The International Falls Bass Championship (IFBC) is a fabled bass fishing event on Rainy Lake and Rainy River, Minnesota. With great smallmouth bass fishing on the lake and river, the intent of the tournament is to showcase what phenomenal opportunities the borderland has to offer. With more than $30,000 in prize money and three days of events and excitement for the whole family, competitors look forward to the tournament each year. The IFBC format features two person teams fishing for two days with the total combined weight of smallmouth bass caught.
Among those who look forward to the tournament each year is the Peterson family, including John Peterson, and his boat partner and great-nephew Jace Peterson, and John’s nephews, brothers Travis and Craig Peterson.
At the end of two days on the water the patriarch Peterson and Jace took home a humungous trophy and $10,000 for the win with 43.98 pounds of smallmouth bass. Bill Godin and Leroy Wilson took second with 42.24 pounds and brothers Travis and Craig Peterson placed third with 41.13 pounds. It’s worthwhile to note, too, that these are second titles for John and Jace, although with different partners. Jace and his dad Travis won in 2015, while John and his brother Duane took the crown in 2012. That’s a whole lotta Petersons on the podium…
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“John spends a lot of his summer on Rainy Lake,” said Jace Peterson. “He’ll look at the weather and if it’s nice, head up from Bemidji and fish for three or four days. We went up the Sunday before the tournament, giving us five days of prefishing before the event.”
He continued: “We had a decent practice, already having a pretty good idea about what we wanted to do. There were a couple days when we’d pull up on a spot and catch one big one, but because we were practicing, get out of there right away. So, we never really knew the potential of the spots. For the most part, it was a good practice.”
“First thing we did was check the shallows to see if there were still fish around the islands and points. We hooked a few fish in these areas on Bagley topwaters, tubes and Ned Rigs, but focused most of our fishing on mid-depth humps from 6 to 15 feet. The smallmouth were relating to baitfish versus crawfish, almost in their fall patterns, which I think was because of this year’s low water. And with the hot summer and water temps between 75 and 78 degrees, I think it was just too much for the fish to handle and they moved deeper.”
While practice fishing might have been good, teams hadn’t anticipated the severe weather on Day One of the event with 20 to 25 mph winds.
“Day One was probably the worst weather conditions I’ve ever fished in,” said Jace. “We got beat up all day long, taking 30 to 40 waves over the bow. We stayed close on one of our areas because traveling conditions were so poor. But we had a nice limit by noon with 16 or 17 pounds and were happy with that. Just getting through the day was a challenge. Toward the end of the day John got on a roll and caught two four and half pounders back-to-back. That put us over the edge with a weight of 21 and a quarter. We had about an hour left to fish and made the call to go in early rather than taking the chance of breaking down.”
There was a considerable weather change on Day Two with significantly decreased winds and cloudy skies.
Then, toward the end of the day, the duo made one crucial move and caught four big fish that pretty much culled out their entire livewell.
“We caught a four and half and John caught one that was close to five pounds, and I caught another four and a half and everything clicked like it was meant to be. I was culling and our scale read total weight of 22 pounds. We were both in shock. That was easily the best day of smallmouth bass fishing both of us had ever had and that says a lot—John’s fished Erie, Mille Lacs, Sturgeon Bay, you-name-it. We were confident going into weigh-in. We talked to my dad and uncle Craig and they were sitting in third after Day Two. They told us they had about 20 pounds, so we knew that we were sitting close to first,” said Jace.
Jace and John finished with 43.98 while Jace’s dad and uncle weighed 41.13. Again, the duo of Jace and John ended up with a $10,000 check for first.
Jace sums up the feelings of pulling off the IFBC and being part of such an historical fishing-focused family. “I’ve been working toward winning a tournament like this for the past ten plus years. Lots of time on the water, long days, all that, so to win this one on the Rainy Lake system is a dream come true. To do it with my great-uncle, John, is even more spectacular, while my dad and uncle Craig took third in another boat.”
Travis and Craig Peterson
Jace added: “It’s been a great experience growing up in the Northland Fishing Tackle family. Going back to kindergarten and first grade, we’d go to school and grandpa, or my great-uncle John would pick us up after school and take us to the Northland office.”
“One of my best memories as a kid was instead of having birthday parties at a roller rink or waterpark, we’d have them in the breakroom at Northland. All the kids got goodie bags of fishing tackle and we got to walk around the back and pick lures out from the bins. It’s always been a part of my life, and now that I’m older we fish together as a family all the time. I spend a lot of time on the water with my cousin Charlie Peterson who works at Northland, as well as my dad, uncle Craig, grandpa, and great uncle John. John and my grandpa have fished the International Falls Tournament since its beginning, and this is the 17th year. I’ve been there with them pre-fishing the past ten years or more. We’ve always had a close relationship.”
Once again, congratulations to the entire Peterson family for their wins at the 2021 International Falls Bass Championship! It’s just another example of how fishing can build strong family bonds and create awesome memories.