Final Perch Assault is a winner!
60 teams lined up for the final Perch Assault of 2015, waiting for the starting light to signal the beginning of the end. Not only would ten of these teams earn a paycheck for their ten best perch, but five teams would be receiving bonus checks for their season championship standings and one team would earn a cash bonus for the big fish of the day. All good reasons to rise early and hit the ice on a warm March Saturday.
Some of the best ice and weather conditions in recent years awaited the teams as they roared away from the shotgun start at the flash of the start light just before 7:00AM. A couple teams just dropped and drilled right where they were standing, but most teams took off to “their spots” across the lake. The morning bite on Lake Mary usually rewards anglers with their best fish of the day, and today was no exception as several large Perch hit the ice in the first hour.
Reports from teams pre-fishing the week before indicated a lot of smaller 6”-8” Perch biting eagerly; with the larger fish more elusive than ever. Kokanee Salmon (out of season as of March 1st) were reported in even the shallower depths, and if they moved in, most anglers had to move out. Saturday was no exception but quite a few Perch over a pound were included in teams’ final weights.
Teams were allowed to fish until a 3PM weigh in, taking advantage of the nice weather to stretch the season just a little bit longer. At the end of the day, tournament walleye Pro’s Bob Hickey and Jason Mundel scored the heaviest weight of ten perch, with the days big fish part of their basket. Jason’s #1.50 pound fish contributed significantly to the duo’s #7.20 total weight, besting the second place weight of #5.93 by Travis Scott and Kennie Williams by over a pound. Third place went to Tyler Frost and Jeremy Taylor with their #5.60.
There was quite a close battle between the top three teams vying for the Season Championship, and a couple of good fish would make all the difference in that final race. In the end, the top five got shuffled up pretty good, with Frost and Taylor earning the championship by a slight #0.14 over Russ Geldrich and Jeff Absalonson. Matt and Anna McComb, second overall in last year’s championship, slipped to third place this year. All six team members received beautiful commemorative plaques, donated by the local Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited, for their solid efforts.
The Perch Assault Series is Montana’s ONLY tournament trail style of ice fishing tournaments and is one of the oldest, competitive ice fishing tournaments in the United States. Sponsors include HT Enterprises, Clam/Ice Team, Vexilar, Striker Ice, Petes Tackle, Flathead Bait, the Kila Pub, Walleyes Unlimited and of course, Snappy Sport Senter.
Perch Assaulters get their exercise at Middle Thompson event.
At 6:40AM Saturday, all 104 anglers at the Perch Assault on Middle Thompson Lake 2015 headed off into the darkness, after being released to walk out to their chosen area. Yes, walk. Todays “shotgun start” looked, and sounded much different than the usual starts to a Perch Assault. Instead of revving engines and red taillights fading into the distance, only the sound of pull sleds and portable ice houses scraping across the surface, and the occasional nasal cleansing. Sun and warm temperatures for the 12 days before the event had many anglers worried the lake would not even be safe at all, walking or not. But, cold nights trumped the warm days the 72 hours before and the call to walk was a conservative one; but most anglers seemed to enjoy a little change of pace. The fish rewarded their efforts, despite weather conditions changing every 20 minutes once fishing began at 7:00AM sharp.
Several bigger fish hit the ice early, as is the case almost every single tournament, no matter the lake. Moving was a calculated decision, as a walk could cut into valuable fishing time, and several teams took that risk early, while others never strayed more than 50 yards all day. Rules state teammates must remain within 30 paces of each other, so one could not just go check another spot, it was all or nothing. By the time the sun first peaked out at 11:00AM, there were several teams that made huge moves, and a couple paid off.
At the 2:00PM weigh in, the first ten baskets showed what the rest of the weigh-in would look like. Some nice half pound average fish, and some fish that needed nine of his friends to make that same weight. Typical Perch Assault results! One thing interesting, not one Perch broke the one pound mark. Middle Thompson has always been known for big Perch; not many of them, but a one and a half pound fish is not uncommon. But today, two .85 pound fish split the big fish pot, with several .83 pound fish rounding out some other very nice baskets.
Earning the top spot today was Chance Evenson with David Meeker subbing for Chances wife Codi. They managed a #5.97 top weight followed closely by Russ Geldrich and Jacob Link who was subbing for Jeff Absolonson with #5.67. Ross Ganz and Ben Therrien coming in third with #5.48. Five pound weights continued down into 8th place with the last two teams at #4.77 and #4.74. Dozens of prizes donated by sponsors Clam/Ice Team, HT Enterprises, Polar Fire, Vexilar and more were given away via door prize drawings, and organizers and anglers alike left with the hopes that winter would hang around for just a couple more weeks, for the final round at Lake Mary Ronan March 7th.
The first event of 2015 saw 52 teams turn out for some pretty sloppy lake conditions and a very slow bite. Twenty six teams weighed fish, and the top three teams had some pretty nice weights. Even the pike were not very active, with most teams reporting a blank on them as well. Congratulations to Jeremy Taylor and Tyler Frost for the overall win, #8.08 as well as big fish of the day at #1.15! Following up on their second place overall finish in 2014, Matt and Anna Mccomb began this season with a solid runner up placing, followed by Dennis Gherke and Greg Anklam in third. Fair to say, a LOT of teams will be looking to redeem themselves at the next event!