The 2014 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament has become a nationwide event this year at Wamplers Lake, near Brooklyn, Mich.

With $20,100 guaranteed to the winning two-man team, anglers from Montana to New York will be fishing in the event Jan. 26 at Wamplers Lake. The weigh in will start at 2:30 p.m. at Columbia Central High School, 11775 Hewitt Rd., Brooklyn. Fishing enthusiasts are invited to attend the free event.

Eric Moore and Albert Avendano of Jackson took home the top prize of $16,000 in January of 2013 at Devils Lake.

A change in the format for selecting entries will be bringing in anglers from all over the United States. The new format was needed, according to tournament organizer Tom Knutson of Knutson’s Recreation Sales.

“I knew we were in trouble when the 2012 event filled all 150 two-man team slots in less than four hours,” Knutson said. “Some fishermen have been trying for years to get into this tournament without much luck. We understand this is very different from the way we have taken entries in the past, but we feel this is the fairest way to handle the demand that has come with this exciting event.”

Tournament organizers of the annual ice fishing tournament held near Brooklyn each year have developed a formula for upcoming events.

The top 2-20 teams in the 2013 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament had an automatic berth – with the same two-man team; up to seven past-champion spots are available; five spots from the Michigan Open Tournament held on Hamlin Lake in Ludington will be automatically entered; and 70 spots from the 17 ice-belt states and Canada will also be chosen from a random draw.

These numbers include two each from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire; three from Massachusetts, Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming; four from North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa; and five from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada.

Forty spots will be from Michigan – again using a random draw.

This year’s tournament will feature anglers from nine states and Canada. Teams fish for eight bluegills and eight crappies with the top prize given for the greatest weight recorded by a team.

There is more than $15,000-worth of door prizes given away at the mandatory rules meeting to be held Saturday, Jan. 25. Prizes are also awarded to the top 20 teams and each corresponding 10th team starting at 30. Nearly $50,000-worth of prizes are awarded at the tournament.

Knutson said the tournament is sponsored by HR Desa, H.T. Enterprises and Experience Jackson.

“It is nice to see events like this during the ‘shoulder season,’” said Mindy Bradish-Orta, executive director of Experience Jackson. “This tournament is an attraction that brings people to Jackson County.

“The economic impact is huge.”

Knutson said the tournament could not be held without sponsorship.

“This is the highest paid two-man ice fishing tournament in the country,” Knutson said. “We couldn’t do it without our sponsors.”

He is hoping that a large tournament like this will spawn other local tournaments and encourage more ice fishing around the country.

“We are hoping the fishermen take the experience of the tournament back to their local areas and teach others,” Knutson said. “A tournament like this can also help teach different fishing techniques.”

Ice-fishing legend Dave Genz will be on hand to MC the weigh in Sunday and talk to the competitors.

IF YOU GO . . .

2014 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament

Saturday, Jan. 25: Rules meeting, Columbia Central High School, 11775 Hewitt Rd., Brooklyn, Mich., 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 26: Bucket check from 6 to 7 a.m. at Wamplers Lake
Launch at 7:30 a.m.
Bucket sealing at 1 p.m.
Weigh in 2:30 p.m., Columbia Central High School. This is a free event and fishing enthusiasts are encouraged to attend.

Next year: Entry process for the 2015 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament will begin Jan. 20 and run through Feb. 28, 2014. Go to www.midwestopentournament.com for more information.

Logo courtesy Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament

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