Call her a fair weather angler, if you will, but Sara Kitzmann knows how to be in the right place at the right time.
Kitzmann, 24, St. Cloud, won Saturday's 15th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza in just her second trip to Gull Lake. She fished the contest for the first time three years ago but hadn't been back due to the weather, she said.
Good thing Kitzmann decided to tough it out this year. Her 3.71-pound walleye topped the 150 heaviest fish and gave her the keys to a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup.
"How did you catch this fish?" emcee Lon Schmidt asked Kitzmann when she took the stage at the contest's end.
Sara Kitzmann of St. Cloud smiled after the judges confirmed that her 3.71 pound walleye won the first prize in the 15th Anniversary Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake. Her first prize fish netted her a new Ford truck. The 24-year-old angler used a Rosie Red minnow to catch the winning fish in 64 feet of water. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"On a fishing pole," Kitzmann replied, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Her presentation featured a red treble hook with a rosie red minnow set in 64 feet of water.
"I'm going Bajahan!" Kitzmann exclaimed when she was sure she had won the top prize.
Saturday's blustery start was a factor only in the pre-contest hours. Strong northwest winds blew in on the heels of a 6-inch snowfall and whipped up dune-like drifts on Gull Lake, forcing organizers to re-plow the contest area. But it also insulated the holes, drilled on Friday. Chisels weren't needed to re-open the holes Saturday morning.
Winds subsided by noon and lessened steadily over the three-hour contest period, making for a pleasant afternoon on the ice.
Attendance was around 9,000, down from recent years. The drop was attributed to Friday's snow, which discouraged long-distance travel. But a core attendance of 9,000 attests to the durability of the Extravaganza. Neither wind nor snow nor gloom of forecast can keep these intrepid anglers from the faithful completion of their appointed rounds, which featured almost every type of beverage being canned in North America.
Kitzmann caught the winning walleye minutes before 1 p.m., displacing a 3.02-pound walleye caught shortly after noon by Marty Chisholm, Baxter. The next three places were filled by tullibee. A 1.72-pound northern pike took sixth, and a walleye, tullibee, rock bass and another walleye filled out the top 10.
"I didn't see it until it came out of the hole," Kitzmann said of her winning fish. "It wasn't hooked very well and didn't fight much. At one point I thought I lost it. When it came through the hole it fell off the hook. I freaked out."
Elise Herman (right) of Minneapolis peered down the hole cut in the ice of Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake during the 15th Annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Herman was among the 9,000 anglers who tried their luck at the ice fishing contest. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve KohlsSTEVE KOHLS
Initially Kitzmann said she didn't really need a new pickup. But upon further consideration she decided her GMC Sonoma is getting old.
"This will be a big upgrade," Kitzmann said.
For a complete list of prize winners, log onto www.icefishing.org.
Top 25 winners
1. Sara Kitzmann, St. Cloud, 3.71 walleye; 2. Martin Chisholm, Baxter, 3.02 walleye; 3. Jim Krings, Centerville, 2.18 tullibee; 4. Lee Hoeschen, Oak Grove, 1.98 tullibee; 5. Hermene Anderson, Sarasota, Fla., 1.73 tullibee; 6. Terry Loken, Burt, Ia., 1.72 northern; 7. Eric Granrud, Bozeman, Mont., 1.53 walleye; 8. Scott Freudenrich, Little Falls, 1.50 tullibee; 9. Tom Slukich, Brainerd, 1.02 rock bass; 10. Keith Mozey, Des Moines, Iowa, 1.00 walleye; 11. Thomas Stokke, Brainerd, 1.00 rock bass; 12. Thomas Bauleke, Le Sueur, 1.00 rock bass; 13. Phil Burnau, Lino Lakes, 0.97 rock bass; 14. Pat Morstad, Battle Lake, 0.96 walleye; 15. Tom Mead, Long Prairie, 0.96 crappie, 16. Travis DeGroot, Pipestone, 0.94 rock bass; 17. Curtis Onstad, Crookston, 0.94 rock bass; 18. Winnie Wayne, Breezy Point, 0.86 northern; 19. Dave Schwegman, Brainerd, 0.86 rock bass; 20. Craig Smith, Crosby, 0.84 rock bass; 21. Joe Brunn, Foley, 0.83 rock bass; 22. Tony Christenson, Breezy Point, 0.81 rock bass; 23. Gary Whiteman, Brainerd, 0.80 rock bass; 24. Roger Bennerohe, Dodge Center, 0.78 rock bass; 25. Carl Duvall, Zimmerman, 0.78 rock bass.
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