Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NAIFC Championship-2011

Every Once Counts, that’s the North American Ice Fishing Circuit’s motto and it could not be more true.

The NAIFC Championship was held in Rhinelander, WI December 16-18th with 45 teams of two anglers competing for the title of national champion. This was our teams second championship.

So many thoughts run through your head when trying to get ready for a tournament, but getting ready for the nationals is even more grueling. You want to do well at every event, that’s why you compete at this level, but the championship is so much more. The checks are larger and the rings look great on anyone, plus you can call yourself the champion.

We approached this weekend as prepared as we were going get. We purchased the best mapping units available for these bodies of water and we did some back study on the lakes from previous tournaments held in the same locations. The information we gathered last year for fishing the first lake of the championship, Lake Thompson, was extremely valuable. We knew where we caught fish before, and we knew where others would concentrate their efforts. We managed to stay away from the large crowds and didn’t have to fight for the spots we wanted to fish in our game plan.

We fished a crib first thing Saturday morning which during pre fishing produced some average bluegills and even a couple of kicker crappies. On tournament day the Crappies were not found but the bluegills were still present and hungry. Within the first 45 minutes of the tournament we had caught the 8 gills we were willing to register and we were off to find crappies.

The crappies we had found while pre fishing were not large, but average size (8-9”) for Lake Thompson. They were in multiple places, we just had to pick where we thought we would catch a few heavier fish.

That’s one thing people sometimes don’t take into consideration when they ask us how big the fish we caught are. Most are hung up on length of the fish, we are by far more concerned with weight. I would much rather have a fat 8” crappie then a skinny 11” any tournament day ever! Folks are not as impressed by the length, but Every Ounce Counts is not just a slogan here.

The crappies we found were very aggressive, but did not yield a lot of weight and we knew we would have to spend the day upgrading fish. It was brought to our attention while we were fishing that few teams plan for a successful day. The plans are always for if something doesn’t work, and for us that morning, everything worked according to plan within the first hour and a half of the day. For just a minute we were left scratching our heads asking ourselves what do we do now? We have a our fish, not what. We did spent all day exploring or “trolling” the lake for upgrades to the fish we had in our bucket. We finished day one registering our maximum 16 fish, 8 crappies, 8 bluegills with a total weight of 4.23 lbs. Setting us up in 9th place for the day.

The game plan for Sunday was to fish the deep water basins for crappies for at least the first couple hours of the day. We were confident we could get into the sloughs and back waters to pick up bluegills, but crappies are the weight in the competition. The spot we wanted to fish in the main basin of the lake was thought to b a popular spot, we were 32nd in line and did not think it would be open for us to get to. Fortunately when we arrived, there was plenty of room directly over where we caught our fish while pre-fishing. Once time allowed we began to fish fast, even Adam was jumping from hole to hole every couple minutes, which is rare for him, he is much more patient with a hole than I. It did not take long to pick off fish. Adam carried us Sunday, he had the right touch to hook up with the deep water crappies. Within one hour we had 11 fish in the bucket and we where off to the slough to catch bluegills.

We had a bluegill “spot” in the slough picked out, no one was there while we were pre fishing and no one was there now either. We rolled in, drilled our holes and in no time I was catching bluegills, not giants but good enough for us. It was not long into searching these holes when we started to catch crappies out of them, in fact these were upgrades for us. We were astounded, the game plan we laid out worked and we had all the fish we could have asked for within the first hour and a half for the second time in a weekend.

We spent the rest of the Sunday riding back and forth from the slough to the main basin to upgrade fish, which we did numerous times.

Day two came to a close at 2:00pm Sunday. With weigh-in starting around 4 it was a anxious wait to find out how our finals totals were.

The second day yielded 6.71 lbs. of fish for our team, giving us a 7th place finish overall in the championship. We were floored! Our goal was top 15, to finish 7th was outstanding.

Congrats to Myron Gilbert and Dave Ellis for the win, you guys had great bags of fish and are super good fishermen.

Fish on day one were hitting a couple of things. White and orange HT Marmooska jig tipped with a chartreuse plastic tail and a orange and black HT Marnooska jig tipped with Copper colored Ice Mite from J and S Custom Jigs.

Day two fish came on a large mix. Going with a big presentation was key for the crappies in the basin, Magnum Ice Mites from J and S Custom Jigs worked the best. The gills and crappies in the slough came on the regular Ice Mites in a wide range of colors.

Good luck fishing!

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