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MN Fishing Challenge nets big bucks

Walleyedan Eigen and daughter Alex slept in, launched after the morning rain and still managed to place in the top 10 in the panfish division.1 / 3
The couple holding the northern pike is J.R. Cooper and Cindy Gibbs, Brainerd.2 / 3
Nick and Jeff Hummel, Pillager are displaying the big walleye and some nice crappies.3 / 3

Despite a forecast to the contrary, the rain held off Saturday, May 31, and the fishing proved excellent for the sixth annual MN Fishing Challenge on Gull Lake, challenge officials reported.

It was also a record setting year in terms of fundraising for the event. Proceeds from the challenge go to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

“Fishing for others is why we’re all here,” said Scott Bonnema, Zimmerman, while on stage at the challenge. He fished with daughter Katie.

Contestant Pete Hein, Princeton, fishing with his dad Paul said, “We’re all having fun catching fish, but it’s more fun to see the positive impact we’re making in the lives of the guys and gals in MN Adult and Teen Challenge.”

The sixth annual MN Fishing Challenge, presented by Mills Fleet Farm, was a multi-species fishing tournament and major fundraiser by fishermen for the statewide MN Adult & Teen Challenge programs in Brainerd, Duluth, Minneapolis and Rochester. Residents performed a live concert on Cragun’s Resort beach and shared stories of their drug and alcohol addictions and the progress and healing taking place in their lives.

Fishing results were impressive but the pre-tournament fundraising efforts of the 115 teams set all-time records. Highlighted by the Cloquet team of Rich Brummer and Stu Nelson with a record $44,800 raised, teams turned in more than $215,000. Jeremy Smith, Baxter, and Brian Miller, Eden Prairie, raised $28,000 for second place. Sam Anderson, Inver Grove Heights, working with sons Zac and Max, were the third place fund-raisers with $13,000. Den and Mike Pluimer, Breezy Point, raised $9,000 for fourth place.

Every weather report called for all-day storms and rain. However, the rumbles and approximately 3 inches of rain during Friday night slowed to a drizzle by mid-morning Saturday, and held-off from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Winners of the Nor-Son northern pike division were J.R. Cooper and Cindy Gibbs, Brainerd. Their tournament-limit of one pike weighed 9.37 pounds.

The Pillager team of Jeff and Nick Hummel won the Navillus Land Company walleye division with one walleye, and also won the Full Throttle biggest walleye, at 5.48 pounds.

Brothers Steve Ward, Princeton, and Tony Ward, Zimmerman, took top honors in both the Nor-Son panfish division with three crappies weighing 4.44 pounds, and the Lindner Media/Lindner’s Angling Edge TV bass division with three bass weighing 12.01 pounds.

The Sportech mixed bag division (one each pike, bass, walleye and panfish) first place team with 11.81 pounds was Jesse and Travis Romine, Detroit Lakes. Two teams in each division — not in the top 10 — won Sea Foam Second Chance awards consisting of a bucket of Sea Foam and Lindner Media products.

Dozens of special prizes were awarded including a trip for Troy Sonnenfeld, Stacy, and daughter Danielle Stanley to Canada’s Witch Bay Camp on Lake of the Woods. The early-bird entry prize of a Pasha Lake Cabins fishing week (north of Thunder Bay, Ontario) was won by the team of Chris Biermaier, Merrifield, and Chuck Eggert, Brainerd. Every youngster entered from kindergarten to 12th grade won significant prizes, including five Mathews bows, donated by Flatline Outdoors.

The mission of MN Adult & Teen Challenge ( is to assist teens and adults to gain freedom from chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.