Armstrongs win 2013 RRWT
By Ken Johnston
It was a nail-biter of a finish at the 15th Annual Rainy River Walleye Tournament (RRWT) Sunday!
After day 1 Kirk Wood and Jon O’Connor of Rainy River lead the pack with a 12.28 lbs. basket. But there were plenty of teams within striking distance and with a big change in the weather, from soaking rains on Saturday to sun on Sunday, it could have been any one of top 25 teams (on day 1) who won it!
About mid-way through the weigh-ins on day 2, Joe Bonhomme and Jim Hall took over the lead when they added 11.30 lbs. to their day 1 weight of 9.70 lbs. for a two day total of 21.00 lbs. They were ranked 8th at the end of day 1. They would hold that lead until the top five boats from day 1 were to weigh in.
The top five from day 1 are always held back to create suspense and boy did it ever!
Fifth place on day 1 was Darren and Dave Armstrong of Rainy River. The first day they had 10.78 lbs. and needed 10.23 lbs. to knock Bonhomme and Hall off the lead. They shattered their lead weighing in the biggest basket of the tournament, 13.44 lbs. for a total of 24.22 lbs.
Emcee Vaughn Murray asked the Armstrongs how they felt about their lead. “Well we have heard there are some really nice fish to come so we aren’t too sure if we can hold onto it,” said Dave Armstrong.
Next up was Bill Stay and Bryan Baron of Baudette who were fourth on day 1 with 10.80 lbs. They managed to get four fish both days, but they needed 13.43 lbs. to unseat the Armstrongs. They only weighed in at 7.60 lbs. for a two day tally of 18.40 lbs.
The only former champs in day 1’s top five were Doug McBride and Steve Ballan (won in 2005) of Fort Frances. They were third with 10.94 lbs. and needed 13.29 lbs. to take the lead. They only caught two fish with a weight of 4.78 lbs. Their two day total was 15.72 lbs.
The day 1 second place team, Sonny Gibbins and Victor Longe, were skunked on day 2 which left only Wood and O’Connor to weigh in.
The Armstrongs were nervous and that proved to be justified as the day 1 leaders hoisted four really nice fish for the crowd to see. Wood and O’Connor needed 11.95 lbs. to win the tournament. The packed tent fell silent as weigh master Lance Lindal waited for the fish to stop flopping around and the scale the settle in. When he announced 11.88 lbs. a loud “ohhhhh” from the crowd was heard.
People were in shock as to how close it was, but O’Connor, knowing that the difference between first and second was $7,500 asked for a re-weigh.
The tent fell silent again... but after the scale was reset and the fish put back on it, it came out at 11.88 lbs. again. Wood and O’Connor accepted it and congratulated the 2013 Champs, Dave and Darren Armstrong who were then presented with the tournament trophy!
The champs only caught two fish on day 1. But they were nice ones, 6.25 lbs. and 4.53 lbs. They weighed them in early, (around 2:30 p.m.) and quit fishing for the day. “We couldn’t get anything else under and being soaked and tired we packed it in,” said Darren.
On the second day Davy said, “Darren had the hot hand today, bringing in the big ones!” One of their fish was 7.16 lbs. that day.
Waiting for the final boat to weigh in, both were on pins and needles. “We were very nervous,” said Davy.
“Its going to be a barn burner,” said Darren to emcee Murray, and boy was it!
“We have been waiting for this for a long, long time and have been so close,” said Darren.
“It was our dream to win this,” added Davy.
Back in 2000 the pair were disqualified when they came in 12 minutes late, with a big basket of fish that would have put them at the top of the pack. “That’s why we came in early yesterday (day 1) so we wouldn’t be disqualified,” joked Davy.
They fished both ways on day 1, but found success in the west near the mouth of the river, bringing in those two nice ones.
Day 2 they went west again. “Early in the morning every time I tossed a jig into the water I got one,” said Darren. “Today we caught lots of fish, throwing back about 10 or 11 fish,” he added.
Darren said they used red jigs and sucker minnows both days.
For Kirk Wood there was also deja vous linked to the 2000 RRWT. That year his brother Colin Wood and partner Doug Moen, also lost the title by a hair. They lost to the late Kevin Marchuk and Thatcher Haggberg by 3/10ths of a pound. That year Marchuk and Haggberg also only caught two fish on day 1 and four on day 2.
Kirk said, “I would rather have lost by 10 lbs. than 7/100ths of a pound. Right now I do not know if I ever want to fish again, but this is today. Tomorrow is another day.”
Wood said they thought they had it for sure. “On the water we weighed out at 12.70 lbs. But fish do lose weight in the live wells but so would have Davy and Darren’s.”
Wood said they had a really good day 2 of fishing throwing back between 20-30 fish. “I am happy but discouraged.”