By Dan Johnson

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to witness the Brainerd Jaycees 25th Annual $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza firsthand, and what an incredible event it was. Warm weather and prizes pushing $200,000 drew a record attendance estimated at more than 13,000 anglers, who fished from noon to 3 p.m. in hopes of hooking a catch big enough to land in the top 150 places.


Covering the action for Lindy, I wandered the 2-square-mile competition area on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay, camera in hand, visiting with and shooting photos of enthusiastic anglers from across the country. With so many people in such a festive mood, it was more like a carnival than a fishing tournament. 


While I was on duty, my son Josh and his friend Clayton Anderson, both 16, competed in the event. After pre-tournament research and scouting, they’d settled on a 40-foot flat next to even deeper water. Their strategy seemed solid, since last season’s winning fish—a 4.73-pound walleye—came from 55 feet of water. Gunning for the new Ford or GMC pickup up for grabs in first place, the boys came well prepared with an arsenal of Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoons (Josh’s personal favorite), Frostee Jigging Spoons, Ice Worms, Slick Jigs and other great Lindy baits, plus a boxful of waxworms, bucket of minnows and fistful of soft plastics for tipping.

Mere minutes into the competition, a lucky lady angler next to them iced a feisty perch and raced for the weigh-in line. Shortly after, another nearby angler, Bill Young of Clintonville, Wis., slid a 1.17-pound tullibee onto the ice. He ended up placing 79th and winning a StrikeMaster auger.


Both boys got bit, but neither managed to seal the deal. Still, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience—though in hindsight, they wished they’d played the shallow game. After all, when Steven Baumgartner of Owatonna, Minn., moved from the abyss to 6 feet of water with less than 15 minutes left in the contest, he iced a 6.73-pound pike that propelled him to the top of the leaderboard.


Maybe next year the boys will follow suit, but for now they’re still stoked about trying their luck in one of the planet’s biggest fishing competitions.