Year and the Lund Tournament Trail Angler of the Year titles.
Scott Dingwall (ON)
The other half of the team, Dingwall has consistently put together remarkable seasons on the local bass trail. This year was no different as he once again finished in 3rdplace at the Falcon Lake Bass Classic, 1st at the Dryden Bass Tournament, 5th at Bassin’ for Bucks, 9th at Shoal Lake Last Chance, 11th at the Frank McClymont Memorial, and 19th at the Shoal Lake Bass Classic with Samsal. A 1stplace win at the International Falls Bass Championship and 3rd place at the Kenora Walleye Open rightfully have Dingwall ranked near the top with the best anglers in the region. Rising up from his 9th spot ranking last year, Dingwall is widely regarded as an elite multi-species stick in Northwest Ontario.
Lance Marcotte/Karen Soke (SK)
The mark of an upper tier competitive angler is consistency. The team of Marcotte and Soke have shown just that over the last few seasons competing on the Saskatchewan Walleye Trail and western events on the Central Walleye Trail. Their 2017 season had them record no less than six top 10 finishes including a 5th place showing at the Boundary Dam Bass Tournament to show that they aren’t only about walleye. Perhaps even more impressive is their 18th place finish at the 160 boat field Premier’s Walleye Cup and Marcotte’s finish with another partner at the just as huge Nipawin Vanity Cup taking 9thplace. Marcotte and Soke won the Mixed Team of the Year awards on both the SWT and CWT this year.
5. Danny Toth (MB)
Toth is no stranger to the top of tournament leaderboards being a veteran of the local walleye scene. An impressive season had him record top finishes of 2nd place at the challenging Russell Lions Prairie Classic, 3rd at the Falcon Lake Walleye Masters Cup, 4th at the Red River Walleye Masters Cup, 8th at the Winnipeg River Greenback Championship, and 14th at Cape Coppermine. He also placed a respectable 31st at the 3-day Kenora Bass International tournament and 12th at the Falcon Lake Bass Classic bringing his angling skills over to the bass side of things.
Brian McNanney (ON)
A well respected angler in sunset country, McNanney put together a fine season falling just short of winning on three different occasions. 2nd place finishes at the Whitefish Bay Bass Classic, Sioux Narrows Bassin’ for Bucks, and at the Kenora Bass International had him knocking on the door of a top spot ranking. He also recorded a 4th place showing at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and 6th place at both the Falcon Lake Bass Classic and the Frank McClymont Memorial.
7. Eric Labaupa (MB)
A strong start to the season powered Labaupa into the rankings this year. He had a 7th place finish at the Rafferty Reservoir Walleye Cup, 4th place at the Falcon Lake Bass Classic, and a 1stplace win at the Falcon Lake Walleye Masters Cup in consecutive events. 5th place at Cape Coppermine, 16th at the Madge Lake Walleye Cup, and 15th at the Winnipeg River Greenback Championship round out other top finishes for the CWT Angler of the Year Runner-Up.
Troy Norman (ON)
First place wins at two major tournaments is a successful season by any standards. Norman scored titles at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and at the Sioux Narrows Bassin’ for Bucks events. He also placed 8th at the 129 boat field Sturgeon Bay Bass Open in Wisconsin. Cashing a cheque in 18th place at the prestigious Kenora Bass International is almost blah by comparison.
Darren Kennedy/Jeremy Kennedy (ON)
Speaking of wins in two major tournaments, this father and son duo won the Dryden Walleye Masters and the Red Lake Fall Classic this season. They didn’t compete at too many other events but it would probably be a good idea if they do next year. Other notable finishes were 36th at the Kenora Walleye Open and 10th and 11th respectively at the Dryden Bass Tournament with different partners.
Tom Johnston (SK)
Ranked 10th last year, the Saskatchewan ace Johnston once again made the list at the same spot. A fantastic SWT season with partner Shane Better saw them finish in 2ndplace at the Regina Beach Walleye Classic, 5th place at the Sask. Landing Walleye Tournament, 17th at the Last Mountain Fall Walleye Classic, and 21st at the Lake Diefenbaker Walleye Classic. Johnston also competed at the major Premier’s Walleye Cup finishing in 11th place and at the Nipawin Vanity Cup placing 40th.
Terry McClymont (ON)
One amongst the elite tier of bass sticks is McClymont along with long time partner Tim Strempler. This season they went about their usual business of finishing in the top 10 of local bass tournaments. 1st place at the Frank McClymont Memorial, 2nd place at the Kenora Crush event, 7th at the Shoal Lake Last Chance Fall tournament, 8th place at the Falcon Lake Bass Classic, and 8th place at Bassin’ for Bucks. In addition to a 17th place showing at the Kenora Bass International, McClymont also finished in 2nd place at the Sturgeon Bay Bass Open in Wisconsin and 19th place at the Bronzeback Classic.
Bryan Maloney (MB)
Maloney had a successful year on the walleye circuit. 2nd place at the major Russell Lions Prairie Classic and 3rd at the Falcon Lake Walleye Masters Cup had him very close to winning titles. Other top finishes in tough fields were 14th place at Cape Coppermine, 14th place at the Winnipeg River Greenback Championship, 20th at the Red River Walleye Masters Cup, and 21st at the Madge Lake Walleye Cup.
Bryan Gustafson (ON)
Greg Haga (MB)
Andrew Klopak (MB)
Jamie Bruce (ON)
Mike Davey/Josh Haisell (MB)
Jayden Symonds (ON)
Tim Strempler (MB)
Kevin Hollerbaum/Bob Schlosser (SK)