By Steve Weisman
The 27th annual Pocahontas Iowa Great Lakes Invitational Fishing Tournament (PIGLIFT) was held on the Iowa Great Lakes this past weekend. A total of 21 teams (three person) fished the 2015 two-day event.
It’s kind of unique in that one of the team partners must have at one time lived in Pocahontas County. It is a pretty special one for me, because I was asked by John Amick, a teaching colleague of mine 25 years ago, if I wanted to be part of his PIGLIFT team. He also asked another colleague, Bill Elling, and we became a team that has lasted for a quarter of a century (and hopefully much longer).
Teams have the opportunity to fish walleyes, of course, and a panfish (perch, bluegill and crappie) division. The big thing is you can only win the division once. Over the years, there have been incredible walleye weights brought in. However, the past three years or so it has slowed down with so many fish moving into the slot.
So, it has been tougher. Yet, the Poky teams continue to do what they do best: pull cranks on Big Spirit.
Tournament coordinator Howard Pattee reflected, “The walleye catching is tough right now. There were lots of little fish in the 10-12 inch size, but we have a self imposed 14-inch minimum length limit and don’t weigh anything smaller than that. I would say 10 boats averaged two slot fish per boat both days, along with a lot of little fish. We did have the three big fish weighed on the water and released right away.”
So, there was kind of a change this year. In addition to fishing walleyes, many of the teams targeted perch. Pattee said, “We had many satisfied fishermen with the perch bite on Big Spirit and the bluegill/crappie bite on West Okoboji.”
Walleyes were caught, as they always are by pulling crankbaits. Big walleye of the weekend was a 25-inch 5.1 pounder taken on Saturday by Marty Cundiff, while Todd Olson boated a 24½-inch 5 pounder on Sunday. Cundiff used a jointed Shad Rap while Olson used a Bomber Long 24A. Other top crankbaits included Fat Raps and Storm Thundersticks and Bombers 6A.
The panfish division is where the real contest was with 11 of 21 teams bringing in two-day 10-fish limit weights. First place went to the team of Charlie Brown, Joe Bauer and Tom Hoover with a two-day combined weight of 11 pounds 12 ounces, while second place went to Steve DeWall, Bob Bellows and Dean Hohensee with a two-day combined weight of 11 pounds.
The first place team caught crappies on West Okoboji, while the second place team weighed in perch taken on Big Spirit.
Pattee said, “The perch were really going on Big Spirit. I know one team that caught 73 perch on Sunday. Tube jigs (yellow and white/red and white) and Shuck’s Jigger Minnows tipped with silver wigglers seemed to work the best.”
Over the years
When you think about it, 27 years is a long time for a tournament to exist, and it has always hosted 20-30 teams. The driving force has been Howard Pattee, John’s brother-in-law. His passion for fishing and for this event seems to become instilled in the teams, and they keep coming back, and back and back…Certainly, times change and some teams do leave, but then new “younger” teams enter.
John, Bill and I have had great times over the past 25 years. We’ve done incredibly well at times, not so well at other times and, of course, have lots and lots of crazy stories to relive when we get together.
As for this year, we fished West Okoboji for bluegills and caught lots of fish, good keeper fish. Our best lures were the green/gold Shucks Little Jiggers tipped with Belgian worms or wax worms. However, we couldn’t get the really big ones to go. We had one bluegill over nine inches and the rest were in that eight inch range. We still had a 10-pound weight for two days (1/2 pound average), which got us a tie for 5th place.
One of the really fun parts of the weekend is the steak supper and meeting at McKeen’s Pub and Grill on Saturday evening. Of course, it’s always the weekend of Iowa/Iowa State, so the place is really rocking! I think it was especially loud this year.
Following the meal, Pattee always gives out a lot of great door prizes. “What really helps us,” noted Pattee, “is the great support we get from our two main sponsors: Pure Fishing and Scheels.” Of course, the winners take home a lot of great fishing equipment, too, at the awards presentations Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
It’s really quite a tournament. If you are interested in trying it out, all you have to do is find a Poky connection, pay your entry fee and you are in!