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Ultimate Panfish League

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I was returning home today from from Tower, we stopped to eat in Virginia and I picked up a copy of the Mesabi Daily News.

To my surprise this story appeared in the sports section

Way to go guys!

As the wild-flamed sunset tamed to tepid orange and Orion was rising Monday, Tyler Holm yelled "All right, let's fish!"

With that, 19 people began their quest to win the second Ultimate Panfish League-Rochester tournament.

Top prize: $114.

OK, so it wasn't a megabucks payout, but it was close to home, and many of the anglers said they were planning on ice fishing anyway. So they went to the Kalmar Township reservoir west of Rochester, dragged flip-up shacks, tackle, heaters and fishfinders over the dam and signed up for the competition.

The 19 anglers had a lot in common: they were all young men (the oldest probably 35) they love to fish and enjoy a little competition. To enter, they only needed to chip in $10 and could add $1 for biggest fish and enter the top four sunnies and crappies. Catch-and-release was encouraged.

Nothing complicated. No week-to-week standings. Just come out, pay your money and have some fun.

Billy Denny of Rochester and Spencer Hagen of Byron sat in one warm shelter. "We were just coming out fishing, and we heard about it from everybody else," Denny said.

Ten bucks wasn't too much to ask. "Just adds a little excitement," Hagen said.

They brought out waxworms, minnows and PowerBait. "You have to have every trick," Hagen said.

Both loved the idea of the simple tournament. "It gets everyone together, that's what's good about it," Denny said. "Everybody talks about what they caught, and sees what everybody caught."

Jason Outcalt of Zumbrota fished with Brad Ackman of Rochester for the same reason -- to have fun. Yes, the wind was cold, but they had the shelter and a good heater. Life was good.

"We can meet other people, share secrets," Ackman said. "If we don't win, it's fun, just the fishing part."

But still, Outcalt and Ackman were serious enough about the competition to have at least one trick up their sleeves. Suspended from a Styrofoam ball was an old Christmas garland that provided structure, something the reservoir lacks.

At 9 p.m., those still on the ice gathered near Holm, the league's organizer, who had to thaw out his scale before the weigh-in could begin. One by one, anglers brought in their fish. As fish were weighed, anglers talked about who did what, what worked, how the ice was.

"Tons and tons of little crappies," Hagen said. "Probably not a ton, though. I wish it was a ton."

"Definitely a good time," Denny said. "Most of the fish we caught were suspended."

When the numbers were crunched, Outcalt came out on top. Maybe it was the fake structure, he said. They caught their fish early with jig and waxies -- minnows didn't do much.

And he knew exactly what he was going to do with his winnings: "Buy some more fishing equipment." And maybe some gas to get to the next Ultimate Panfish League tournaments.

Holm said there are a couple more tournaments scheduled to take place on the ice, and he'd like to expand them to open water.

When it was all over, the anglers dragged their heavy gear up and over the dam. The west was black, Orion was high in the sky and the reservoir was quiet and dark.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • I have another weekend in me to fish and fight the winds and weather and then the boat will be done for the year.  Guess it is that time of the season but would really love to get another couple outings in but such is life! 
    • who uses flashers now days haha; I'm a helix convert now too, i was hesitant at first as the Lowrance had a LCD screen a few years ago for ice fishing but the lag was unusable, but hbird figured it out. Mapping, flasher screen if wanted, and sonar all in one, its like a smartphone; everything in one.   also, I have not had any interference issues with others using the helix, especially with all of hte chirp setttings
    • Looks like a good time 
    • I love my Helix unit also, and GPS has been a game changer for me. No more fumbling with my phone in the cold with apps eating my battery and trying to keep it out of the elements.    I miss the simplicity of my Marcum VX-1 but after getting my Helix dialed in I have no complaints.
    • SD resident opener was a wet one. Saturday I didn't go out. Sunday morning woke up with 4.5" inches of snow at my place a few miles south of Sioux Falls. Never would I have imagined we would be able to hunt in snow this early! The other odd part is that none of the weather people even hinted at any accumulation or even predicted any chance of precip. It literally just came out of nowhere.   Yesterday I hunted the entire day from noon to sundown and was fortunate enough to still have some snow stick around in areas.. My only summary is swamp country. I wore the wrong boots, wrong pants etc. Should have just wore waders would have been able access things better. My biggest mistake was not going far enough west and not far enough north. But there is a ton of public land where I headed and I hadn't been able to scout that way yet this year. Everything that looked walkable was wet it didnt matter how high or low it was. If it looked good at knee level it very likely had ankle high standing water under it. Ditches were full of water, some roads were underwater it was just wet everywhere and I don't see any signs of any harvesting starting any time soon. The water just made things difficult to walk as some areas I am familiar with. I could walk one side and work it good, but then get land locked because of water and have no way of getting to the other sides and ended up back tracking and walking a lot of same areas twice  which usually isnt productive.   I only managed 1 bird all day. I missed 1 bird my first walk probably at 12:01pm right after getting out of the truck. Just was slow to get the gun up and was way behind it. Typically early season lull, I think I just stared at the bird before I even realized I should be trying to shoot it. I downed another bird early afternoon and I knew it wasn't hit hard. Made a good mark on it and then my dog got a good track and pinned it down. As I went to grab it with my hand the dog released and the bird took off like a bat out of hell and we never were able to recover it because of all of the water. As soon as I put my hand on it, it just exploded and was gone. Was just an odd scenario.   Saw a few other hens but otherwise a very very slow day. I had spotted a bunch of birds coming out of some CRP earlier in the day that headed for corn. I came back an hour before sundown and hunkered down hopefully to get some pokes at them during the golden hour and they never showed up. I know the birds are around but all the crops in makes it difficult to hunt during the day.   I dont know what to suggest for people coming for the big opener this weekend. Its going to be difficult with so many crops in. I would say anywhere north of HWY 14 should be a little drier in areas but they have still seen some moisture the last couple weeks. Up near Brown county they are basically in a drought and down in the south eastern part of the state we are breaking yearly precipitation records. Harvest is off to a slow start all over. I know this weekend is the big opener everyone gets fired up for but if it were me I would be coming back for late season hunts and skip the circus this weekend.   I wont be hitting it hard any time soon will probably just stick to some sundown hunts closer to home for now. I have some gopro footage I need to get edited from yesterday got alot of good stuff on video including the bird that got away.   Good luck to those heading out this weekend!
    • I'd like to see how the Helix handles interference.   Interference was the reason I went from my Interphase Video to a flasher. Currently using HBird Ice 45 and MarCum LX5.
    • I put all the boats put away,  subsequently the rain stopped.  I'll take that and finish pulling the dock in.
    • Posting.  Cuz I can’t sleep worth a dump.  Gonna be a MEA yahoo for most the rest of the week.  I’ve heard good reports from the friends that are already out there. They took the whole week so I’m driving myself out Tuesday night.     Just getting the the back of the truck filled with dekes got me too revved up.  Gonna be hard packing anything else besides waders, layout blind, guns and shells!  Who needs food and more than one change of clothes for 5 days anyway?!
    • I was ALMOST headed to Ely as well but opted to stick to “productive” pursuits at home, figuring I probably missed the October window this year.  That only lasted a day though before I headed west.   It looked really cool though.  Quiet too I bet.
    • I have a couple LX5s and have been very happy with them.  I had to get a second one for the wheelhouse since after I set it up for the wife, I usually go out hole hopping my original one.  Then come back with fish only cuz I was using the “cheat mobile”.    With the second one I was able to let her stare at it long enough to figure it out cuz apparently my teaching skills are sub par.  She normally wanted to have the camera down all the time but come dark, it’s kinda hard to see anything.     Who knew a wheelhouse and flasher would change her from a winter hibernator to an ice fishing addict.  She wants to go EVERY weekend now.     Anyone wanna buy a wheelhouse? 😉😂   Just kidding.... but I wish she’d wanna try for lakers every once in a while.