By Steve Weisman
“I’m tickled with the size and numbers of the bluegills brought to the scales,” said Iowa Team Extreme Ice Fishing tournament director Rod Woten, as he reflected on the results of Sunday’s tournament held on West Okoboji’s Emerson Bay. “It never ceases to amaze me.”
With 22 teams competing, 17 teams brought 12-fish limits to the scales, while four teams caught a bluegill that weighed over a pound.
The team of Jade and Jon Furman from Milford took the title with a 12-fish weight of 8.17 pounds. Their largest bluegill was a 1.11 pounder. For their efforts, they took home the first place check of $790, two specially designed Tuned Up Custom ice rods and $300 in Striker bucks.
Second place and a check for $350 and $200 in Striker bucks went to the team of John Grosvenor from Okoboji and Scott Reed from Okoboji. Their largest fish was a 1.04-pound bluegill.
The team of Brett Sichmeller and Blaine Fopma from Rock Valley captured third place and a check for $200 and $100 in Striker bucks.
The fourth place team of Josh Lowe from Worthington, MN and Travis Frazee from Marshall, MN brought the largest bluegill of the tournament to the scales, a 1.43-pound beauty.
Coming into the tournament, Woten was concerned about ice depth and whether the fish would be in the shallows. “Ice conditions improved a lot this week, and the snow cover was a definite advantage for the teams. Although teams could fish all of Emerson Bay, the teams found the best bite either in Little Emerson or in front of the boat ramp.”
Of course, the teams took advantage of the clear water to sight fish and to pick out the bluegills they wanted to target. The top three teams all found it important to work the entire water column with some fish being enticed out of the weeds, others came through suspended, while some were just below the ice. All three teams felt going light and using two-pound test was a key to their success.
The winners found their best bite to be early until about mid-morning and then again about noon. Jade noted that they caught at least 50 fish during the tournament. “Our best bait was either a red tungsten jig or a chartreuse Mitzi Ditzi. I T-boned a wax worm.” Meanwhile, Jon found that silver wigglers worked best for him. “I would load up the hook with as many wigglers as I could.”
Meanwhile, Grosvenor and Reed used a special lure. “My 12-year old son Calvin ties his own hair jigs. Scott and I used one of his jigs with a gold head. We fished the jigs with 18” Fenwick Aetos sight fishing rods.” Grosvenor fished one hole the entire day, while Reed fished close by but moved several times in the area. They tipped their jigs with Berkley Power Bait Dogbone and Berkley Power Spikes with pink and red working the best.
Instead of fishing the same area, Sichmeller and Fopma used the run and gun approach, fishing Little Emerson early and then heading for the boat ramp area around 10:30. They caught their larger fish there. They went with a gold Fiska and tipped it with one or two silver wigglers. They also found it necessary to work the entire water column.
Woten was especially pleased with the West Lake Okoboji tournament. “Last year was our first year here, and we increased our numbers from 18 teams to 22 teams. Now we move on to Big Creek (near Polk City) for our second tournament next Sunday, January 18.”
The Iowa Team Extreme Circuit is part of a three-division format that also includes the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Teams can fish one qualifier or all four, whatever they want. An incentive to fish more than one qualifier is the chance to finish in the top 25 in a division and qualify for the Team Extreme National Championship that will be held later this winter in Wisconsin.
The final two tournaments on the Iowa circuit will be Brushy Creek (near Lehigh) on February 15 and Rock Creek (near Grinnell) on March 1. Fish limits at these three qualifiers will be eight crappies and eight sunfish.