Strong finish wraps up Season 8 of Perch Assault
After a very uncertain start to this season’s tournament series, the weather and ice conditions rewarded the 47 teams who came out to the finale on Lake Mary Ronan. And in a strong rally to close out their second year of fishing as a team, co-founder of the Perch Assault Chancy Jeschke and his partner Steve Hill won the event and the Championship by doubling the weight of their closest competitors.
The 2013 season got off on the wrong track, when the event scheduled for Smith Lake on December 15th, was rescheduled due to poor ice conditions. The second event, scheduled for Jan 12th at Middle Thompson Lake, was also swapped for the rescheduled date on Smith, so while the dates changed, the order of events eventually stayed the same. The tournament directors had their work cut out for them with keeping everybody up to date with all the changes, but in the end, everyone showed up at the right lakes on the right days!
A Perch Assault at Smith Lake was questioned by many of the 40 entered teams…”too many pike” and NO big perch”…were what many anglers said…and after the auger smoke cleared, some of the heaviest ten perch bags were entered and the single largest perch ever weighed won a fist full of cash. On a cold but mostly clear day, the team of Ken Jarvis and Sol Wright walked away with the win AND the big fish pot with a ten fish entry of 8.09 pounds and Kens big fish of 1.82 pound, his first BITE of the day. They also weighed the second biggest perch on the day and in fact, over a dozen one pound perch were weighed by the teams, more than would be weighed for the rest of the year. Smith Lake quickly became a favorite of many to fish for the rest of the season.
Other notable entries were turned in by eventual season runners up Dan Smith and Doug Bolender in second place, and third overall for the season Geo Johnson and Ken Varga coming third. Chancy Jeschke and Steve Hill finished in sixth, meaning they would be playing catch up for the other events
Middle Thompson Lake is usually the complete opposite from Smith, a deep water bite on a larger lake, with many places for large perch to hide. A lake known for larger fish over the years, almost everyone had the same results pre-fishing in the weeks leading up to the event…lots of small fish and very few pound plus fish. The 38 teams would have their work cut out for them…
The weather man thankfully got it all wrong on February 23rd, all the teams were expecting snow and high winds, but the day was partly sunny with very little wind to keep the anglers inside their shelters. On the initial round of observations, the first 20 or so teams were all struggling, and although early in the day, it looked as if the prefishing results were comparable to tournament day results, until Tournament Directors Mike and Cindy Howe looked in Brian Kahler and Wes Hobson’s bucket. Finally, a team with some quality fish!
As they continued patrolling and talking with other teams, it became obvious that unless Wes and Brian missed the weigh in, they most likely had a big check awaiting them! Although only one team failed to weigh any fish, some of the smallest fish and total weights to ever be entered in a Perch Assault event were added up, a stark contrast to the first event of the season. With a ten fish weight of FOUR pounds, and a biggest fish just slightly above 1.25 pounds, Brian and Wes walked away with the big check for 1stplace, and an envelope of cash for the big fish. After a solid fifth place at Smith Lake, their win put them solidly in the championship hunt.
In second place on the day, with a weight of 3.33 pounds were Dan Smith and Doug Bolender, putting them in first place in the championship standings. Several of the top teams at the first event stumbled and the run for the championship was now within reach for at least ten teams. Pete Jellar and Stan Ross ended up third with 3.07 pounds, followed closely by long time Flathead Lake guide Matt McComb and his partner Chad Jassman and Keith Haverfield and Trent Young rounded out the top five. 2.6 pounds would pay tenth place and only two perch surpassed the one pound mark…Everyone was looking forward to Lake Mary Ronan and the final event of the season.
With 47 teams entered, the LMR event would see the largest purse of the year and over $3,100 up for grabs to the championship contenders. The top five teams were separated by less than 2 pounds and during the 5 days of pre-fishing leading up to the finale, some very nice fish were being caught. It looked like a battle between the top 5-7 teams would decide the championship and was certainly the top two team’s championship to lose…if either stumbled; it was anyone’s to win.
Almost 3.5 pounds behind the leaders, Chancy and Steve decided it was all or nothing and at the start of the event made a move to an area only a couple other teams targeted early. Half the field made a dash to the sunken island and the bay to the North West, while another 12-15 teams targeted the shoreline just south of the lodge. For most teams the bite came easy and early, while a few battled indifferent fish, suspended kokanee salmon made it hard for a few teams to get to the perch on the bottom. With temperatures in the low 40’s and forecast for the low 50’s, weather again would not be a factor.
For a couple of the championship leaders, it became clear that, unless they got into some much nicer fish, their chances for a titlewere slipping away. In fact, none of the top five teams could get a perch heavier than 3/4ths of a pound on the day they needed it most.
Meanwhile, across the lake and out of view of most of the contenders, Jeschke and Hill were on good sized, aggressive fish. A couple of solid one pound class perch early had them thinking “comeback” and that is exactly what they did. At the final weigh in, their 7.28 pound weight doubled the 3.61 of Bolender and Smith and was 2.5 better than Johnson and Varga, the only other championship contenders in the top ten. At the awards ceremony, it was all Hill and Jeschke, receiving just under $2,000 for the win and the championship, just .31# ahead of runners up Smith and Bolender and .82# ahead of third place Varga and Johnson. Smith Lake winners Jarvis and Wright took 4th place honors and consistent finishers Bob Hickey Jr. and Jason Mundel came 5th overall for the season.
Tyler Frost won the big fish pot with a 1.190# fish, just keeping Jeschke and Hill from getting ALL the winnings with their 1.096# biggest fish. Terry and Jacki Riley, in 7th place for the season, were awarded a bucket of prizes for being the top mixed couple. Join us again in 2014 for the 9th season of the Perch Assault, Montana’s HOTTEST tournament…on ICE!
The Perch Assault is made possible with the help of our sponsors. At every event, we award all the non-cash prizes via drawing, with tickets given to every entrant. There is always a “big ticket item” at each event and dozens of smaller value prizes. Examples of large prizes this year are: Frabill Pro and Headquarters ice houses, HT Polar Fire Ice Augers, Parkas and Bibs. Tons of prizes by Berkley, HT, Rapala, StrikeMaster, Frabill, Pete’s Tackle, Gardner RV, DePratu , A Able Fishing Charters and Tours and Snappy Sport Senter. Lastly, a special thank you to the Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana for providing all our trophies.