The 17th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is almost upon us. It's time to get ready.
The past few years have been interesting, as we've had to monitor ice conditions for safety reasons. This year I'm guessing we'll have about 20 inches of ice, maybe more, by the time the shotgun blast starts the contest at noon Jan. 20.
I've missed just one Extravaganza in 17 years, that being the very first year. It's a neat tradition. It sure gets the lakes area hoppin' and bobbin'. It's a nice boost for tourism in this town. I get e-mails and phone calls from people all over the nation who want information on the granddaddy of ice fishing contests.
Hard saying what the weather will be like this year, but I'd suggest preparing for anything. Some years it's been cold (really cold!), others it's been mild, and we've had slushy, windy, snowy and slippery conditions. If we don't get snow it would be wise to invest in a set of ice creepers, which strap to the bottom of your boots and keep you from falling on your hinder. They're inexpensive, about $8 per pair.
If the forecast calls for cold, layer up. I like to wear long underwear, top and bottom. The new Under Armor does the trick for me. I add another three or four layers, depending on how cold it is. A turtleneck will keep the wind from whistling down your front and back. Over the turtleneck wear a wool or fleece sweater. Your outer shell should be windproof and waterproof. Chopper-style mittens will keep your hands warm. If you need more, handwarmers are handy and inexpensive. Make sure to wear warm boots. For socks, wear a pair with some wool in the material. And, of course, a warm hat is a must.
Bring a five-gallon bucket to sit on. In it you can carry a bait container, fishing rods, tackle box, munchies and a Fresca. I'd also suggest bringing a big Ziploc bag. If you catch a fish all you must do is put water in the bag and you have a personal livewell that will keep the fish alive while you're waiting in the weigh-in line.
Make sure to have a valid Minnesota fishing license, camera and a happy-go-lucky attitude. You'll have a ball at the Extravaganza, and if this is your first one you'll walk away wondering why you waited 17 years to attend.
Good luck! Have fun! Don't cheat! I've never won a thing, but this is the year when I'll drive off the ice in a new Ford F-150 with my wife sitting next to me with a $10,000 check in her pocket.
To see what else you can win, go to www.icefishing.org.
WALLEYEDAN Eigen can be reached at (218) 839-5598, email@example.com or www.walleyedan.com
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