Crappies, bluegills don’t disappoint at Okoboji’s Emerson Bay NAIFC qualifier
The teams fishing the North America Ice Fishing Circuit qualifier on West Okoboji’s Emerson Bay could not have asked for a more perfect day: sunny skies, mild temperatures and no wind.
According to NAIFC director Jack Baker, “The tournament teams had an absolutely great time on fishing West Okoboji. The legendary lake did not disappoint.”
Leading the way with a 10-fish limit was the team of Jon Jenneman and Doug Bussian from Wisconsin. Their weight of 9.41 pounds included a 1.05-pound crappie earned them the $4,000 first place check and trophies as the NAIFC Lake Okoboji Champions.
Second place and a check for $1,300 went to the team of Jim Hesse and Zach Nadolski from Nebraska for their 10-fish limit weight of 9.16 pounds.
Third place and a check for $700 went to the Wisconsin team of Kevin Fassbind and Nick Smyers with a 10-fish limit weight of 8.05 pounds.
Meanwhile, the team of Nick Kemos and Ben Warner from Wisconsin garnered the $600 fourth-place check with a 10-fish limit weight of 7.86 pounds, and the team of Ryan Hylla and Clayton Kettering from Minnesota rounded out the top five with 10-fish limit weight of 7.42 pounds good for $500.
The Big Fish prize of $680 for their 1.12-pound crappie went to the team of Adam Griffith and Scott Merwin from Minnesota.
A total of 41 teams registered with 38 teams weighing 10-fish limits.
According to Travis Harman, owner of Stan’s Bait & Tackle, the NAIFC host bait shop, “This was our first year, and I think the first year went exceptionally well. Teams were pretty much scattered all over Emerson Bay fishing anywhere from 5 feet of water to 25 feet of water. A lot of crappies and bluegills were caught and released today.”
Some teams did a lot of moving around, but those who were on fish pretty much stuck to their spots. The top three teams caught predominately crappies. The first place team stuck to their original holes and never moved.
Harman noted, “They used small 3 mm tungsten jigs tipped with mostly plastics. Pink, white, purple and peach were their best colors.”
“I was extremely impressed of the teams’ extremely high level of sportsmanship," Harman added. "The Ice Team pros were a huge help during the Kids’ Ice Camp on Saturday afternoon. They helped make sure each kid got their ice fishing equipment, the flasher they were going to use and then helped make sure they caught fish.”
According to Harman, “We certainly couldn’t have done this without our great sponsors, and the community was extremely supportive of the entire weekend.”
Saturday morning, the NAIF (SIF) high school qualifier kicked off the tournament weekend. Top placers were Calvin Grosvenor and Kolby Kendall with a 10-fish limit weight of 6.59 pounds, while Kaleb Menken and Kyle Thompson finished second with eight fish weighing 4.17 pounds.
Both teams qualify for the High School National Championship on December 28-29 at Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota with a shot at college scholarships.
The NAIFC Tournament Series qualifying season begins in January and lasts into March, with the NAIFC Tournament Series Championship Invitational this coming December. At this point in the race for the Series Championship, the teams of Jenneman and Bussian and Hylla and Kettering are tied for first place with 55 points, while the team of Hesse and Nadolski are currently in third place with 50 points.
The next NAIFC qualifier will be at Hebgen Lake in West Yellowstone Montana on Sunday, Jan. 20.