Jerry Hamilton of Bemidji came into last year's Hardwater Classic Ice Fishing Tournament thinking it was just something to do that day.
But after learning his 1-pound, 3-ounce northern pike was the biggest fish caught that day, he was pleasantly surprised when he was proclaimed the winner and presented with $1,000.
The Hardwater Classic, a catch-and-release ice fishing tournament on Lake Bemidji, will be from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, with proceeds going toward athletic scholarships for Bemidji State University.
More than $20,000 in prizes will be awarded, including portable fish houses, ice augers, heaters and more. The winner of the largest fish will receive a cash prize of $1,000.
Tickets cost $25 for the general public or $15 for students and can be ordered online at www.hardwaterclassic.org.
Registration forms can be picked up at Gander Mountain, Bluewater Outdoors and the local stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting. Checks should be made payable to Beaver Pride.
For more information call 755-2827 or visit the website.
Hamilton said his strategy for finding the winning ice hole was simple - he looked for a spot on top of a small snow bank, so his feet wouldn't get wet from the ice.
His advice to anglers who will be participating in the tournament this year is to "just keep poking away."
Hamilton recently signed up for the ice fishing tournament, but is not sure how he'll do this year. He's been ice fishing a few lakes in the area this winter, but said he hasn't had much luck so far. He is hoping his luck will return this weekend.
Jake Bluhm, organizer of the fourth annual Hardwater Classic, said last year's tournament attracted 482 anglers. Thirty-eight of the anglers who caught fish in the northern pike, walleye and perch categories received prizes.
The ice fishing tournament draws mostly local ice anglers who grew up ice fishing or have become interested in it after moving to the area, he said.
"It's fun to get everyone out there to support Beaver athletics, Bluhm said. "It's going to be nice weather and will be a great day to spend out on the ice."
Youth ages 10 and under who enter the Hardwater Classic fishing contest have a chance to win a new bicycle, Bluhm said. For every fish caught by a youth during the Classic, their name will be entered into a drawing to win the bicycle.
Participants are encouraged to park in the Nymore Beach parking lot and at the southeast end of the Sanford Center lot. Participants will be transported to the predrilled holes at the tournament site by hay wagon. The only on-ice parking will be for handicapped vehicles, which must be marked as such.
A pre-tournament rules meeting will take place at 11 a.m. at the tournament site the day of the event.
A few rules
A few of the event rules include:
- The largest fish caught must be a perch, walleye or northern pike.
- Anglers must have a valid Minnesota license and abide by all Minnesota fishing rules. This includes your fish house.
- In the event of a tie, the first fish registered is the winner.
- Portable shelters are permitted, but must be licensed.
- No vehicles will be allowed on the ice - only snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles. Shuttles will be provided. Snowmobiles and ATV's must be parked in the parking lot. They will not be permitted next to your fishing hole.
- No glass containers will be allowed on the ice.