The Perch Assault 2011 “Ultimate Assault” on Lake Mary Ronan
I don’t want to wait until next year”… “The best ice fishing tournament I have ever attended”. Positive comments made by anglers at the conclusion of this year’s Perch Assault “Ultimate Assault” on Lake Mary Ronan. A single event this year, although expanded to a two day format, as the organizers regrouped after a pivotal year in 2010. The two day format was a hit and the event will be back stronger than ever in 2012, with a trail of 5-6 events planned to cover the state.
Tournament Director and Co-Founder Mike Howe welcomed the anglers and began the meeting with a stern warning to those who might have ideas about ways to gain an unfair advantage…”I don’t want to have to spend my time thinking like a criminal in order to stay one step ahead of cheaters” Howe told the anglers. “If I have to issue a penalty, it will be severe, so please don’t put me in that position” The sportsmen and women in the crowd were all very supportive of organizers efforts to maintain a level playing field for all contestants.
Saturday morning saw all fifty teams lined up and listening to final instructions before the flashing light that signified the start of the day’s events. Once all had returned to their positions and were ready to go, Howe gave the signal and off they raced in the 15 below zero temperature. Some made a beeline for the far reaches of the lake while others were content to fish a little closer to tournament headquarters at the Lake Mary Ronan Lodge and Resort. It turned out that teams did not have to venture far at all to be into tournament winning fish.
A big fish was soon on the ice as the team of Tony Billsborough and Chris Gray landed their 1.46 pound event winner. Neighboring teams could hear the whoops and shouts as the boys had the biggest perch either had ever seen safely in their bucket. Several teams were slowly starting to pattern the fish that would give most of the teams fits all day as even those perch willing to dine were only barely sampling the goods. The temps barely rose all day and the fishing stayed cool as well. By the time the weigh in line was closed at the 2:00PM cutoff, it was evident that many teams had struggled.
A half a pound separated the top ten when all the fish had been weighed. Four teams in the top ten had their place decided by the tie breaking heaviest fish, the closest event in the six year history. Thane Melton and an expecting Baylee Sorensen won the event with a ten perch weight of 4.39 pounds. Aaron Tillman and Mike Disney were second with 4.05 pounds after winning the tie with Shane and Josh Stratton, former Masters Champions, by .03 pounds!
Chris Gray’s big fish held and Denise Schlegels 1.11 pounder took the second place prize for the day. Perch Assault Co-Founder Chancy Jeschke and his teammate Kevin Baily took a well-deserved fourth place with a weight of 3.98, again besting a tie by beating fifth place by another, slim, .03 pound margin. The stuff that makes the scale master very nervous!!!
Saturday’s prize money totaled $3,000 for the top ten, $1620 split between the top two fish and over $2000 in prizes awarded via drawing. Randy Moore of Big Timber won the StrikeMaster Lazer Pro auger and Ralph Albert of Kalispell won one of two Frabill Pro Ice House packages.
Sunday saw warming temps and the threat of snow showers, and as the teams took the starting signal at 645 AM, half of the field blasted off to different areas. The other half all seemed to follow Melton and Sorensen as they returned to the area that had rewarded them so well Saturday. The ice marshals were patrolling early again and reported several teams immediately into fish, and just as quickly, the bite seemed to die. It didn’t take long for several teams to already start to feel like it just wasn’t going to be their weekend.
But, as it sometimes is in fishing, the fish decided to cooperate and by 10:00AM or so, the bite was back on! As the first couple of teams began to make their way to the weigh in area, the fact that some larger fish decided to go on the feed became evident. While no record breaking weights were recorded, the 10 perch bags were definitely heavier for most teams then the day before. All but 4-5 teams weighed in with 10 fish limits.
Several teams significantly bested their Saturday weights, with the team of Jim Smith and Tim Marsh posting a fourth place, up nine spots from Saturday and Mike and Garret Melton improved to a fifth place, also gaining nine places. When it was all said and done, Thane and Bailey again outpaced the field, with a 4.33 pound entry and the second best fish of the day, caught by Baylee, a .75 pounder. Second place went to Shawn Meuli and Robert Ramsey who moved up 31 positions with a 4.30 pound bag. Third place went to Ron Redfield and Wes Harapat whose 1.17 pound beauty won them first place in the big fish pot and cemented their place in the top three on the day and overall.
Thane Melton and Baylee Sorensen were crowned Ultimate Assault Champions with a combined weight of 8.72 pounds. Their total winnings for the weekend exceeded $2800!! Second overall went to Shane and Josh Stratton with third overall to the team of Wes Harapat and Ron Redfield.
Congratulations to all the weekends’ winners and to all the contestants who make the Perch Assault, The Hottest Tournament…On Ice! We can’t wait to see you all again in 2012!