This fishing tournament was the brainchild of Al Lindner; an outgrowth of his passion for helping people struggling with addiction. It has grown into more than he could have ever imagined.
Alcoholism and drug abuse have sent a lot of promising lives off into the ditch. Al and Ron Lindner know this well, because their lives were two at a crossroads while building a fishing business. Their story of overcoming alcohol addiction and rising above it to build some of the largest and most recognizable fishing businesses in North America is an inspiring one. Lindy Little Joe Tackle company, Infisherman communications network, and later Lindner Media may have never come about without the radical change in direction that took place in their lives.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Al and Ron are passionate about recovery from addiction, and they channel much of that passion into an organization called Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MNTC), a faith-based addiction recovery program that has an incredible record of success in helping addicts put their broken lives back together.
While many recovery programs offer dismal long term success rates, MNTC has caught the attention of law enforcement, judges and families across the states they serve because of long-term recovery rates over 80%. Addicts fully recover not just because they are offered a change in behavior, but they are offered a change in their heart and soul.
Al Lindner has been a leader in the fishing business for 40 years, so when he came up with the idea to have a fishing tournament that would help raise funds for MNTC, people listened. Jim Kalkofen, the longtime director of the Professional Walleye Trail became involved, and the Minnesota Fishing Challenge was born.
The 2016 event on June 4 will be the fifth annual. It started small, with a handful of teams fishing the event, but MNTC has had to request permits from the DNR for larger and larger fields each and every year. In 2015, 125 teams participated and raised an incredible $260,000. Not bad for a one-day tournament. The permit allows 150 teams for 2016, and the goal is to raise $300,000.
Because MNTC is faith-based, the government funds available are limited, so this tournament and other fundraisers have had an amazing impact on the lives of dozens of men and women who would otherwise be on the road to a life in shambles and eventually death.
Each of the two-person teams are asked to raise a minimum of $500 from friends and family, which becomes their entry fee into the event. Many raise far more than that. There are awards and prizes for the top fundraisers, which include a days of fishing with Al Lindner, Ron Linder and Walleye Dan Eigen and expense paid trips to fishing resorts in Minnesota and Ontario.
The tournament itself can be as competitive as you like. Some very good anglers fish in the event, but there are so many prizes and so many categories, that if you have a good day on the water chasing your favorite species, you have a very good chance of going home with a nice prize such as a new rod and reel combo, a depthfinder, a trolling motor or even $1000 vacation package. Even if you do not weigh a fish at all, there’s a good chance you will get one of the prizes designated for that. Many tackle manufacturers and retailers support this event. In all there are just about as many prizes as there are contestants.
The event is held at Craguns resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota. Anglers can fish any of the eight lakes in the Gull Lake Chain. When you come to the afternoon weigh-in, you can choose which of five categories you want to enter. You can choose to weigh three bass, three walleyes, three pike or three panfish. If you want to weigh a mixed bag, you can weigh one of each of three species. Prizes are awarded to the top ten of each of these categories.
You can also enter a big fish to win an award. Catch a big northern pike, bass, walleye or crappie? Enter that category. There are prizes for the top ten in each of those as well. So you can see that literally anyone can be competitive in any category. It’s surprising how many kids go home with prizes at the end of the day.
All of this adds up to tons of fun and fellowship in an atmosphere of friendly competition–with the emphasis on the friendly. At both the pre-tournament meeting the evening before, and at the weigh in, the clients of MNTC who are in various stages of recovery briefly talk about their lives before and after coming to MNTC. Then you will hear them form a choir and sing their hearts out in a way that has to be experienced to be understood. You will never look at “Amazing Grace” the same way again.
The Minnesota Fishing Challenge still has some openings for teams. If you are interested in fishing the event, CLICK HERE for more information. And if you are interested in sponsoring a team, go the site, pick one out and make a donation. The money will help change the life of a person—and their entire family—in a way you can hardly imagine.
Here is a video about the 2016 event:
Images courtesy Bernie Barringer