Despite the weathers worst intent, anglers participating in the inaugural “Lower Stillwater Perch Assault” were treated to some fine perch fishing and a smoothly run tournament that rewarded just about everybody if they stuck it out to the end. Several lucky anglers earned some serious bait money while those who stayed till the table full of prizes was awarded went home smiling as well.
With sign up closed several days before the tournament, the 66 teams that arrived the day of the event had only to go register, attend a rules meeting and undergo a routine inspection of their gear before being allowed onto the ice. The morning routine went so smoothly, event organizers released the teams 40 minutes early, and it was a good thing as the conditions on the lake made all travel tough. Motorized or human powered, the heavy slush and standing water meant no-one was going anywhere in a hurry. But by all reports, most anglers were in their spots and ready to fish by the first real signs of daylight.
Some serious contestants were into fish right away and they were hungry. Event organizers imposed a voluntary, 36 hour pre-fish moratorium on the lake and that break meant the fish were looking for some chow. As the morning wore on it was evident that some had the bite dialed in and others were not so confident. Those anglers that were moving with the fish were shown some nice action in return while those stationary anglers were struggling. With the constant drizzle and sloppy conditions, if you were catching fish, any fish, and you had a shelter, moving seemed risky.
By the 1:00 hour, some disappointed anglers were starting to trickle off the lake. Official tournament end time was 3 P.M., but by that time most teams had already weighed in. Of the teams that entered only half the teams actually went thru the weigh in. Some teams weighed fewer fish than the 10 per team allotment, and scored better than some teams with a full 10 fish. An early weigh in actually held the biggest fish spot for the next 10-15 weigh ins, with a perch that weighed .860 pounds. The folks weighing in were seeing some very nice perch starting to show up.
With about 10 teams to go, the heavy hitters started arriving, with some anglers pushing that magic 1 pound class, a true jumbo perch by any ones standards. When the smoke had cleared there were 5 bags of fish all weighing over 5 pounds with just a smidge over a half a pound separating first through fifth places. The largest fish of the day weighed in at 1.132 pounds but that team had not entered the Big Fish Pot so a slightly smaller 1.130 pound fish earned that $540 prize. The first place team of Ron and Wes Harapat earned the top money with a $1072 first prize and matching trophies that were things of beauty.
Many donations by local merchants and tackle distributors rounded out the day with some great prizes ranging from a Frabill ice house and tons of other tackle donated by Snappy Sport Senter in Kalispell, to car washes from Brians Cenex. A great time was had by all and the talk is already about expanding this series to a multi tournament event in 2007.