A rainy day did not hamper the 320 anglers fishing the 10th annual Fleet Farm Minnesota Fishing Challenge-a multi-species, fundraising fishing tournament Saturday, June 2.
Due to the heavy overcast skies and intermittent rain, 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, the teams raised more than $302,000 to support Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs statewide.
The cumulative amount generated via this family-friendly tournament since 2009 exceeds $1.9 million. Stu Nelson and Rich Brummer, Cloquet, set a stout record this year with the most ever raised by a team. They are passionate about restoring lives of those addicted to drugs and alcohol, a news release stated, and their hard work brought in more than $132,000. In all, 59 of the teams raised at least $500 to support Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge.
"We consider this tournament to be friendly competition, with the emphasis on friendly," said tournament director Bernie Barringer in the 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: saving the lives of people trapped in chemical addiction."
Tournament host Al Lindner said, "Despite the cold rain, 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."
Area high school bass fishing teams participated in the event and the top three teams won $1,000 college scholarships donated by Sea Foam. Additional prizes went to the top five teams such as Aqua-Vu Cameras and $100 in Fleet Farm gift cards. The division was won by brothers Tyler and Kyle Bahr of Brainerd with 20.9 pounds for seven bass.
The Navillus Land Company Walleye Division produced some big walleyes this year, including many over 6 pounds. Taking honors and the first place trophy were Eric Raiber and Syndi Raiber. They weighed an impressive 14.71 pounds for three fish. They caught their walleyes fishing in 4-5 feet of water with Lindy Rigs.
The Pinnacle Private Wealth Panfish Division (three panfish) was the toughest division this year as the crappies disappeared due to the inclement weather and late spring. It was won by brothers Tony and Steve Ward from Zimmerman and Princeton with 3.56 pounds.
The Lindner Media Bass Division featured the weights of the top three bass brought in. A torrid bass bite saw many limits, but father and son Cal and Mark Wallin of Nisswa won with 11.55 pounds for three fish.
The Nor-Son Pike Division winners, George and Cindy Cooper of Brainerd, brought a 9.62-pound trophy to the scales. The Minnesota Fishing Challenge pike limit is one fish. Several pike over 6 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. It was won by Steve Pennaz, Independence, and Jeremy Albright, Milford, Iowa, who anchored their bag with a 40-inch northern pike and a 20-inch walleye, and added a largemouth bass and a rock bass. Their weight of 23.74 was an all-time record and topped the second place team by 7 pounds. Pennaz is honorary tournament director, and with other partners has previously won the walleye, panfish and bass divisions. He hosts the "Lake Commandos" TV show.
The McDonald's big walleye award went to Brent Curtis and Derek Schmidt. The Worldwide Marine Insurance big bass award went to Andrew and Connor Leland. For a prize, winners of these two awards walked down the beach with Al Lindner and were allowed to choose the fishing rod of their choice out of Lindner's boat.
New this year was the Beaudry Oil and Propane "Ugliest Fish" Category, which went to Steve Ward-who brought in a nasty-looking dogfish and kissed the fish on the stage to the delight of the crowd of 500 onlookers.
Prizes, including Canadian fishing trips and guided fishing trips, plus rods, reels, electronics, trolling motors, quality tackle and gear in the amount of $100,000 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. The $20,000 rig was won by Matt and Josh Daiker of Big Lake. They raised $4,750 for Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge.
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 2019 fundraising tournament event will be June 1.
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