With a scouting trip behind us, my tournament series friend, Steve, and I felt pretty good heading into the last qualifier of the West River Ice Fishing League at New Wall Dam this past weekend. We'd located some spots with a good amount of crappie and bluegills, though size was an issue, but we suspected it'd be that way for everyone. The big question was how many others would find pike to weigh in.
As the tournament progressed past the first few hours, it was apparent that pike would play a large role in placing higher. With temps at -15 degrees at the start, we'd hunkered down in our flip-overs with the heaters going and were bringing up panfish at a decent clip using Clam Outdoors Drop Kick or Northland Tackle Mitee Mouse jigs paired with Maki Jameis or other small plastics, but we started hearing about 6 to 10 pound pike being brought in and we knew we needed to change things up if we wanted to place higher.
Between the cold and ice buildup on our auger blades, it made for a challenge to find bigger fish over the last couple of hours and despite our best efforts, a decent largemouth bass was the only other fish we caught that wasn't a pannie.
We'd still caught a good number of fish and, while we conceded that we wouldn't be in the top 3, we were hopeful for a top 10 finish, which would guarantee a spot for us in the championship round at the beginning of March.
After the numbers were added up, we ended up finishing in 7th for the tournament, which put us in a three-way tie for 6th overall in the series and a chance to fish in the championship.
Getting into the championship round was the goal when we decided to join this new series back in December and I'm happy to say that we accomplished that goal in spite being one of the very few teams in the series that didn't have an ATV to use which most of those above and below us have.
Doing some homework on the lakes we were fishing paid off for us. Going into the tournament next month on Sheridan Lake, I'm hopeful we'll find some perch and pike to weigh in, but some more homework will prove key to any success we are to have. I'm looking forward to finishing out the first year of this series strong.