Friday, February 12, 2010
It's not often that you sign up to do something and when it’s all said and done it not only met your expectations, but you actually sit back and say "Whoa."
The North American Ice Fishing Circuit or NAIFC for short is an organization out to teach children and adults alike the joy of modern and compeitive ice fishing. Started in 2007 Jack Baker and Mike McNett have created a competition that brings out the very best in each person that enters, The events happen throughout the ice belt and been such a success it has even become a hit reality television show called ICE MEN. Now I am no ICE MAN, but I do LOVE to ice fish and this past weekend I took the opportunity to try my luck against the very best in the industry, many of who I have looked up to and learned from over the years.
My partner and I took off last Friday to start pre fishing the lake for this event, having never fished here before we immediately looked for shanty towns to find where locals had set up shop to at least have a starting point. We no sooner drilled some holes in the ice and we were into fish. Not big, but fish none the less. I cannot help but look around and see if I can spot others doing what we are doing, prefishing. I am also watching the locals and trying to see if they are catching fish, what they are using, and how big the fish are. As I am doing this I notice some of the ICE MEN from the TV show fishing in close proximity to us. That makes me feel a bit better, these guys’ fish so often that I happen to believe you could nearly follow them and you would do well in competition. Now I do not suggest doing so, first and foremost, they will all tell you to find your own fish, nicely, but they will. They work hard, and have worked hard to get to where they are, they feel if they can do it, so can everyone else. So although I observed them fishing near us, I was not going to sit there all day and watch them. We moved to 4 different spots on the lake that first day of pre fishing, finding fish in most holes, nothing real big, but we were getting an idea of the makeup of the lake and what color jigs and baits we planned to use for the weekend.
The following day, Saturday, the weather changed, it was windy, cooler, and the snow coming across the lake found every part of your skin that was not covered. We found fish to be a bit tougher on Saturday, the colors we used the day before did not work as well, but the one thing we noticed is depth of the fish was the same from day to day. As we fished throughout the day we were in search of the all powerful 15 inch crappie, knowing that IF we found those, we could have a good chance of winning this thing and bring home some good money. Needless to say we never did find those nice big crappies. That night was the dinner and rules meeting, which my fishing partner compared to a room full of 5th graders. Some guys just have to complain, and that happens everywhere.
Sunday morning came and we were as ready as we were going to be. We loaded up the 3-wheeler with all the gear, the 2 shanties, auger, rods, buckets for fish, and me....I road in the shanty closest to the 3-wheeler while my partner drove the machine. At the start of the morning we took off for the south end of the lake which is 2.5 miles away, and the 3-wheeler was doing all it could to keep up with all the other guys on their much larger, more powerful machines. In fact it was quite comical at times as we were passed by the entire field of teams after starting in the 19th position. We made it to the end of the lake before the 8am start time, and we managed to punch some holes, get the lines out and rigged with the plastics of choice that morning. With high hopes we dropped the jigs down the hole right at 8 and I landed the first fish of the day, a very small crappie, and in the bucket it went. With the skunk out of the question we kept moving from hole to hole hoping the size of the fish we were catching was going to improve, and now and then it did. In fact within the first hour of the day, we had our 8 sunfish and 8 crappies that we were allowed to register, though I don't think we had 3 pounds of fish in that bucket, so we decided to make a move that would prove to be very good.
We moved to the outskirts of a small bay that we had fished on Friday, popped holes and within 30 seconds we had a nice large sunfish for the bucket, not long after that we started to upgrade all the sunfish in our bucket. We fished that bay for about an hour, upgrading all of our gills to nice healthy 7, 8, 9 inch fish. We needed to find crappies though so we started the process of moving back where we began the day drilling holes along the way hoping to stumble into fish worth tossing into the bucket. Eventually we made it back to where we started and this time we did not drill a single hole. There were so many open from others that had passed through that we scooped out the ice and started fishing. That was a wise decision; we were not fishing for more than 15min when my partner hooked into an 11 inch crappie, then another, and then a 10 inch. But it was getting late; we are slower than everyone else so we had to leave before everyone. We packed up our stuff and took off back across the 2.5 miles of ice. As we approached the "finish line" we stopped to sort our catch. Knowing we had some nice gills we felt good about what our poundage was going to be, but we had not seen anyone else’s bucket yet either.
We were the first ones across the line, and the first to get our bucket to weigh in, now it’s a matter of waiting for the results....in about an hour and a half. Being the first bucket in to the weigh was fine, the waiting for what seemed like forever to find out how much we had was killing me. One of the ten last buckets to be weighed, knowing it was going to be tough to compete, there were some very large fish, and big baskets weighed. Finally our turn came, "Team 711." Big fish was .49lbs, one of the crappies caught just minutes before we had to get off the ice. Total weight, 4.46lbs, and good enough for 36th place, not good enough for money, trophy or qualification for the nationals next December, but a lot of fun, and I would not have done anything differently.
This event taught me and my partner how to rely on another person for support, which is not something that comes naturally while ice fishing. I learned some from Tony Boshold during his Friday Night Seminar; I also learned I want to do this again, badly. Adam and I will be back next year, with just as much drive and confidence as we did this year, but the other competitors will have to put up with us a few times, we are planning to fish at least 3 events next year, Delavan of course will be one and I think the results may be slightly different, I think this time we will be ready for a trip to the nationals and buying a round for our friends when we get back home.
The NAIFC is one of the greatest Ice fishing organizations I have had the pleasure of being associated with and I am counting down the days till we can do it again.