Sixteen Fish Net Men Over $20,000
By Jeff Steers
Brooklyn Exponent editor
It was ironic that on a day with temperatures in the single digits and wind chills up to 10 degrees below zero, a pair of Kalamazoo area fishermen had to sweat it out at the Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament at Brooklyn, Mich.
Marc Melson of Gobles and Joe Thornburg of Vicksburg, Michigan, took home the top prize of $20,100 at the annual event. The two-man team was competing in the event for the first time and had to sit and watch as 141 other teams had their fish weighed.
“The anticipation was high . . . we knew some of the guys who were ahead of us,” Melson said. “We were skeptical that 7.99 lbs. would hold up.”
The tournament was fished by 150 two-man teams at Wamplers Lake near Brooklyn. Anglers competed to catch the most weight of eight bluegills and eight crappies.
Melson said they pre-fished Thursday through Saturday and found a couple of good spots.
“We found some fish with our cameras and got to one of our spots first,” Melson said. “We went old-school today using long poles and no shanty.”
Thornburg said he fishes as many as five times per week. He was a bit taken back by the weather during the pre-fishing.
“Friday was just brutal for fishing,” Thornburg said. “We didn’t have a lot of faith that we were going to win going into today.”
The fish were weighed at Columbia Central High School. A new format for the tournament featured former champions and the top 20 finishers from 2013 being weighed last.
“It didn’t start kicking in that we might win until the last 10 buckets,” Thornburg said. “I am going to pay off some bills with the money.”
Melson has other thoughts for his portion of the winnings. “I told my wife that we were going on vacation if I won,” Melson said. “I may possibly buy a boat.”
USA Ice Fishing team members Mike Boedeker of Lansing and Myron Gilbert of Brooklyn finished second with 7.83 lbs. of bluegills and crappies. The two-man team earned $3,500 for their efforts. The duo helped the United States win a world ice fishing championship a couple of years ago.
David Kaiser and Joe Miskowski of Jackson finished third (7.34) to claim $2,000. Nearly $40,000 worth of cash and prizes were awarded during the tournament. Tournament organizer Tom Knutson said that the 2015 tournament will be held at Vineyard Lake.
“Vineyard Lake will be a challenge for the fishermen,” Knutson said. “They will have to do more to win there.” Knutson said the tournament is the highest paid two-man tournament in the United States.
The entry process for the 2015 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament began Jan. 20 and runs through Feb. 28, 2014. Go to www.midwestopentournament.com for more information.