Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Team Extreme Okoboji Ice Tournament

This past weekend Mark Anderson and I embarked on a winter-long ice fishing tournament series.  Team Extreme Ice Tournaments started a few years ago in the states to the north of us.  Last year the series came to Iowa.  We were able to fish a couple events last year, and this year we plan to make them all.

The first stop was West Okoboji Lake.  Team Extreme set the limits of this tournament to Emerson Bay.  This allowed the 23 teams to spread out and find those big Okoboji bluegills.  The tournament goal, or limit was 12 bluegills per team of two anglers.  When fishing at Okoboji catching 12 bluegills isn't normally a problem, it trying to catch those big ones that swim in the crystal clear waters.

My partner Mark was able to get up to the lake on Friday.  He checked a few areas over, and then I joined him on Saturday morning to continue the search.  Saturday consisted of covering much of the Emerson Bay.  We would drill holes, check the area with our Vexilar FLX-28's to check for fish, depth and weed growth (which is key for Okoboji Bluegills)  We used our Vexilar camera systems to pan under the ice to see if bluegills were in the areas we searched out.  Catching a few told us the exact size which allowed us to get a game plan ready for competition day on Sunday.

If you have never been ice fishing on clear waters, especially targeting fish in shallow water which occurs at West Lake Okoboji it can be very rewarding and very frustrating.  Most bluegill fishing occurs in the shallow waters of the lake, being less than 10 feet of water.  With the water being so clear it really gives the fish an advantage.  They can see your line, jig, bait and even things that go on above the hole.  To say the least, these gills are spooky most of the time.  We knew that we had to have our "A" game ready for Sunday.

Sunday morning came with a pleasant forecast, light winds and temperatures in the single digits.  Not too bad for northern Iowa in January.  The tournament started at 8am and we had six hours to catch and weigh-in our best 12 bluegills.  Again, catch 12 bluegills wouldn't be the problem, we just had to trick the bigger ones into biting.  Horizontal jigs seem to work the best, and we stuck with that all weekend.  Live bait such as maggots and waxworms were our choice.  I found myself changing jigs often throughout the day, trying different colors until consecutive bluegills told me they didn't like it.  Our bluegills were caught on white, black, red, silver, and brown colored jigs.  We fished hard all day long and I felt pretty good with what we had in our bucket as we left to weigh-in.  Our 12 gills weighed in at 6.94#.  A solid weight that got us 5th place out of 23 teams. We had four really nice bluegills that weighed around 0.75 pounds each.  Solid fish that we knew would help us inch towards that top.  It was a great day, we had a plan and stuck to it which led us to a top-5 finish, an awesome way to start the ice fishing tournament season.

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