MN Fishing Challenge teams raise more than $250,000
A harsh weather forecast dissipated the day before Saturday's ninth annual Minnesota Fishing Challenge and wonderful early summer weather greeted the 254 anglers for the multi-species fishing tournament.
The two-person teams found most fish shallow, and nearly every team caught fish on the Gull Lake Chain of lakes near Brainerd.
Leading up to this event, presented by Fleet Farm, the teams raised more than $250,000 to support Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge drug and rehabilitation programs statewide. The cumulative amount generated via this family-friendly tournament since 2009 exceeds $1.6 million. Stu Nelson and Rich Brummer, Cloquet, set a record this year with the most ever raised by a team. They already have brought in more than $112,000 with more money coming in the pipeline.
"We consider this tournament to be friendly competition, with the emphasis on friendly," said tournament director Bernie Barringer in a news release. "From professional anglers and fishing celebrities to youth and seniors, those fishing this event are focused on fun and raising important funds for an amazing cause."
Tournament host Al Lindner said the weather was perfect and the fishing was really good for all species.
"I want to personally thank the participants and the entire community for helping make this event a huge success and for their continued support of the lives that are impacted by Teen Challenge," Lindner said in a news release.
Area high school bass fishing teams participated in the event and three of the high school teams finished in the top 10, led by the winners of the Lindner Bass Division. Members of the Pequot Lakes High School fishing team, Dawson Rickard and Jayden Bray, bested the field. Their 14.28-pound limit of three smallmouth bass caught while drop-shot rigging in Round Lake earned them two Aqua Vu underwater viewing systems, the first trip through the prize tent and the McDonald's trophy of an autographed rod and reel used by Al Lindner during filming of a TV show.
The Navillus Land Company Walleye Division produced some big walleyes this year. Taking honors and the first-place trophy was the mother-son team of Kathy and Philip Yeh. They weighed an impressive 15.07 pounds for three fish. The McDonald's big walleye award, a rod and reel from Al Lindner's boat, went to team Signature Landscapes' Brian Fennel and Jesse Brunsvig with a chunky 7.83-pounder, which also boosted them into second place in the Mixed Bag Division.
The Nor-Son Panfish Division (three panfish) was won by Steve Pennaz, Independence, and Dale Anderson, Long Lake, for the second year in a row with three crappies weighing 5.21 pounds. Pennaz is honorary tournament director, and with other partners has previously won the walleye and bass divisions. He hosts the popular Lake Commando TV show.
The Nor-Son Pike Division winners, George and Cindy Cooper of Brainerd brought a 9.91-pound trophy to the scales. The Minnesota Fishing Challenge pike limit is one fish. Several pike over 7 pounds were caught and released in the tournament. More than 95 percent of the fish caught were released back into the lake.
The challenging Sportech Mixed Bag Division consists of one pike, one walleye, one bass and one panfish. First place went to Brian Miller and James Madigan, who brought in an impressive 16.46 pounds of fish anchored by a 4.90-pound bass and a 4.23-pound walleye.
Prizes including Canadian fishing trips and guided fishing trips, plus rods, reels, electronics, trolling motors, quality tackle and gear in the amount of $90,000 were awarded Friday and Saturday.
Additionally, each team that raised at least $500 was entered into a drawing for a new Lund boat powered by Mercury and outfitted with Humminbird and Minn Kota electronics. It was won by Wes Anderson and Don Karlgaard of Brainerd.
Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge offers extremely high long-term success rate for addiction recovery. The money raised in this event allows the program to accept addicts regardless of their ability to pay. Lives are saved and families are restored through the Minnesota Fishing Challenge, the organization reported.
The 2018 fundraising tournament event will be June 2.