Lake Bemidji ice anglers will have a definite home field advantage when the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) conducts this season’s last National Qualifying Tournament Sunday.
The contest is open to the first 100 two-person teams that enter, with the Top 5 finishing teams receiving an automatic invitation to the 2020 NAIFC National Ice Fishing Championship. Additionally, the top 30 teams receive qualifying points providing them an avenue to the Championship to be held Dec. 19-20, hosted by Pinehurst Resort in Naytahwaush.
“This is lining up as the perfect storm for Bemidji area fishermen,” said NAIFC Tournament Director Jack Baker. “Lake Bemidji has a huge reputation for quality perch, the locals know the lake, there are ton of great sticks in the area that can school anyone, and with the Championship practically in their backyard, now is the time to get off the couch. If you check the NAIFC’s history, locals win. A couple days of pre-fishing by traveling teams just doesn’t offset years of local knowledge. It’s hard to beat home cooking.”
NAIFC tournaments are competitive with tournament fishing hours from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with 16 perch the team’s bag limit. Portable fish shelters are allowed with walking, ATVs 2-ups/4-ups and snowmobiles the modes of transportation. The NAIFC pays deep into the field with one team out of every five teams earning cash. In addition to the top cash prize the winning team takes home “The Wood” (NAIFC Trophy), the most sought-after trophy in Ice Fishing.
Friday night features two events, both taking place at Bemidji’s Hampton Inn and Suites. For the general public there is a meet-n-greet. From 5 to 7 p.m. fishing basics are highlighted; then at 7 the topics switches to more advanced fishing techniques and tactics including what Team USA has brought back for World Competition.
Additionally, high school-age anglers 12 years old through 12th-graders can register for their own Bemidji NAIFC-SIF (Student Ice Fishing) Qualifier to be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. There is no entry fee for the students for either the Qualifier or if they advance to the National High School Championship where they will compete for scholarships. Students do not need their high school to have an organized team or club. Any two students with a parent/coach are welcome.
A free Ice Camp for Kids will be held Saturday. Youth and parents will gather at 1 p.m. at the Bemidji Hampton Inn and Suites for an indoor session on Ice Fishing then proceed onto the ice of Lake Bemidji for hands-on instruction from NAIFC Pro-staff, Ice Team Pro-staff and Team USA members. All youth in attendance will receive a free fishing rod.
At 2 p.m. Sunday all are invited to the weigh-in awards ceremony at Hampton Inn and Suites.
For more information on the NAIFC Qualifier, Championship, Friday Night Meet-n-Greet, High School Tournament, Kids Ice Camp or to Register go to www.naifc.com or contact Jack Baker at (612) 308-4858.