After getting the last rod rigged up and placing it in the rod locker, I was ready to try and get some sleep. As the norm, I was pretty excited to get back into the tournament scene. The following morning we got the truck loaded, and were joined by Greg Foord. We decided that we'd follow them to Clearwater Lake, where the Bill Bannock Ice Derby was taking place. Off we went in wonder of what might happen in the day of events. As we crested a hill on the highway, we noticed something black on the shoulder. Could it be- YES IT IS! My snowmobile mitt that I left on the trailer after a ride, a mitt that I so dearly missed, was laying there, a little scuffed but still functional. Things were looking up already.
As we pulled in to the parking lot, the adrenaline was starting. We pulled out all the gear, got dressed in our outdoor wear, and started trudging down the hill towards the lake. Now Elissa had won a super hole, which meant we get to fish a separate area and were allowed in the fishing area early. We registered, I lost my fishing hole pass, frantically found it in the snow, and then were given a ride to our holes.
I started to pull all our gear out, cleaned the holes, and set up the flashers. 55' - perfect, and fish already cruising!!! Needless to say, the adrenaline had started, and getting all the rods separated and chums ready seemed never ending. Eventually we were ready, and the gun went off. Not very long there were fish under Elissa, and we tried to get them to chase but they'd slink back down. Sent a different lure down and the same thing. Soon they were to me, and I couldn't get any reaction bite. Rookie mistake, should have had one of us with a bait presentation rig, and one with a chasing rig. Then a few minutes later a person near us picked up a fish. Man- that should have been us.
Soon fish again were under Elissa, and they were very consistent with the one type of chum. They were continually feeding at her hole, and just breeze by mine. Then she had one that was interested in chasing a bit, and was sticking around cleaning up all the chum. I kept handing her rods- drop it chase, and slink down- so next rod. We were down to our last rod I had there (#10) with a walleye dead stick rig I invented. She dropped, reeled, it chased, dropped, reeled, it chased, dropped, reeled, dropped and held- and wham! Fish On!!!!! The adrenaline was really hitting her as she was shaking already.
Now in the Bill Bannock, no one is allowed to help a person with a fish at all. So all I could do is coach her, and cheer her on. I was allowed to pull the tranducer out for her, and stand there behind her, trying to keep her calm. The fish was singing drag on some big runs, and some big bubbles were coming up- how big is this fish. $21,000 was first place, and we were already thinking about the purchases. Soon, it was up to the hole, and to our surprisement, it was not near as big as we anticipated. Then the real panic started. I had light line on that set up, so she couldn't just pull the fish out. And everytime she reached down, the fish would sink further into the water. I kept invisioning all the fish I have lost at the top of the ice when they thrash like this, and prayed this wouldn't follow suit. After 10 seconds+, Elissa reached down and pulled the fish out. An official was right there, and he held the fish and the hook fell out. I am not sure if I have ever felt so helpless.
The fish was measured, and we were in first place! We were so pumped, and excited. But soon another fish was caught larger than ours, and then another. We figured we were top 3, (out of 1800 people) but couldn't be sure sure. We had a few more fish come through, one of which my flasher said was very large, and I played with it for a long time- and then screwed up when it was finally aggressive. AHHHHHHH.
Eventually the tourny was over, we packed, and headed to the ceremony area. 7 fish were landed, and shortly Elissa was called up as the 3rd place winner. The prize, a Yamaha Bravo snowmobile! Not the $21000 as we were hoping, but still an awesome prize.
And the crazy thing is, this was Elissa's very first tournament, very first time fishing for Lake Trout, and her first time ever catching one! Maybe it's true.......Those who can't do teach?
Here is a clip from Snow Lake newspaper- The Underground Press
And this was all done 4 days before Elissa's birthday. We made a deal with the sled and got Elissa her own quad- thanks to Northland Leisure in The Pas. They gave her some accessories for her birthday. She sure looks good on it!