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Brainerd Jaycees prep for TWO ice fishing events

Virtual tournament - America's Fishing Tournament - is Jan. 22. In-person, on-ice Ice Fishing Extravaganza is Jan. 29 on Gull Lake.

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A screen capture of the home page for the Brainerd Jaycee's newest contest - America's Ice Fishing Tournament, to be held Saturday, January 22, 2022.
Screen capture from virtualicefishing.org
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Two Brainerd Jaycees ice fishing tournaments. Two different dates. Two different formats.

Confused?

Rest assured, the annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is scheduled to go on as planned Saturday, Jan. 29, on Hole in the Day Bay of Gull Lake in its traditional on-ice format.

What about another virtual tournament you've been hearing about? That's taking place too, but a week earlier on Saturday, Jan. 22, on any frozen body of water in the United States.

After COVID-19 kept large groups off the ice in 2021, forcing the Jaycees to turn to a virtual extravaganza, plans are well underway for the on-ice tournament people are used to in 2022. But in an effort to bring additional funds to those in need around the lakes area, the Brainerd Jaycees decided to add a whole other ice fishing tournament to their schedule of events.

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America’s Ice Fishing Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 22, is taking place due to the success of last year’s Ice Fishing Extravaganza, which was conducted virtually and allowed participants to fish on any frozen lake. Saturday's virtual tournament will from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“When COVID all happened, we were all like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” extravaganza event chair Andrew Jay said. “We all have such a passion not necessarily just for fishing, but a passion for the event and a passion for the community and how different organizations and people were struggling. We still wanted to do something.”

Jay said the 2021 virtual tournament had just shy of 5,000 people participate – numbers he described as “incredible” - and the feedback those participants gave was overwhelmingly positive. The virtual event raised $125,357 for local charities and nonprofit organizations.

With the success of last year’s tournament, the committee decided to organize a completely separate, new virtual ice fishing tournament. This year, the event is open country-wide to all ice fishing anglers and will be hosted through the FishDonkey app.

According to a news release, eligible species for the virtual tournament are walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch and sunfish. Contestants are eligible to win one of 500 prizes, including a new F-150 truck or $25,000 cash.

The 500 prizes, with a total value of more than $67,000, will be scattered throughout the top 2,000 places based on point-awarded fish values. Fish length will be entered into the app to the closest one-fourth-inch increment. The tournament officials will convert that length to the corresponding point value for that species.

Participants are subject to all applicable licensing requirements, as well as local, state and federal laws. For more information on tournament rules and a complete breakdown of the length-to-points conversion scale, visit www.virtualicefishing.org.

Despite two tournaments being hosted by the Brainerd Jaycees in two consecutive weeks, Jay said the public has not expressed too much confusion with regard to either event.

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“I think you'll always get some of that,” Jay said. “Just trying to minimize it by doing social media blasts – keeping a good online presence and keeping in front of it … I think we are doing an OK job.”

Both tournaments are on track to take place on the scheduled dates, as well – although the extravaganza will need the all-clear from Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard.

“It's going really well. We've been blessed with a pretty awesome committee of people over the years, and that really takes the stress off," Jay said. "Obviously there's always going to be stressful times and days when you try to organize 10,000 people on a lake, but the time and commitment the committee members and volunteers have put in over the years has taken away a lot of that stress.”

Both events feature a number of prizes, with all proceeds going back into the Brainerd lakes area – exactly how it has been since the Ice Fishing Extravaganza began. Tickets for each event cost $50.

Tickets for the virtual tournament can be purchased on the FishDonkey app, while the in-person extravaganza tickets can be purchased online at icefishing.org or in-person the day of the tournament.

“We're just excited to be back in person and rocking and rolling again,” Jay said.

Visit www.vitualicefishing.org and icefishing.org for more information and follow event updates on Facebook.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.

Related Topics: BRAINERD JAYCEES ICE FISHING EXTRAVAGANZABRAINERD LAKES AREAGULL LAKEFISHING
Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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