Ice fishing tournaments offer anglers of all skill levels to try to catch the biggest or the most fish within a certain time limit, which can be fun and rewarding activities. Some tournaments also have prizes for different fish categories, such as walleye, perch, or trout.
In this article, I'll provide everything you need to know to participate in and succeed at these tournaments in 2024.
Finding and Registering for Tournaments
The best place to find tournaments is by searching "ice fishing tournaments near me” to see offerings in your state. Look for listings on tournament websites, fishing blogs, and social media pages.
Once you find one you want to join, register directly through the tournament's website or contact the organizers. Entry fees, deadlines, field size limits, and requirements like valid fishing licenses vary. Carefully review all registration details and rules before signing up. Allow extra time for things like hotel reservations near the tournament site.
Preparing for an ice fishing tournament
Preparing for an ice fishing tournament can be both fun and challenging. There are several things you need to consider before you participate in one. Here are some tips that might help you:
You’ll need to have the right gear for ice fishing, such as an ice auger, a sled, a shelter, a heater, a rod and reel, a tip-up, a flasher, a skimmer, a gaff, and a bucket. You’ll also need the appropriate bait and lures for your target fish, such as minnows, wax worms, spoons, or jigs.
Though some tournaments sponsor all the ice fishing gear, in case you are carrying them, check your line, reels, rod eyes, and hooks for any damage or wear and bring extra spool, line, and hooks in case of emergency.
Ice fishing can be dangerous if you’re not careful, so you must take precautions to avoid accidents or injuries. Always wear a life jacket, a whistle, and an ice pick when you’re on the ice.
Check the ice thickness and conditions before you drill a hole or set up your shelter. Avoid fishing near cracks, pressure ridges, or open water. Bring a buddy or a phone with you in case you need help. Dress warmly and in layers to prevent hypothermia. Bring a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher with you.
Tournament rules exist to ensure fair play and often involve managing catches. Most cap the number and size of fish participants can weigh in during designated fishing times in permitted areas of lakes. Common policies include daily limits, slot size minimums, careful live release protocols, and measurements verified by officials on certified scales during published weigh-in windows.
Winners get prizes, with sweeps for the largest fish, heaviest total bag, or most fish. Pay close attention to all rules before competing - disqualification for violations is common. Also, follow state fishing and license regulations.
To increase your chances of winning an ice fishing tournament, you need some strategies and techniques to help you catch more or bigger fish. Learn how to safely check ice depths, properly set tip-ups and jigging rods, target productive spots, attract bites, land fish quickly, remove hooks, weigh catches on scales, and submit entries.
Some other factors you need to consider are the fish behavior, the water depth, the weather, the time of day, and the location. You can use a flasher or a fish finder to locate the fish and determine the best depth to fish at.
You can also try different baits and lures and vary your presentation and retrieval speed to entice the fish. You can also move around and drill more holes if you’re not getting bites. Lastly, you can learn from other anglers and observe what they’re doing and what they’re catching.
Ice Fishing Tournaments in Different States
Ice fishing tournaments are held in many states in the USA, especially in the northern regions where the lakes and rivers freeze in winter. Some of the states where ice fishing tournaments are held are:
Utah has several ice fishing tournaments in 2024, such as the Burbot Bash, the Disabled Outdoorsmen Utah Ice Fishing event, the East Canyon Ice Fishing Derby, and the Utah State Parks Ice Fishing Tournament. The Burbot Bash is one of the most important tournaments, as it helps to control the population of an invasive fish species and offers cash and prizes for the anglers.
Wisconsin is a popular destination for ice fishing enthusiasts, as it has many lakes and rivers that offer a variety of fish species. Some ice fishing events happening in Wisconsin in 2024 are Pat’s Landing Tipper Tourney, NABA Ice Fishing Event at Nelson Lake, Winter Fun Day, and Wisconsin Winter Free Fishing Weekend2.
The Wisconsin Winter Free Fishing Weekend is a special event that allows anyone to fish without a license or a stamp on any waterbody in the state.
Michigan is another state with a rich ice fishing tradition, as it is surrounded by four of the Great Lakes and has many inland lakes and streams. Some ice fishing tournaments happening in Michigan in 2024 are Tip UP Town USA at Houghton Lake, You Pump Ice Derby and the Michigan Ice Fishing Tournament Series. Tip UP Town USA is one of the country's largest and oldest ice fishing festivals, attracting thousands of anglers and visitors annually.
Illinois may not be as cold as some other states, but it still has some winter fishing opportunities and events for those who enjoy the sport. One tournament in Illinois this year is the 15th Annual LVVA Ice Fishing Derby, which will be held at Bangs Lake in Wauconda. This tournament is a fundraiser for veterans and their families, featuring cash prizes, raffles, and entertainment.
Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and has a strong fishing culture and community throughout the year. Some of the tournaments happening in Minnesota in 2024 are the St. Joseph Annual Ice Fishing Contest, the Northern Exposure Ice Fishing Tournament, the Muskego Lions Charities Jamboree and Raffles, and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Tournament.
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Tournament is a virtual tournament that allows anglers to fish at any frozen lake or river in the state and compete for prizes using the FishDonkey app.
Colorado is a state that offers both mountain and plains ice fishing opportunities, as well as scenic views and diverse wildlife. One ice fishing tournament in Colorado in 2024 is the Colorado Classic, which will be held at Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Eleven Mile Reservoir. This tournament is a three-leg series that challenges anglers to catch the biggest trout, kokanee, or pike, and it has a grand prize of $10,000
Some Facts from Ice Fishing Tournaments of 2023
Ice fishing tournaments in 2023 attracted thousands of anglers like every year. Here are some interesting facts and figures from the ice fishing tournaments of 2023:
- The largest ice fishing tournament in the world was the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza in Minnesota, which had nearly 12,000 participants and offered a Ford or GMC pickup truck as the top prize.
- The youngest tournament winner was 13-year-old Zac Padrnos, who caught a 9.45-pound walleye at the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza and won the truck. He used a pink and white tungsten jig with a wax worm as bait and fished in 55 feet of water.
- The most lucrative tournament was the Colorado Classic, which had a $10,000 grand prize for the angler who caught the biggest trout, kokanee, or pike in a three-leg series at Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir and Eleven Mile Reservoir.
- The 15th Annual LVVA Ice Fishing Derby in Illinois was the most charitable tournament 15th Annual LVVA Ice Fishing Derby, which raised over $100,000 for veterans and their families. It also featured a $10,000 raffle prize and a $5,000 cash prize for the biggest fish.
- The most innovative tournament was the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Tournament in Minnesota, which was a virtual tournament that allowed anglers to fish at any frozen lake or river in the state and compete for prizes using the FishDonkey app.
These facts show how diverse and popular ice fishing tournaments are in the USA. They also indicate how the tournaments are adapting to the changing times and technologies, such as using apps, and virtual events. Tournaments in 2024 are likely to continue this trend and offer more opportunities for anglers to enjoy the sport and win prizes.
Rules and Regulations You Need to Follow
Tournaments have specific rules in place to ensure fair play which you must abide by. These often involve when and where fishing is allowed, number and size limits for catches, release protocols, validation of weights, and more.
Understand all expectations, limitations, reporting procedures, disqualification terms, licensing requirements, and prize criteria before competing. Officials strictly enforce regulations and improper catches are typically disallowed, so carefully study and follow all tournament guidelines. Respect off-limit zones, other anglers, and resources as well.
I hope this overview gets you excited about participating in ice fishing tournaments this winter! Do your homework to find the perfect event for your experience level and interests.
Gear up appropriately, brush up on techniques, and be sure to properly follow all sign-up steps, rules, and legal responsibilities.
Compete respectfully, safely enjoy the experience, and work hard to best the fish medievally those lines tight out there on the ice this season!
Let the hunt for the winning catch begin!