Bemidji angler is first at Ice Castle Classic, but New London angler the bigger winner
MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — Matt Pipp of Bemidji caught the biggest fish and won $10,000 for it at the seventh annual Ice Castle Classic ice fishing tournament on Lac qui Parle Lake on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Pipp registered his prize winner at 1:37 p.m., a 5.85-pound northern pike, and spent the next hour and a half hoping someone might catch one just a tad bit heavier, said Chad Hiepler, one of the tournament’s organizers from Ice Castle of Montevideo
That’s because the second-place winner won an Ice Castle fish house valued at $27,000. The new fish house is headed to New London. Derek Kaelke of New London won the second-place prize with a northern pike that weighed in at 5.52 pounds.
The two were among over an estimated 2,000 anglers who participated in the tournament, which has grown to become one of the region’s and state’s biggest. Sponsored by American Surplus and Ice Castle, the event is advertised as offering over $75,000 in prizes. With the donations for prizes this year, Hiepler said the actual prize total is probably closer to $100,000.
This year’s tournament enjoyed relatively mild weather. While the day began with single-digit temperatures, things warmed up to the low 20s during the tournament hours from noon to 3 p.m.
The annual tournament attracts anglers from all over the state, and beyond. Hiepler knows of participants living in Montana and Florida, who have family in the area and purposely plan their visits so they can fish in the tournament.
Fishing was good overall for the tournament, with more than 200 fish registered during the three-hour span. Much more fish were actually caught. Once 50 fish were entered, tournament organizers advised the anglers that only those .5 pound or more could be registered.
This year’s catch weighed heavily on crappies. They represented about 40 of the 50 prize winners, according to Hiepler. There were also northern pike, walleye, a largemouth bass and a sucker on the winner’s list.
The list of winners and photos from the event are on the Ice Castle Classic Facebook page. The page will be updated to include more photos and drone footage of the event.
Hiepler thanked the many volunteers who make it all possible. More than 150 volunteers played roles in the event, including 40 or so who helped drill somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 holes for the anglers.