Temporary fix leads to new Jaycees ice tourney
Using knowledge gained over the last year, the Brainerd Jaycees announce a new virtual ice fishing tournament running separately from the Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
The Brainerd Jaycees announced the launch of America’s Ice Fishing Tournament, a new virtual ice fishing tournament taking place Jan. 22.
It will be in addition to, not replacing, the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza occurring annually on Gull Lake.
For a tournament first organized in 1991, the Ice Fishing Extravaganza was postponed three times, moved to a different lake once, and in its 31st year the Brainerd Jaycees played the hand they were dealt, moving the Ice Fishing Extravaganza tournament to a virtual format , complying with Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The event hosted about 4,700 registered participants across the state of Minnesota and raised more than $100,000 for local charities and nonprofit organizations. It was deemed a huge success with a lot of positive feedback, said Tad Johnson, the chairman of America's Ice Fishing Tournament.
The new virtual tournament will be a supplement to the traditional, in-person ice fishing tournament.
“We did not want the virtual tournament to take away from the Extravaganza,” Johnson said. “We don't want people to feel like they have to do one or the other so we wanted to develop the virtual one so that it was in addition to, an added way to win. … It was a lot of long discussions on if we had the bandwidth to take it on. At the end of the day, we thought the demand was there and we decided to take a shot at it.”
Though the decision was not an easy one for the Brainerd Jaycees to make, the organizers felt they would be able to host a virtual tournament without interfering or taking away from their in-person event the following week.
The Ice Fishing Extravaganza is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2022.
Leana Nelson, who helps with marketing for America's Ice Fishing Tournament, said switching gears and learning how to organize and run a virtual tournament last year was a learning experience for the Brainerd Jaycees.
Looking to impart the lessons learned from last year’s tournament, organizers opened up the tournament to any publicly accessible body of water that is covered in ice and located in the United States.
“If someone from Southern California wanted to go to northern Montana and go ice fishing, as long as on the day of the contest they're following all the local laws and are on a sheet of ice, anyone can participate,” Johnson said. “Including if Canadians wanted to come down to America to fish.”
The tournament organizers chose walleye, northern pike, crappie, perch and sunfish as the eligible species as they are some of the most popular ice fishing species in the upper Midwest.
Looking to encourage angling of all eligible species this year, the tournament will move away from awarding placement based on the length and is moving to a points-based system, giving a maximum of 100 points for a perfect fish.
The tournament will be hosted through the FishDonkey app and contestants are eligible to win one of 500 prizes, with a total value of more than $67,000, which will be scattered throughout the top 2,000 places based on point-awarded fish values, including a new F-150 truck or $25,000 cash.
That means participants will still need to use a commercially available bump board or measuring board, but with the point system, a 100-point sunfish would beat a 90-point northern. If a tiebreaker is required, the first fish registered would win.
TIM SPEIER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5859. Go to twitter.com/timmy2thyme to follow him on Twitter.